Speaking at The Sound of Change: Music Activist Event in London today (20 July), Senf said that the Unilever-owned brand has teamed up with international organisation Avaaz to ask consumers to sign a petition calling on world leaders to “transition to 100% clean energy”.
“The earth is heating up and we’re facing this huge problem and we felt like the climate summit in Paris might be a good moment to build a movement and get people to come on board,” Senf said.
Ben & Jerry’s is driving awareness of the issue through a film on social media and an event series called “Scoop Tours” which will hit the UK with a film screening on Clapham Common on 31 July where the technology will be powered by bikes.
The brand has also launched a new flavour in the US called “Save our Swirled” with packaging that reads: “If it’s melted, it’s ruined”.
While the product will roll out to other markets later this year with a PR and social campaign, Senf said purpose-led messages “need to go more organically rather than the traditional push marketing”.
“You have to do it in an incredibly authentic way,” he added. “You have to walk the talk and talk not only about the things that benefit you but also the things you still have to improve. If not, our fans or consumers will drill right through it.”
This means being as transparent as possible, he said. The company is open about its need to reduce its carbon footprint, allowing people to become “part of the brand” according to Senf.
“You do want to make sure you get reach, but I’d rather have people talk about [the summit] than the latest new product,” he said.
He added that the brand also tries to get involved in relevant conversations and have a “point of view” on issues.
“If you look at how we’re building our marketing teams now we in-house 50 to 60% of the content that we produce,” Senf said. “We’ve got our own staff tweeting and Facebooking things out. We’re convinced it’s a more engaging way of letting your messages land.”
A heritage in activism
The brand has a “heritage” in activism, according to Senf, both around climate justice and social issues including fair pay and rights.
Between 2005 and 2007 it took a group of young people to the North Pole to educate them on the effects of climate change on ice and also held a global warming advocacy campaign in partnership with the Dave Matthews Band.
Its “Caring Dairy” program sees it talk about “happy cows and happy farmers for a happy planet”, according to Senf.
“There’s all kinds of things in place to reduce our impact on the planet,” he added.
“If you’re passionate about something, it actually drives new behaviours in the company. It really urges us to further strengthen our policies and to make sure that we walk the talk as much as we can.”