To be the best, learn from the best Ben & Jerry’s ice cream giant and social media guru

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-4-45-15-pmFull disclosure, I love Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream, but this won’t bias my analysis of the company’s social media marketing.  

Fun, quirky, silly and serious describes the content posted by Ben and Jerry’s. The company is known for its premium ice cream, and social activism is also a recognized social media leader1. The company has over 10-million followers across platforms.

So, why is this small company a social media giant? Mark O’Brien of ClickZ credits the small, in-house team that lives and breathes social.

Since opening in 1978, in Vermont, Ben & Jerry’s has been a champion of social causes.screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-10-17-57-pm Today, the brand weighs in on issues like climate change, gay rights, and politics.

The company doesn’t just pay lip service to social issues, it has skin in the game. Co-founders and brand ambassadors, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield were arrested in April during a Democracy Awakening march in D.C.

Brand storyteller Bernadette Jiwa would approve. She says of companies, “If you’re going to try to persuade me, persuade me with the whole truth. Don’t just tell a story. Live and breathe it too.”

I scream, you scream

Eating ice cream is fun. Fun is also the key ingredient across all of Ben & Jerry’s social platforms. It starts with a cheerful and easy to navigate website and extends to colourful Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and most recently SnapChat accounts. They also have LinkedIn and YouTube accounts, a blog and newsletter.

Blogger Ann Handley says, Ben & Jerry’s writing and communications style is playful, fun, humorous, and approachable. But it’s also intelligent. Furthermore,

Campaign notes the social accounts often ask for customer feedback, thoughts and ideas, which raises audience interaction and increases positive sentiment.

Across all platforms, the brand remains true to its mission and never breaks character. Interestingly, it recycles content across channels. A photo on Instagram will likely be posted to Twitter or Facebook.

Flavour flip!  Ben and Jerry’s launches Chocolate Cherry Garcia

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-1-20-20-pm

The fun and up-beat press release announcing the arrival of Chocolate Cherry Garcia was issued in early November. It skips storytelling getting to the key point: the ice cream is available for a limited time…so hurry, grab a spoon!  

You can click to find locations of scoop shops.  There are plenty of photos followers can post to Instagram or Pin and an oh-so-sharable video. You can click to learn more about the flavour, get recipes and fun facts.  They created #ChocolateCherryGarcia to guide the conversation on-line and wrote a Tweet to make sharing easy.  It is the perfect package for the media and loyal followers.

Yikes, that is one weird ice cream sandwich, dude! 

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-10-08-33-pm Check-out how to make an ice cream sandwich à la Ben and Jerry’s.

The 32-second video posted to Facebook is perfect for sharing. Viewers wonder: ‘what the heck?’ to the end

Generally, the Facebook posts celebrate the brand.  There are profiles about flavour gurus (how’s that for a job title) and about the former convicts baking brownies for the brand’s ice cream concoctions.  

Screen Shot 2016-11-30 at 6.08.49 PM.pngInstagram pedals ice cream porn

In an interview with Mike O’Brien, Kate Paine, Digital Marketing Manager at Ben & Jerry’s talks about which platforms work best. For reach and engagement, Facebook is the brand’s workhorse. For activism, it’s Twitter. On Instagram, she says, people just want ice cream porn.

An example of a smutty Instagram post is the oh-so-delicious looking photo of pumpkin pie ice cream. It generated 14k likes and 176 comments.

Join the Fight for Human Rights

Campaign magazine writes, “Whether or not you agree with a frozen dessert brand taking a stance on issues…the strategy provides Ben & Jerry’s with great discussion fodder for its social media channels. This, in turn, allows it to have deeper conversations with fans.”

In a recent Tweet, the company asked followers to join the fight for human rights and to help the world’s 65.3-million refugees. screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-7-20-08-pmIllustrated with a cartoon, the 900-word article is approachable and easy to read. It has short paragraphs (2 to 3 sentences). There are also subtitles and sub-sub-titles. In case readers drop off, the call to action link: “Join the fight for human rights” is featured three times. 

The article also elicits empathy through storytelling. It tells the tale of 115-year-old Eida Karmi from Syria who was carried on the back of a neighbour hundreds of miles to Turkey before making the sea journey to Greece. She hopes to reunite with her family in Germany, but she’s currently being held in a refugee camp.

The activism posts contrast with the frivolous articles, photos and videos about ice cream, sundaes, and banana splits. But, Ben & Jerry’s mission is to make great ice cream and make the world a better place.

Mike Hayes of Ben and Jerry’s says, “We bring our social mission to life in a lighthearted way which, when done right, makes the topics approachable. Our brand has a lot of flexibility, so you shouldn’t be surprised to see a tweet about the Grateful Dead followed by one about Fair Trade.” (Brand Driven Digital)

One more scoop

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-6-12-54-pmBlogger Ann Hadley writes Ben & Jerry’s has masterfully honed its voice and tone on social media. Despite now being owned by Unilever, the ice cream maker maintains a don’t-worry-be-happy, laid-back voice that allows it to promote ice cream one day and, the next, weigh in on potentially controversial issues.

And in the process, they are making ice cream, making money and making a difference.  Sweet. 

 

 

1 Ben & Jerry’s one of social media’s most beloved restaurant brands:  http://www.netbase.com/press-release/netbase-report-names-ben-jerrys-wingstop-and-applebees-as-social-medias-most-beloved-restaurant-brands/

 

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