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Ben & Jerry’s Walks the Walk…

And man oh man do they talk the talk. Big time. In March while in Chicago to present at MBAA International, I took a walk through the tourist attraction known as Navy Pier. My fleeting moment of freedom was abruptly interrupted by my “marketing eyes”. That is what I lovingly ask my students to try to “put on” when viewing the world after my lectures…marketing eyes. My marketing eyes have a tendency to ruin a lot of things. Some recent examples of this include but are not limited to: 1) Watching the Super Bowl with my wife and dissecting every ad before, during, and after the game. 2) Whisking my wife away for a weekend in NYC in which I did nothing but take pictures of flashing billboards and subway ads for three straight days. 3) Making a point to lecture my kids repeatedly on a trip to Gatlinburg about the conservative nature of the advertisements and product offerings in every single souvenir shop. I’m not much fun to travel with.

And that brings us to how my marketing eyes screwed up Ben & Jerry’s for me while in Chicago. Click here to read my previous blog about what I encountered if you want some more of the back story. For those already familiar with the story, let’s get down to business.

As stated in my previous blog, I found this signage to be an attack on those with eating disorders and mental health issues. It worried me to no end that the most socially responsible company I knew might be preying upon people in their weakest moments. So I took a pic and wrote a blog about it when I got home to Cincinnati. As I wrote the blog I became even more upset by the message Ben & Jerry’s was sending and began to tweet at them. Ben & Jerry’s was listening. “Social listening” is what we in the marketing business call it. Social listening is paying attention to and responding to the feedback being received, often through social media. Ben and Jerry’s heard me loud and clear and RESPONDED.

Then Ben & Jerry’s slid into my DM’s. Well actually Jay Curley the Global Head of Integrated Marketing for Ben & Jerry’s slid into my DM’s. Definitely the first man to do so (gay joke) and by far the most surprising message I have ever gotten. Jay did what anyone in his situation would do…he stalked me on social to make sure that I wasn’t a nut job…and upon finding out that I was just a nerdy professor from Ohio he reached out to me to set up a phone call. Later that week, I enjoyed a phone call with Jay, Eric Thomas (Retail Social Mission and Global Products manager), and Simone Washington (Social Mission Policy and Strategy Manager) in which we discussed the signage issue. Easily the coolest job titles ever, right?! Ok, ok, back to the issue…Not only were they apologetic and accepting of the blame for the signage, they also offered detailed explanation of the problem at hand. Long story short…a franchisee had taken liberties with their advertising and Ben and Jerry’s wanted to fix the situation. Instead of offering me some free t-shirts and ice cream in the hopes that I would shut my mouth and move on to the next marketing miscue that I found…they asked me if I would be willing to help them write an article for their monthly newsletter to address cultural sensitivity with their franchisees. UMMMMMM. TWIST MY ARM. I was so happy I could barely contain myself. They recognized my nerdiness and wanted to use it to their advantage…maybe the greatest compliment I have received in my life. So I wrote it and found out it was published in their May newsletter. I’m kind of a big deal.

Excerpt from the Ben & Jerry’s May Newsletter

Oh. And then they sent my family t-shirts and ice cream. Which we gladly accepted.

Tie-Dye never looked so good.
Yes please.

Ben & Jerry’s listened to a critic and came out of the situation with a brand ambassador. They appreciated my marketing eyes and made positive changes based on negative feedback. They walk the walk.

Last week I visited Chicago again to take my daughter to see the biggest K-Pop group in the world, BTS. While she was rocking out at Soldier Field to the sweet boy band melodies, I once again put on my marketing eyes and visited Navy Pier. Ben & Jerry’s listened. A nerdy marketing professor from Ohio was important enough to them that they made changes. It was humbling to say the least. Ben & Jerry’s walks the walk.

May 11th Navy Pier

Using marketing to make a social impact is my life’s work. My marketing eyes are constantly searching for ways to change opinions and lives through the use of socially responsible marketing…so to see it all actually happen…and with a company that I have idolized for it’s prowess in the world of social justice…well…it has been a bit overwhelming for me. It has also been rejuvenating. Working briefly with Ben & Jerry’s has given me the push I needed to finish the book I have been writing on “Marketing Social Justice”. It gave me real world examples of the power of marketing and corporate social responsibility to use in my classes as they wrapped up this spring. Ben & Jerry’s took time to chat with me about CHANGE…and I became even nerdier. Big things are on the horizon. Be ready.

Oh…and the One Love ice cream…it just isn’t fair to other ice cream. Too good.

Ben and Jerry’s number 1 fan, but not in a scary way:)

Click here for more information on how I can help your corporation create inclusive marketing campaigns that positively affect your bottom line!


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