Ben & Jerry’s: Why standing for a cause can build stronger customer bonds

Having a social purpose is helping brands such as Ben & Jerry’s, owned by Unilever, build a relationship with customers beyond sales transactions.

Ben & Jerry's social purpose
Ben & Jerry’s has highlighted climate change and marriage equality, among other social issues

The ice cream brand breaks its social message down into ethical product sourcing and responsible manufacturing, alongside advocacy work on issues such as marriage equality and climate change.

Ben & Jerry’s picks an issue then finds a local story, such as teaming up with civil rights campaign group Hope Not Hate to encourage Londoners to vote in the recent mayoral election on 5 May, says global digital marketing manager Mike Hayes. The campaign was also tied to a product: Ben & Jerry’s  limited edition election version of its chocolate fudge brownie flavour, called ‘Give a Fudge’.

Hayes acknowledges that it is important not to lose sight of the economic mission and if possible it is best to intertwine the product into the social strategy. “We work out our own values and then go to the movement and see how we can be the most helpful,” says Hayes.

“We are a very approachable company and shine our spotlight on issues we care deeply about, and we are empowered to do this at scale. We use our digital marketing to add breadth and depth, leveraging every digital and social platform to explain the issue.”

Everyone at Ben & Jerry’s is required to take responsibility for its social mission, from the CEO down, giving employees space to focus on this element of their role.

“It’s why I’m here at the company,” says Hayes. “Social purpose is our common mission, but we don’t want to be the only company working like this, we want to create a model which shows businesses can be good and see that movement grow.”

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  • Jonathan Cahill 20 May 2016 at 6:09 pm

    It might be an idea if they highlighted Kodaikanal where Unilever appear to have made a mini Bhopal with mercury poisoning and fought against recognising any responsibility. l think the expression is, clean your own house up first.

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