Ben & Jerry"s Sustainable Marketing

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This paper focuses on the analysis of the Ben & Jerry’s sustainable marketing operations applying Triple Bottom Line analysis, stakeholders analysis, and brand analysis.

Triple Bottom Line Analysis

It is important to point out that in 1978 the first Ben & Jerry’s ice cream parlor was opened. The company grew and increased its international presence since 1996. The year 2000 was a notable year for the company whereas Unilever acquired its brand. The company produces super-premium ice cream declaring that it uses only high-quality natural ingredients. The company demonstrates a socially responsible position rejecting to add milk and cream received from cows treated with the synthetic hormone rBGH. Since 2007 Ben & Jerry’s is represented in the wide range of the supermarkets, convenience stores, grocery stores, restaurants and is distributed through the franchise Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shops in more than 30 countries all over the world. It employs more than 750 employees (Ben & Jerry’s Official Website 2013).

Martin & Schouten (2012) state that triple bottom line is three pillars that aim to measure social, financial and environmental performance of the company that is profit, planet and people dimensions. According to the Ben & Jerry’s Social and Environmental Assessment Report (2011), the company’s planet bottom line is expressed in its product mission: “to make, distribute and sell the finest quality all natural ice cream and euphoric concoctions” and facilitating business practices that take into consideration the impact they have to the Earth and Environment.

People bottom line or social dimensions of Ben & Jerry’s operations is expressed in its social mission: “to operate the company in a way that actively recognizes the central role that business plays in society by initiating innovative ways to improve the quality of life locally, nationally and internationally”. And naturally, Ben & Jerry’s operates with the aim to obtain profit and its economic mission, the third bottom line is “to operate the Company on a sustainable financial basis of profitable growth, increasing value for our stakeholders and expanding opportunities for development and career growth for our employees” (Ben & Jerry’s Social and Environmental Assessment Report 2011).

Ben & Jerry’s is certified since September 2012 as a B corporation that means that this company strives to be a change maker, be creative, be social, be counted, be a responsible recruiter. The company got 89 points out of possible 200 that is above the average indicators those companies that completed the B impact assessment. The maximum points the company received in environmental and workers sections creating sound working environment and unique corporate culture (B Corporation Official Website 2013).

Quality of results (QOR) framework is developed by Ben & Jerry’s to better measure its progress towards the social and environmental missions. QOR included 13 components of the core attention for Ben & Jerry’s: dairy and ingredients, community & activism, flavorings, non-GMO transition, materials (packaging & office), franchisee engagement, environment & climate, minority sourcing (Ben & Jerry’s Social and Environmental Assessment Report 2011).

The company is promoting a value-based business and creation of the positive change through its ice cream production model. It cooperates with the Certified B Corp suppliers. To follow the conscious environmental path, Ben & Jerry’s chooses environmentally friendly freezers  for ice cream storage, using 100% recycled paperboard in the boxes, created a ‘Lick Global Warming’ campaign with the aim to draw public’s attention to the climate change. In 2010, Ben & Jerry’s Foundation gathered over $1.8 million contributions (B Corporation Official Website 2013).

3BL policies of Ben & Jerry’s are effective because they are measured with the appropriate metrics and showed the progress that the company made in each of the three dimensions – social, environmental and financial (Savitz & Weber 2006).

Customer Analysis

It is essential to point out that the customers of Ben & Jerry’s do not only prefer the tasty ice-cream with ingredients made of the highest quality raw stuff but also enjoy the possibility of getting the part of good mood that the company promotes.

Its target audience is people aged 18 – 40, single or having families, with a middle or high income, young, preferably urban citizens, natural products lovers, enthusiastic, with a good sense of humor (Lager 1994). Naturally, the company also targets its marketing efforts to children whereas they influence their parents purchasing decision-making process. Trendy, fun and relaxed are the synonyms of enjoying Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream for them. Target segments can be divided into two broad categories:

- Affluent adults who seek for pleasure while buying the Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream, for whom brand name is essential, as well as being in trend of the modern innovations flow in the ice-cream industry.

- Health conscious adults who are ready to pay extra for the possibility to eat products made of the natural ingredients and to refuse from the low fat substitutes (Greenfield & Cohen 1998).

The target segment of health conscious adults is choosing Ben & Jerry’s and keeps a high level of loyalty to the brand because they are sure in the high quality ingredients and ready to pay high prices for such a certainty. The majority of this segment claim that reduced fat in the ice cream is a most important claim for the Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream choice. Ben & Jerry’s customers follow the path of capturing the euphoria that the company is promulgating (Ben & Jerry’s Official Website 2013).

Competitor Analysis

Dreyer’s Grand Ice-cream Company and Haagen-Dazs are the main competitors of the company. Masterfoods and other Nestlé ice-cream brands such as Skinny Cow and Drumstick are also the significant players at the ice-cream market (International Dairy Foods Association 2012).

Haagen-Dazs founded in the Bronx in 1961 is the main competitor of Ben & Jerry’s. The communication campaign of Haagen-Dazs is totally opposed to the one conducting by Ben & Jerry’s. Haagen-Dazs has a strong brand famous all over the world; it is a leading manufacturer and a significant player at the super-premium ice cream market, pioneer in the luxury ice-cream market. Moreover, the company indicates that it searches for the “purest and finest ingredients in the world and craft them into the best ice cream” (Haagen-Dazs Official Website 2013). Its ice-cream such as butter pecan, vanilla Swiss almond, and dulce de leche is distributed through the variety of supermarkets, flagships and convenience stores.

Moreover, it wins additional percent of market share by partnering with airports and entertainment such as cinemas, Roland Garros. It is important to recognize that the company positions itself as the exceptional quality ice-cream producer, therefore, its production cannot be found at the hard-discount retail stores. It is distributed through the strategic places with a special concept underlining the status of the company. The last year Haagen-Dazs together with a General Mills pronounced the support of the sustainable agriculture in Madagascar, the world’s leading manufacturer of vanilla (General Mills 2013).

It should be recognized that the weakness of this company is a too sophisticated name of the company as well as the promotional policies. It can be a situation that the customers will switch to Ben & Jerry’s whose marketing appeal to the target customers is easier to understand. High price and narrow market segment of wealthy people can also be considered as the weaknesses but with the correct positioning tactics it can be transformed into the strengths. If comparing the official websites of these two companies, it is necessary to underline that Ben & Jerry’s website as one of the main source about the company is developed much better. Ben & Jerry’s potential buyer will find the necessary information easy while Haagen-Dazs remains close for the customers and provides only little information about its way of doing business.

Company Analysis

Key Ben & Jerry’s internal stakeholders include board of directors, employees. The company states that all its stakeholders must prosper as the company prospers. Ben & Jerry’s tries to create such a working environment where the employees will feel themselves respected and motivated to improve the company’s efficiency (Ben & Jerry’s Official Website 2013).

The company shows its great care for the employees implementing small but valuable traditions such as theme days, companywide competitions, and comfort in the form of opportunity of the freezer crew to use the hot cocoa machine. Moreover, the company offers supplemental benefits to the employees - counseling services, wellness and health programs, community garden, constant trainings that allow them to develop and grow professionally. Ben & Jerry’s payroll policy provides even the lowest paid hourly worker with the salary that is 46 percent above the living wage (B Corporation Official Website 2013).

Community Analysis

It should be stated that external stakeholders of Ben & Jerry’s are clients, suppliers, distributors, community partners. Ben & Jerry’s chose the suppliers very carefully as these companies will provide the highest quality ingredients for its products. Greyston Bakery is one of the brightest examples how B Corporations cooperate and share their environmental, social and economic policies. Greyston Bakery has a long-standing status of cooperation with Ben & Jerry’s for the high quality brownies supply. It is famous for the open-hiring policy and a very strong commitment to develop a local community (Greyston Bakery Official Website 2013). It should be underlined that in case Ben & Jerry’s suppliers will be observed in some injustice practices, Ben & Jerry’s will terminate the contract with such a supplier adhering to its fundamental principles of being socially responsible enterprise.

Brand Analysis

It is necessary to underline that the founders of Ben & Jerry’s - Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield – created a special corporate culture inside the company. It starts with the attitude to each of the employee and the atmosphere that reigns around each cycle of production and sales of products. Within the company ‘Ben & Jerry’s Joy Gang’ policy is implemented that means that employees are promoted to infuse joy and game in everything they do. This policy can be observed in the design of the company’s brand. It is very bright, vivid, with a freedom of spontaneity and liveliness of farm lands. The painted roughly cow is at the center of all packages and attracts attention by its strangeness immediately (Ben & Jerry’s Official Website 2013).  

Ben & Jerry’s brand is associated also with bold decisions in marketing, for instance, strange flavor names such as Wavy Gravy, Chunky Monkey, Chubby Hubby and Phish Food that differentiate the company from the main competitors with more noble titles. Moreover, the brand is associated with the natural origin of its products’ ingredients that creates a uniqueness status of Ben & Jerry's ice-cream.

Roberts (2010) underlines that social-values approach of Ben & Jerry’s business conduct creates a community perception that “the brand has built a reputation for caring more about people than profit”. And the staggering fact about the company is that the more it cares about the community where the company’s members leave, the community they sell they product to and the community they buy the raw stuff from – the more profit they made (Ben & Jerry’s Social and Environmental Assessment Report 2012). Moreover, its brand has a reputation of the company that is passionately driven by the system of progressive values on the constant base, gains huge profits without compromising its principles of being socially and environmentally responsible community member. 

Ben & Jerry’s established a strong brand and as Kotler and Keller (2012) underline the company does not try to increase the customers’ loyalty, it involves all its efforts to increase company’s loyalty to the customers. Clients are neither fools nor sheep. They see how the company treats their expectations and demands and either is brand loyal or discriminate the company.

It is also important to underline that fair trade policy became a part of the daily Ben & Jerry’s operations after obtaining Fair-trade certification in 2005. This fact has improved the image of the company that encourages production that is socially, economically fair and environmentally responsible (Unilever Official Website 2013).

Positioning

The positioning map that is given below indicates the position of the Ben & Jerry’s relating to the sustainability and product price criteria. The market is the ice-cream production, two main competitors are Haagen-Dazs and Dreyer’s Grand Ice-cream Company and the target customer’s segment is the consumers that prefer to eat healthier low-fat ice-cream.

It is essential to point out that Ben & Jerry’s made significant steps towards the possessing of the leadership status at the supreme ice-cream market segment by transforming its sustainability procedures in social and environmental spheres into its main strength. 

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