Global Branding: Ben & Jerry’s “Walks the Talk” with 2012 Election Campaign – Three Tips for Business
By Sean Greenwood, Ben & Jerry’s Grand Poobah of PR
It’s no surprise that 2012 is an election year. While things continue to heat up between the candidates, Ben & Jerry’s has taken a firm stance on the issue of corporate influence with its newest social mission quest to Get the Dough Out of Politics.
The communication endeavor is specifically about money in politics, and a corresponding consumer campaign to take action at www.GetTheDoughOut.org. With its effort, Ben & Jerry’s is shining the spotlight on how big corporate money has come to influence elections, and that the company disagrees with how officials are elected in that manner. The company has aggressively rolled out its campaign across the U.S. through its Integrated Marketing efforts at fairs and festivals to garner almost 25,000 postcards to support the initiative.
In addition Ben & Jerry’s is highlighting the topic at benjerry.com, in its social media spaces, and will be bringing the concept to the people in a powerful, pint-sized package: “This is the new version of the AmeriCone Dream pint,” said Ben & Jerry’s CEO, Jostein Solheim. “Since it involves corporations, money, and politicians we felt it was only fitting to do so with a new SUPERPACK pint design on Stephen Colbert’s flavor – and on AmeriCone Dream’s fifth anniversary.”
When asked his opinion of the effort, Colbert called Ben & Jerry’s campaign: “treasonous” and added that “Ice cream should not be about politics; it should be about fudge covered waffle cones.”
So why does the company do it? Why does the progressive ice cream maker from Vermont feel inclined to take a stance on issues that some may see as controversial? The answer, according to Solheim is that the move is “consistent with the company’s core values and mission.” Ben & Jerry’s acts on its Social Mission because it is the right thing to do, not simply for the PR value of being a “do-gooder.”
The ice cream makers reached out to grassroots activist groups Free Speech for People and (the American Sustainable Business Council’s organization) Businesses for Democracy as partners in the campaign. Jointly, they hope to increase public awareness of the need for fundamental reform that will reduce or eliminate undue corporate influence in the democratic process – and to channel this awareness into action. The main focus of the online petition calls on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment that overturns Citizens United and gets the money out of politics.
“’We feel that the time is now, during an election year, and that this is the major issue to highlight as the NEW American dream,” said Solheim. The Ben & Jerry’s chief acknowledged that they company has its work cut out for itself. That has never dissuaded the ice cream makers to shy away from tackling efforts like global warming, nuclear weapons, bovine growth hormone or marriage equality to practice the company credo: “Business has a responsibility to give back to the community.”
Tips on How to Walk the Talk Like Ben & Jerry’s
- Activate Genuine Campaigns. If you are simply conducting an action, marketing or advertising in a shallow manner, today’s savvy consumers will see right through you, and will call you on it. Instead, do things that are meaningful and authentic and show that you understand your organization’s role in making the local or global community better.
- Take a Calculated Risk. When Ben & Jerry’s launched a flavor with an irreverent moniker (named after a Saturday Night Live skit with Alec Baldwin) the effort was highlighted in Forbes Magazine stating that the company took a “calculated risk” within its core values. Taking an uncalculated risk is poor business that is likely to put you in a position you can’t defend.
- Involve Stephen Colbert. The guy is cool and everything he does turns to gold. So unless you have your own talk show on Comedy Central, find a way to make your effort newsworthy and attention grabbing. If Colbert is unavailable try to engage others in the media or digital media world. Whether it’s FOX News, a retweet by an influential person, or coverage by one of the corres-pundits, they can amplify your message quickly.