Ben & Jerry’: innovative ice-cream, questionable marketing strategy

Richard Lees, chairman of dbg, urges marketers to stick with multi-channel marketing.

Earlier this month, Ben & Jerry’s announced it will abandon regular email marketing in Britain in favour of communication via social media.

Apparently that’s how their customers told them they would prefer to be contacted.

While I congratulate Ben & Jerry’s for listening to their customers, the big question is, have they got it right?

Could they be ahead of the curve, heralding a new zeitgeist where social media is king of the marketing arena? I’m not so sure. I firmly believe multi-channel marketing is here to stay.

Putting all your eggs in one basket simply isn’t logical. With tight marketing budgets people often shift budgets and make drastic decisions, but considering just how many channels there are out there and all the evidence stacked towards a marketing mix working best, it seems very rash to me.

For example, the US-based Marketing Experiments recently did a test on the effect of offline and online on each other and found when used together they can outperform single use by 124%.

A recent eMarketer survey, which looked at preferred channels to drive online shopping said: 37% preferred email; 23% direct mail; 18% text; 11% in-store promotions; and just 9% social media.

It seems if you focus only on one channel then you’re missing out on opportunities.

With new technology encouraging multichannel marketing, it’s all about choice. Where mail used to be the only game in town, supported by its more expensive partner the call centre, there is now much more choice for how we let our customers know about offers and promotions and how they transact.

The ever increasing ownership of smart phones means people can now surf the web, network on social media, read their emails and receive SMS all the time, wherever they are. People want choice, so marketers need to reflect this and offer choices in how they communicate with their customers, especially for different demographic and lifestyle groups.

Different channels are proven to work well for certain tactics: email works well for offers and ecommerce; SMS for reminder campaigns; and social media for engagement. And none of this means that mail is dead. Depending on the product sector, occasion and communications mix, direct mail still has its place, and when carefully considered, wastage can be reduced and results increased.

Of course, the key to intelligent multi-channel use is tracking and measuring and having the right data to do it with. But set these arguments for multi-channel against the fact that marketers are still facing a major uphill struggle to monetise social media and Ben & Jerry’s decision looks like their new customer chosen flavour – Fairly Nuts!


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