Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Ben and Jerry are Marketing Geniuses

I would like to take a minute to discuss how branding has diffrentiated Ben and Jerry's from so many other companies. I'm sure there are a number of companies that I would find comparable in their homegrown nature,(consider the questionably fated LoveSac that filed for Chapter 11 early this year), but besides being grassroots and all-natural, Ben and Jerry's is masterfully branded.


First off, go to the Ben and Jerry's website. You'll see our lovely bovine in her hammock (above) and how can you say that isn't irresistibly cute? I would require a great deal of research to be qualified to say this officially, but I feel that Ben and Jerry's revolutionized the idea of all-natural products merged with luxury. These two qualities do not always go hand in hand (have you ever used a natural bristle toothbrush?), but here is a company that realized that class and crunchy do not have to mutually exclusive properties. Founded in 1978, I can't think of a single other company that falls in this class that still exists and furthermore enjoys the notoriety and loyalty that Ben and Jerry's does.


Part of this distinction comes from B&J's willingness to be artsy in its packaging. Most companies that aren't geared toward children have a hard time taking this creative leap. They do not want to be seen as unprofessional and they want to appeal to adults, not children with limited spending money. A perfect example is Breyer's, which also touts its "all naturalness" but packages in a way designed for the mainstream.


Ben and Jerry's doesn't mind being associated with potheads and neo-hippie-whatever-you-call-ums. They realized that there is in fact a market for this subculture and I can't think of another brand that is better associated with it. Hippies today are not like hippies of the years gone by. Hippies today will pay extra for words like "organic" and "all natural" (note that formal legislation identifying foods as organic didn't begin until the 1990s--two decades after the start of Ben and Jerry's). And while many companies would be afraid to be identified with this market, people who do not identify in any way still love the ice cream.


The other stroke of genius was the inclusion of long-standing pop culture references (most notably Cherry Garcia) in naming new flavours. This is also risky as it could be perceived as over-marketed, whereas I feel Ben and Jerry's has much the opposite reputation. Instead of these guys saying "hey, we signed a deal to make money and advertise on our cartons" they seem to be saying "we love this guy so much we made an ice cream for him. Don't you love him?"


I could write a very very long essay about this, and may very well when the time allows. In the meantime, though . . . your comments and thoughts? I'm interested to see how other people perceive the brand (as we know, perception is the only truth--particularly in marketing!).

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