How CEOs and CMOs Can Leverage Sustainability More Effectively
How Brands Tackle Tough Issues: Ben & Jerry’s on Black Lives Matter
October 27, 2016
Early this month, Ben & Jerry’s made brand history (again) as one of the first major brands to officially support the pro-black social justice movement. Already revered for its coverage, commentary and backing of hot social justice topics ranging from democracy and voting rights to climate change and LGBT equality, Ben & Jerry’s continues to reassert its relevance with existing and new audiences.
Though their BLM statement does not outline any specific actions the brand will take, it has instigated substantial social media buzz, even as much to have inspired a new hashtag – #BenAndJerrysNewFlavor – which has been scooped up and shared by fans.
Since when does an ice cream brand have the authority to speak on such a range of controversial issues?
Simply put, Ben & Jerry’s have built up their reputation and relevancy by not only giving voice to issues that their constituents care about, but by taking a legitimate stance. In doing so, time and again, the brand has demonstrated their fearlessness in addressing such topics that, over time, have enabled them to gain social currency and strong credibility.
How do you know where and when your brand should have a voice in social issues?
- Start with your values. Ben & Jerry’s have explicitly shared a set of long-standing values that not only guide their operations and business strategy, but all marketing, communications and philanthropic work as well.
- Embrace controversy (within reason). From the outset, establishing boundaries around which social or environmental impact causes your brand will rally behind helps navigate the ever-changing landscape of societal activism and controversy. However, when an issue comes to light that your brand has decided to support, you must not shy away from addressing it head-on. This mentality is reminiscent of Howard Schultz’s response to an anti-gay investor at an annual shareholder meeting – “We want to embrace diversity. Of every kind. You can sell your shares in Starbucks and buy shares in another company.” The key? You must get comfortable with the idea that some customers and consumers will be lost, however, those that remain have the potential to become your most ardent advocates.
- Have an authentic, but pointed, point of view. Beyond thoughtful, well-informed opinions, it is critical to have a clear and distinct perspective on where your brand stands in relation to a particular cause. Not only does this help break through the clutter of ‘me too’ messaging, but should firmly reflect and align with your brand which, ideally, is unlike any other.
Image via Flickr courtesy of user 水泳男 at https://flic.kr/p/22twR5 .