Ask a girl this question, “Who are the only two trustworthy men that will never let you down and will always be there when you need them?” – Ben & Jerry. No, Ben & Jerry are not two famous Hollywood stars, but the ice-cream brand.
Ben & Jerry’s produces a wide range of super premium ice-cream known for its high quality, all natural ingredients chunk-filled ice-cream and creative flavor names. What started out as an ice-cream shop operating in a renovated gas station by two high-school friends, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield 30 years ago, has evolved into a brand name, which includes chain of nearly 160 franchised shops in America itself and more globally; and a line of products sold in supermarkets almost everywhere. How has the product of what two Hippies has decided as wanting “to do something that would be more fun” grown to an internationally recognized brand that is now a subsidiary of Unilever?
Ben & Jerry’s is founded and dedicated on its 3-parts mission statement which includes product, economic and social. With these in mind, the company operates based on two beliefs – “If it’s not fun, why do it” and ” Business has a responsibility to give back to the community”. The company identified that business success alone was not enough by itself to sustain and thus set on operating a business that is both profitable and socially responsible.
Ben & Jerry’s commits to its ideology of creating “Ice-Cream for the people”. With this notion in mind for the past 30 years, the company is able to produce an extensive range of flavors that totals up to 75 or more flavors served in its scoop-shops around the world and more than 400 flavors concocted up to date. To reach out to an even larger mass, Ben & Jerry’s furthered its expansion to sell packaged ice-cream in pints in supermarkets globally. This allowed them to gain recognition not just within the states, but also internationally.
Each ice-cream flavor of Ben & Jerry’s are creatively-named, which allows each flavor to stand out on its own. Fans of Ben & Jerry’s (which they believe in terming their customers as) are even allowed to make suggestions for the ingredients of the ice-cream. Take for example, Chunky Monkey, a banana-flavored ice-cream filled with chocolate chunks and walnuts. With the use of such innovative names, it serves as an advantage over Ben & Jerry’s closest competitor, Haagen Dazs, which ice-cream flavors are named as simple as possible. In addition, flavors are sometimes named after celebrities such as Cherry Garcia, the top-ranked flavor cherry ice-cream filled with cherries and fudge chunks, was named after Grateful Dead’s guitarists. With the use of famous icons, the company is able to capture the market of the fans of these icons to take an interest in their ice-cream. This shows how Ben & Jerry’s are receptive towards their fans and how important they value them.
However, with the current global ice-cream industry, customization of the flavors are easily available to each individual customer. In Singapore, ice-cream parlors such as Cold Rock Ice Creamery and Marble Slab Creamery offer their ice-cream with mix-in concoctions – allowing customers to choose the toppings that will be mixed into their ice-cream. As such, there are hundred and thousand ways for customers to customize their ice-cream that can vary with each purchase. Ben & Jerry’s thus, has its own Research & Development department to continue innovating new flavors and concoctions for its ice-cream, so that their fans will be captivated by the constant refreshment of their ice-cream.
Ben & Jerry’s built on its “responsibility to give back to the community” by actively participating in activities that give value to the society. This is widely acknowledged as the brand’s main form of marketing strategy, through word-of mouth. Ben & Jerry’s partake in minimal media advertisements, and if so, mainly for the publicity of their events rather than for their ice-cream products. The most famous event of Ben & Jerry’s worldwide, is the Annual Free Cone Day. What started out as an idea of giving back to the community by simply giving away their product, has become the brand’s most basic, direct form of marketing possible. Each year, on Free Cone Day, scoop shops all over the world give out more than one million free ice-cream cones to the customers. Also, scoop-shops partner with beneficiaries to gather fund-raising. With such an initiative, Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream spreads through word-of-mouth and gain customers’ recognition in the form of creating goodwill and opportunities for people to taste their ice-cream.
The association of Ben & Jerry’s with non-profit and community groups is another factor of the success of Ben & Jerry’s non-conventional marketing strategy. The Ben & Jerry’s Foundation was set up to support the founding values of the company. Ben & Jerry’s term this as “Values Led Marketing” where they dedicate themselves to make a difference at root of societal and environmental problems instead. This offers the brand a point of differentiation and is part of the brand’s identity. Customers wants to be associated with products that not just create value for them, but also for the rest of the society. Such an image seems to boost consumers’ perception of themselves and the brand.
However, Ben & Jerry’s at times, have appeared to be overly-focused on the social aspects of their values that they overlook the business management of the company’s structure and also the main emphasis of their product quality. It has been accused of repeatedly neglecting the performance of the company. The company’s net income was on a decline towards the late 1990s as compared to the early 1990s where there was a large emphasis on the involvement of activism. There was difficulty in keeping the position of the CEO filled at that time due to the split between the management of the business operations of the firm and the leadership of the company’s mission led by Ben. As such, the brand’s economic performance came as a sacrifice.
Another form of direct marketing that Ben & Jerry’s builds on is through its online marketing, the fastest-form of such strategy. The official website of Ben & Jerry’s includes a database that the company makes use of primarily for to reasons: firstly, to find out what their fans think about their proposed new products and ideas; and to also involve their fans in the social-related causes that they are involved in. Ben & Jerry’s website is a form of corporate Website where it is used mainly to build customer relationships with their ice-cream fans. Fans are able to go onto the web to find out more about the company rather than to buy their products online, and there are also interactive activities that fans can participate in such as sending e-cards to their friends. This helps in promoting the brand name of Ben & Jerry’s where it is also a form of viral marketing.
Ben & Jerry’s believe in not just providing the best ice-cream for their fans, but also in creating value for their fans. Scoop-shops set up all around the world give their fans the ambience of having fun, while having Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream. Besides packaging the ice-cream in the colourful cups and pints, Ben & Jerry’s put emphasis in providing a fun-filled environment for their fans. Scoop-shops are decorated according to the festival themes such as Halloween and Christmas. This gives the fans an incentive to want to go back to the scoop-shops for more ice-cream as Ben & Jerry’s.
Ben & Jerry’s would not be Ben & Jerry’s without their fans, their chunk-filled ice-cream, their values-led company mission. Only with all these in place, Ben & Jerry’s is then dedicated to making sure that every scoop of Ben & Jerry’s delivers a “tastebud-boggling odyssey” great enough to take their fans all the way to the state of “euphoria”. And this is what ables Ben & Jerry’s to still be one of the top brands of ice-cream around the world.
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