The interview with Ben Cohen & Jerry Greenfield originally appeared in the New York Times, and is written by David Marchese.
At Global Imprint, we talk about values quite frequently. Because it all starts there. Not just for us, but for our clients too. When you are hiring people, an impressive resume, decades of experience - it's important, but if values don't align, the relationship won't thrive. The same goes for growing a loyal audience. How do you connect with customers on a deeper level? How do you make sure they keep coming back? Values.
That's why we found the story in the New York Times about Ben & Jerry's Radical Ice Cream Dreams so inspiring. Ben & Jerry's is not 'just' a strong brand - with sales at almost $700 million in 2019 - no, they take a stance on social-justice issues. And they have been doing that since they started in 1978.
If there's a key takeaway here for brands and companies: don't wait until a big movement or a pandemic hits to support organizations or become vocal about issues in our society. Incorporate those values from the very beginning and allow your voice to become louder as your company grows.
Discover your soul
As Jerry Greenfield explains in the article when he talks about Ben & Jerry’s being bought by Unilever. Greenfield: So, Ben & Jerry’s has been part of Unilever for about 20 years. For the first number of years, I think Unilever did not appreciate the mission of Ben & Jerry’s, and its energy went into integrating Ben & Jerry’s into the Unilever system. During that time, the social mission of the company suffered. The company as a brand also suffered. About ten years ago, Unilever named a new chief executive for Ben & Jerry’s, Jostein Solheim,13 Solheim continued as chief executive until 2018, when he was succeeded by Matthew McCarthy, who told us that his assignment was to re-radicalize Ben & Jerry’s. And during that time, Ben & Jerry’s rediscovered its soul. Ben & Jerry’s publicly supported Occupy Wall Street. Ben & Jerry’s publicly supported Black Lives Matter before most other companies. Now within Unilever, there’s an incredible amount of respect for what Ben & Jerry’s has done. I mean, this last statement by Ben & Jerry’s after the George Floyd killing: There wasn’t any other business talking about dismantling white supremacy.
You might wonder: how skeptical should we be of the intentions behind statements like that? So many socially progressive statements that companies are making these days obviously also double as marketing.
Cohen: The deal about Ben & Jerry’s is that when your company is acting on its values and those values resonate with your consumers’ values, it’s an incredibly deep connection based on justice, fairness, equality — the stuff that we thought the country is supposed to be about when they taught us in elementary school. The other thing is that businesses are the most powerful force in our society, and things have gotten to such a state with Trumpism that businesses — which had always said, “We’re not going to take political stands” — have to make their voice heard because there’s no other powerful actor doing it. Money talks.
Flavors and Social Impact
Back in the late 70s, Ben & Jerry's was one of the first companies, together with the Body Shop and Patagonia, that tried to be about more than profits. And now, 40 years later, they are still unstoppable. So, why is Ben & Jerry's so successful? Greenfield:"We usually say it’s because of three things: really high-quality ice cream, great ingredients, very unusual flavors – and also the activist social mission of the company. Some other company could start making ice cream with big chunks the same way Ben & Jerry’s does, but Ben & Jerry’s having this activist, outspoken social mission — other companies can’t copy that. It’s not something you can just say. It has to be who the people are."
Read the full story in the New York Times.
Incorporate those values from the very beginning and allow your voice to become louder as your company grows.