Gelato Messina – the nightclub of ice-cream


Pumping music, staff dancing behind the counter and the Messina experience we all live for. When it comes to major players disrupting the ‘cool food brand’ category, Gelato Messina hasn’t just flaunted the rules, it’s rewritten them.

Declan Lee, co-founder of the infamous Gelato Messina, recently revealed that the business is based around one value, ‘honesty’. Not only is the superb ice-cream honest – it’s made from scratch, yep all 40 flavours – but the simple value of honesty plays a big role in staff culture, which is reinforced by the Messina customer experience.

Since 2006, the franchise has grown to 17 stores across the east coast and in Vegas, baby. Way back in 2008 it had the opportunity to use social media, before others were doing it with food. This is one example of how being disruptive in the early days helped build the business to where it is today. Gelato Messina had an early opportunity to build communities through social media, and did just that. But what is it about Messina that keeps us wanting more?

How Gelato Messina changed the game

The Messina Experience


It didn’t run with the traditional bright light-based ice-cream store fitout. Instead, Gelato Messina was bold and believed if the lighting was right and the mood was right, the business would attract everyone. The (house) music was inspired by Declan’s DJ background. The owners wanted Messina to feel a bit like a party, not over the top but fun. Basically, an ice-cream nightclub.

Quality Product


Gelato Messina claims to make its ice-cream like no other in the world and goes to great lengths to make its product. It has 40 flavours and everything is made from scratch except two biscuits, which the company says it can't make better. Honesty at its best.



Messina Snapchat takeover. Say what? I guess when your core value is honesty, anything and everything is a possibility. Each store manager takes it in turns to document their weekend outside of work. It also shows off their personalities and is a great way to share with their audience. They are free to post what they want, just don’t be offensive or silly.

Messina doesn’t believe in made-up content. Back to honesty. It’s also employed a photographer and videographer to document the Messina Gelato process to create empathetic storytelling about the brand.

Tim Tams x Messina


Some may say doing slightly odd things like collaborating with a commercial brand such as Tim Tams was a risk, but producing four limited edition biscuit flavours was nothing if not disruptive. Did Messina sell out? Marketing genius if you ask me. Although Messina already had the street cred, the collab definitely helped Messina’s brand awareness and a commercial giant was able to play with the cool cats for once, so a win-win for both.

Uber x Messina


In 2015, Uber partnered with Messina to deliver free ice-cream as an incentive to sign up an Uber account. This was a very clever approach from both brands. Who says ‘no’ to free ice-cream?

Cash or App


In the past, the fastest way to transact in an ice-cream shop was with old fashioned cash. Yes cash money. But as technology is developing at a rapid rate, Gelato Messina has created a super easy smartphone app that allows customers to pay with their phone, earn points and redeem exclusive member deals. 

Messina Creative Department


Garlic and vanilla gelato anyone? This concept is where eight customers are invited to a Sydney or Melbourne store to try a seven course degustation menu. This is how Gelato Messina challenges itself to make sure it’s continuing to push the boundaries on how certain products fit together. This is a true indication of what passion looks like in the cool food industry.

Would Messina be where it is today without its disruptive marketing approach? If you haven’t yet had the Messina Gelato experience, stop what you are doing right now and head down to your nearest store. And let us know what you thought (and which flavour you had).


Imagery sources:

Hard Edge is a strategic marketing and creative agency for disruptive brands. 
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