Ben & Jerry's CEO Discusses "The Power of the Brand" with McDonough Students
Washington, D.C -- "Brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room," Ben & Jerry's CEO Walt Freese told a group of marketing students last week at Georgetown's McDonough School of Business.
Characterizing the ice cream company's marketing strategy as "conscious capitalism," Freese assured students, "You can lead with your values, and deliver shareholder value too."
According to Freese, Ben & Jerry's aims to build a brand that reflects an image of the company as a responsible member of society and a progressive force for social and economic justice. "We want people to see us as a company that stands for something," Freese asserts, "and we try and keep our social mission and marketing separate --consumers can see through the artifice."
Freese pointed out that Ben & Jerry's produces no individual advertising, instead reaching consumers through "guerilla" or "niche" marketing. "Our voice is about integrated marketing campaigns," says Freese, citing recent mentions of a new ice cream flavor on the popular comedy-news show The Colbert Report. Freese said the company had more than 1.9 billion media impressions in 2006, or instances where a reader or viewer was exposed to a reference to Ben & Jerry's or its products.
Freese described many of the social missions that have helped develop the Ben & Jerry's brand throughout its history, starting with the introduction of the eco-pint made from bleach-free paper in 1984 and extending to their current campaign of using eggs from cage-free chickens, expanding fair trade, and promoting a livable wage for everyone. During brand development, "authenticity is essential" Freese explained. "Instead of capitalizing on trends, we try and defy trends," he said.
As a result, Ben & Jerry's has engendered a degree of loyalty amongst its regular consumers. "A small percentage of really passionate consumers can be just as profitable as a large percentage of moderately loyal consumers," Freese pointed out. He added that Ben & Jerry's had higher sales growth last year than any other ice cream manufacturer.
About the Robert Emmett McDonough School of Business
Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business is a premier business school located in the nation's capital. Founded in 1957 to educate undergraduate business students through the integration of liberal arts and professional education, the McDonough School today welcomes approximately 1,300 undergraduates, 620 MBA students, and more than 500 participants in its executive education programs annually. For more information about the McDonough School, visit http://msb.georgetown.edu.
About Georgetown University
Georgetown University is the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in America, founded in 1789 by Archbishop John Carroll. Georgetown today is a major student-centered, international, research university offering respected undergraduate, graduate and professional programs on its three campuses. For more information about Georgetown University, visit http://www.georgetown.edu.