Ben & Jerry’s brand strategy case study

BrandStruck
Ben & Jerry’s Brand Strategy Analysis
Ben & Jerry’s
ABOUT

Category:
FMCG Fooddesserts & ice creams

Owner of the brand:
Unilever

Key competitors:
Häagen-Dazs, Nestlé

Brand essence

Making great ice cream in the nicest possible way.

Brand values

Sustainability, responsibility, euphoria, fun.

Brand character

Playful, premium, inclusive, bold, humorous, provocative.

Dominating archetype
EVIDENCE
Comments
1

Ben & Jerry’s had been practising purpose marketing many years before the concept became popular among brand marketers. The ice cream brand launched its famous mission statement in the 1980s and has been living up to its values to this day. The company’s overarching ambition is to make great ice cream “in the nicest possible way”[1]. Its brand mission consists of three elements that focus on three aspects of running the business: product, profitability and social impact. Ben & Jerry’s approach boils down to offering only premium, highest quality ice cream “and euphoric concoctions”[2] (product mission), delivering profit, sustainable growth and career opportunities for its employees (economic mission) and “making the world a better place”[3] (social mission). Although nowadays many companies have similar mission statements, only a few are as serious about putting them into practice as Ben & Jerry’s.

2

Ben & Jerry’s was founded in 1978 by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield in Vermont, US. At that time, Cohen and Greenfield’s knowledge of ice cream making was based on what the two of them had learnt from a $5 correspondence course, in which they had enrolled a year before[4]. In 2000, to improve the financial condition of the business, they sold the company to Unilever on quite exceptional non-financial terms. According to the contract, Ben & Jerry’s, unlike other Unilever brands, is to be run as a separate organization and have an independent board of directors, whose role is to “preserve and expand Ben & Jerry’s social mission, brand integrity and product quality”[5] and which consists of not only people with business backgrounds but also activists.

3

The scope of Ben & Jerry’s involvement in social undertakings is so wide that it is more comparable to that of an NGO than to for-profit businesses. Global warming, marriage equality, LGBT rights, Fairtrade, refugee treatment, peace advocacy, racial justice and pro-democracy movements are some of the areas in which Ben & Jerry’s is heavily engaged. Interestingly, to build awareness of these social, environmental and political issues among a wider audience, the brand talks about them using a light-hearted and not so serious approach and whenever possible makes references to ice cream (e.g., “Join the Climate Movement!”[6]). Ben & Jerry’s CMO, Dave Stever explained: “We do know that these are serious issues, but we feel our role is to make the issues approachable and make them feel to consumers that they’re not so daunting. There are things they can do and they can get involved.[7]

4

Ben & Jerry’s has an equally bold and provocative approach to its naming strategy as it does to the choice of social issues it gets involved in. The company names its products after both pop culture icons and lesser known artists, makes references to social issues or simply creates funny-sounding names. Some examples include Cherry Garcia (after the guitarist Jerry Garcia[8]), Karamel Sutra, Phish Food (after Phish, an American band from Vermont[9]), Schweddy Balls (based on one of the sketches from the Saturday Night Live show[10], in which Alec Baldwin played Pete Schweddy[11]) or Empower Mint (a nod to New York’s Greyston Bakery, which helps homeless people to “gain work skills and empowers them to become self-sufficient”[12]).

5

A word “euphoria” plays an important role in Ben & Jerry’s branding. In common with Disney using the word “magic” repeatedly in its communications, Ben & Jerry’s uses the word “euphoria” and its derivatives a lot (e.g., “euphoric ice cream flavours”[13] or explaining the acronym CEO as Chief Euphoria Officer[14]).

6

Ben & Jerry’s brand strategy is based on two brand archetypes. The company’s pursuit of social justice and equality makes it an Innocent brand, while its playful approach and humorous tone of voice are typical of  the Jester brand archetype.

Tagline
Most important campaigns

1. “Two New Non-Dairy Flavors” (2018)

2. “We Make It All Better” (2017)

3. “Oh Great British Weather. You Blow Us Away!” (2017)

4. “Join The Climate Movement!” (2015)

Official brand statement:

Our aim is to make great ice cream in the nicest possible way.
It’s not only mixing in the best ingredients that’s important to us, our suppliers are too, which is why all our products are certified Fairtrade.
We believe that using business as a tool for social and environmental change is just as important as sourcing the finest ingredients to make our ice cream. So, wherever possible, we source our ingredients from producers and suppliers who share our values. This can mean anything from free-range eggs to sustainably produced dairy, to Fairtrade certified ingredients.[15]

Interesting facts:

Ben & Jerry’s is unusually open about its market flops. It has a site called the “flavor-graveyard”[16], where it features all flavours that the brand launched and which did not turn out to be market successes.

Must-reads

1. American Marketing Association on Ben & Jerry’s global expansion
S. Steimer, “How Ben & Jerry’s Took Both Its Ice Cream and Mission Global”, American Marketing Association, Jul 2017,
https://www.ama.org/publications/MarketingNews/Pages/how-ben-jerrys-took-both-its-ice-cream-and-mission-global.aspx

2. Ad Age on Ben & Jerry’s purpose marketing
J. Wohl, “How Ben & Jerry’s Keeps Purpose Alive”, Ad Age, Jul 2016,
http://adage.com/article/print-edition/ben-jerry-s-purpose-alive/304976/

3. Fast Company on how Ben & Jerry’s changed when it was acquired by Unilever
P. Caligiuri, “When Unilever Bought Ben & Jerry’s: A Story Of CEO Adaptability”, Fast Company, Aug 2012,
https://www.fastcompany.com/3000398/when-unilever-bought-ben-jerrys-story-ceo-adaptability

Sources:
SIMILAR BRANDS

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