Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

How Ben&Jerry’s Became The World’s Most Beloved Ice Cream

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Did you know that Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield originally set out to start a bagel company? They decided on ice cream instead because bagel-making equipment was too expensive, and all they had was $12,000.

Almost 40 years later, people still love the ice cream and the brand. The company is known for great ice cream with characteristic chunks, pun-ny names, and their social missions, which have survived despite being bought over by Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods conglomerate.

Today, there are over 5,000 Ben & Jerry’s ‘scoop shops’ in over 30 countries.

What makes Ben & Jerry’s so popular?

1. Forging an emotional connection: They’re dedicated to making ice cream you can feel good about eating

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Their milk and cream are from ‘happy cows’, eggs from cage-free hens, and all their brownies are from a bakery committed to providing jobs for the hard-to-employ.

They consciously source for Fairtrade and non-GMO products, and they make sure you know about it, with labelling on their products and detailed stories on their website and social media.

2. Novelty: From ‘Chunky Monkey’ to ‘Karamel Sutra’, there’s always a new, delightfully-named flavor to look forward to

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Ben & Jerry’s ‘flavor gurus’ undertake a ‘trend trek’ regularly, where they travel across the country eating all the desserts they can get their hands on. New flavors appear on the shelves often, giving fans something to obsess about.

Even the flavors that die get honored in the ‘Flavor Graveyard’! They’ve recently introduced dairy-free flavors, much to the joy of many vegans and lactose-intolerant ice cream fans.

3. Ben & Jerry’s hilariously topical, pun-driven names give people something to share laughs about

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No one else uses ice cream flavor names to celebrate people and events like Ben & Jerry’s do. The best-selling Cherry Garcia was named for Grateful Dead singer Jerry Garcia. ‘Yes Pecan!’ hit the shelves when Obama was elected president, riffing off his campaign slogan.

They must really love The Tonight Show, because Stephen Colbert got AmeriCone Dream named for him, and Jimmy Fallon got TWO flavors named after him — Late Night Snack and the Tonight Dough! There have been ice creams for bands and basketball players and television characters.

Such partnerships allow Ben & Jerry’s to amuse and delight new potential customers who may not have given them a shot before, and as always, earn more buzz and social media love in the process.

4. They’re winning at social media, responding to current affairs

They respond to current events on Twitter, and the hashtag #captureeuphoria on Instagram lets fans participate.

5. Ben & Jerry’s supporters love that they take bold stances on controversial issues such as marriage equality, climate justice and voter turnouts.

They’re for marriage equality, celebrating gay marriage around the world with new ice cream names like ‘Hubby Hubby’ (US), ‘Apple-y Ever After’ (UK), ‘I Dough, I Dough’ (Aus), and ‘EngageMint Party’ (Ireland).

They’re committed to climate justice, and plan to get to 100% clean energy at all their US sites by 2020. In the meantime, they’re raising awareness about climate change with a new flavor called “Save Our Swirled’.

They strongly encourage people to vote, lending their support to Rock The Vote in America and telling Londoners to “Give A Fudge” in the UK. They were present at Occupy Wall Street with free ice cream, and really, how can you not love free ice cream?

6. B&J has kept their small-town charm, their brand cemented firmly as the ice cream for cheerful, left-wing anti-establishment hippies

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Their independent Board of Directors helped them to keep that attitude even after getting acquired by Unilever.

In the 1980’s, Häagen-Dazs’ parent company, Pillsbury, tried to keep Ben & Jerry’s out of certain markets. Ben & Jerry’s ran a ‘David vs. Goliath’ campaign against Pillsbury with the slogan “What’s the Doughboy Afraid Of?”.

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Just last month, Ben&Jerry’s released an ice cream flavor just for Bernie Sanders, called “Bernie’s Yearning”.

The tub reads: “The entire top of this pint is covered with a thick disc of solid chocolate. Underneath is plain mint ice cream. The chocolate disc represents the huge majority of economic gains that gone to the top 1 percent since the end of the recession. Beneath it, the rest of us.”

7. The annual B&J’s Free Cone Day has been a tradition for over 30 years, serving over a million scoops in over 30 countries just last year

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Beginning in 1979, Free Cone Day has been a way for Ben&Jerry’s to show their appreciation for customers and “bring the world together in peace, love and ice cream”.

And, of course, a great way of creating an event that ice cream fans look forward to and talk about.

There’s even an app, so you can see pictures and tweets from the event from shops globally and submit your own.

Recap:

  1. Forging an emotional connection: They’re dedicated to making ice cream you can feel good about eating
  2. Novelty: From ‘Chunky Monkey’ to ‘Karamel Sutra’, there’s always a new, delightfully-named flavor to look forward to
  3. Ben & Jerry’s hilariously topical, pun-driven names give people something to share laughs about
  4. They’re winning at social media, responding to current affairs
  5. Ben & Jerry’s supporters love that they take bold stances on controversial issues such as marriage equality, climate justice and voter turnouts
  6. B&J has kept their small-town charm, their brand cemented firmly as the ice cream for cheerful, left-wing anti-establishment hippies
  7. The annual B&J’s Free Cone Day has been a tradition for over 30 years, serving over a million scoops in over 30 countries just last year

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Read next: F&B Referral Program Examples – 14 Tantalizing Referral Programs in Food Ecommerce

Sharan Kaur

Sharan likes no-nonsense brands that avoid fluffing and focus on producing quality products. She's often frustrated by bad design and unnecessary complexity. Enjoys cat GIFs (but who doesn't?)

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