Ben & Jerry’s have always had activism at their heart but they need to be careful not to overreach and turn into BrewDog.
A lot of our PR fables seem to be confectionary-based these days, but as I’ve said before, junk food peddlers have some of the biggest mouths in the media industry.
The ice cream barons are no exception and generally do a decent job of turning political stances into values they live by, and then leveraging these values into clever marketing for their (decidedly apolitical) product.
Their BLM support was a recent example, as was their parting of the ways with Facebook’s advertising platform, their support for same-sex marriage in Australia, and for various conservation causes.
But they’re not squeaky clean – releasing a flavour called Black and Tans was ignorant, selling ice cream in West Bank settlements is another move which has damaged many other brands, there’s the alleged tax avoidance, the alleged exploitation of migrant workers, and there have been a few too many health scandals around the food itself for a brand with such a ‘worthier-than-thou’ persona. ‘People in glass houses’ is a useful adage for brands wanting to put themselves out there.
Their latest salvo was into the reigniting furore around asylum seekers travelling across the channel with a Tweet aimed at Priti Patel going viral. This is a worthy cause but requires consideration and their efforts here can sometimes come up short, lacking the punch of some of their previous activism or ballsy cleverness of the marketing. Agitators like James Cleverly and Andrew Neil were quick to pounce on this, making it far from an unqualified success. And while Ben & Jerry’s live to fight another day, they need to pick their battles astutely in future