Ben & Jerry’s is the top-selling ice cream brand in the US and has a massive fan base of ice cream lovers all over the world.
But they don’t just make ice cream. They also speak their values. Loudly and proudly. In fact, they’re one of America’s most outspoken brands.
Often when we think of people making a stand on important issues, we think of activists, advocates and politicians… not big businesses. But time and time again, Ben & Jerry’s have shown that businesses can – and should – be a part of the most important conversations shaping our lives.
Not only have they shown that living your values is important, but they have also laid out a roadmap for other businesses looking to join them in doing so - especially in regards to their very popular and very outspoken social media program.
So let’s take a moment to explore some of Ben & Jerry’s top-performing posts across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and dissect just what makes their social media content so powerful.
First off, if you didn’t already know, Ben & Jerry’s is a company that is seriously committed to progressive values.
Human rights, social and economic justice, as well as protecting the environment make up the core tenets of their values. And these stances frame all of their work from the ice cream they make to the tweets they share. You can learn more about their values here.
So what can we learn from this iconic brand that never accepts silence in the face of injustice? A lot!
Lesson 1: Your Values Should Drive Your Entire Business - Not Just Your digital Content
That’s the primary lesson to take from Ben & Jerry’s. If your values don’t touch every aspect of your business, then they won’t seem authentic when you throw a social post into the world in honor of some holiday or news event.
Ben & Jerry’s constantly seeks out opportunities to support causes and they take big risks to fight for what they think is right.
Take this post about a new ice cream flavor for example. It’s their fourth most popular Facebook post of the past year and it highlights their commitment to fighting for racial justice and equity.
Not only did Ben & Jerry’s take the opportunity to voice support for an important cause, but they also put their money where their mouth is. By partnering with Colin Kaepernick, and committing to giving all of proceeds to his organization, Know Your Rights Camp, Ben & Jerry’s shows that they are a company that doesn’t just talk the talk on Twitter, but one that truly lives its values.
While you and your organization may not be able to partner with Colin Kaepernick, your brand can still find ways to live your values.
Start by naming them. What do you believe in and why do those beliefs matter.
Once you’ve named them, share them with your employees, talk about them with community members. And of course show them in your content.
Sometimes we have to take risks to do what is right. If you’re going to choose to voice your values, you’re also going to have to stand by them when they’re tested.
That’s exactly what Ben & Jerry’s did this past summer during heightened tensions in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict when they ended their franchise agreements with stores in “occupied Palestinian territory.”
While plenty of very vocal people and organizations disagreed with this move from Ben & Jerry’s, the company stood true to its core value of advocating for human rights and dignity, above all else.
It’s not always easy to do what we believe is right. But the fact is, when you do, people notice. Your employees know when you do – and even more so when you don’t! – stay true to your word. Your followers do too - just check out the comments of that Instagram post.
And since 70% of consumers want to know what brands are doing to address social and environmental issues - social media is a great place to live your values!
Lesson 2: Meet Your Customers Where They Are By Being Part of the Conversation
Another aspect of Ben & Jerry’s social media content that makes it so powerful is that the brand speaks to consumers at the moments when it counts the most.
As the country, and many of us here in Wisconsin, were grappling with the outcome of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, Ben & Jerry’s came out with a statement showing the hypocrisy of the criminal justice system.
Being a part of the conversation while it’s happening can be difficult - unless you, your staff, and your audience already know what your values are. Then, it's not nearly as hard.
By having clear core values, Ben & Jerry’s was able to respond to this event as it was happening in a way that made their stance clear and that also contributed to the online conversation happening around the trial.
Ben and Jerry’s is also good at telling you why they feel a certain way about a timely issue. They provide transparent explanations and press releases that can take complicated issues and make their stance on them clear cut.
Some followers are going to disagree with you. But by making your values clear, and backing them up with the thought process behind them, you will show that you're a business that's thinking about these issues critically and applying your values to them.
By creating content that sparks or contributes to a conversation, while also explaining your position, you can encourage followers to interact with your business on social media while also building the trust of your most loyal customers, who likely feel the same way you do.
Lesson 3: You Don’t Have to Fight Every Battle, And You Don’t Have to Fight Anything Alone
While Ben & Jerry’s certainly doesn’t shy away from taking tough stances and big risks, they also don’t fight every battle.
When you know who you are and what you value, it's easier to know what to say and when to say it. And your followers will better understand what to expect from you.
Ben and Jerry’s is passionate about social justice. On 4/20, they could have easily just posted a joke about Half Baked or ice cream being the perfect cure for the munchies!. But this are no ordinary ice cream brand.
Instead they posted about racial disparities in arrest rates for marijuana and the importance of passing the MORE act.
They’re not out there taking on big tech or tweeting at particular politicians. But they are displaying their values in ways that make sense by informing their audience and urging them to action.
This is something that any business can do. By talking about issues that make sense for the values your brand represents, you can build a loyal and dedicated following. You might not get every sale, but your values have a way of breaking through even the most crowded media environment.
There are also plenty of ways to make your values relevant to your business, besides just talking about them on social media.
Partnerships can also be a powerful way to do so. In this example, Ben & Jerry’s partnered with an activist organization, a Black-owned coffee producer, and a Black artist to advocate for transforming the way we approach public safety.
These kinds of partnerships can be developed for any business.
If you’re a bank that values economic justice, partner with a local organization to help teach folks about financial literacy.
Maybe you’re a clothing brand passionate about supporting animal shelters - that’s awesome. Partner with a local artist to make a T-shirt and donate part of the proceeds to a local shelter.
Efforts like these will make it easier for you and your followers to stand up for what you believe in while also helping to amplify your presence in your community by bringing new people into your audience.
Overall, we can really learn a lot about how to share values on social media from seeing how pros like Ben & Jerry’s do it.
Their willingness to articulate and stick to their values permeates throughout their business, making them an active participant in important conversations, and a powerful ally to partners fighting for the same values.
Your business can do this too… if you want. And when you do so, your employees and your followers will love you all the more.
Looking for ways to further incorporate your values into your digital marketing program?