Did you know that 82% of consumers will shop from brands whose values align with their own? Now more than ever, people are looking to brands to do good—a brand that does this very well is Ben and Jerry’s.
In this episode, Sean Greenwood, Director of Public Relations and Communications at Ben and Jerry’s is joining us to discuss some of his favorite brand campaigns. Sean highlights the unique approach he and his team take with PR and communications at Ben and Jerry’s. Listen in as he shares how you can be better about infusing your values into your business.
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The PR and communication strategies that have contributed to Ben and Jerry’s success
The co-founders of Ben & Jerry’s led the company with strong missions. For Jerry, it was that business should be fun. For Ben, it was that businesses have a responsibility to give back to their communities.
These two missions have informed much of the company’s PR and communications strategies since 1978. In every product launch and marketing campaign, the Ben & Jerry’s brand has infused fun and purpose.
The clear vision that Ben and Jerry had for their business in 1978 has trickled down to all of their employees over the years, from the CFO to the marketing director. It’s easier to communicate the values of a company when everyone is on board, which is why leaders need to get clear about their vision and inspire their team to see the vision too.
The team at Ben & Jerry’s does not only measure success by their bottom line. Instead, they weigh three factors:
- Impact on marginalized communities
- Production of great products
Another key to the company’s success is that the founders understood that their values would not align with everyone. From the time they were a small business until now, they have focused on connecting with their target audience who resonates with the brand. This strategy has paid off for Ben & Jerry’s—82% of shoppers want a consumer brand’s values to align with their own according to The Harris Poll.
Taking a stance on values & political issues
Many business owners fear that if they speak up about a cause they care about or take a stand on a controversial issue, they will lose business. However, Ben & Jerry’s has only ever seen their profits go up when the company is outspoken on an issue.
Ben says, “The strongest connection you can have with your fans is through shared values.” The company takes that approach when it speaks out. Instead of focusing on being potentially polarizing to some potential customers, they focus on the shared values they build with their ideal customers.
It also helps that Ben & Jerry’s offers a great product that everyone loves: ice cream. The ice creams serve as an ‘on-ramp’ to be able to talk to customers about important issues. Even when people don’t agree with the company or like the political statement it makes, the ice cream invites them into a conversation instead of creating a divide.
Inspiring your team to promote the company’s values
Ben & Jerry’s makes sure that every employee understands the company’s values by making it a crucial part of the onboarding process. The company also conducts an annual review, and the yearly bonus is tied to how much an employee helped push the company’s mission forward.
Netflix and Chill: Successful marketing campaigns and partnerships
Ben & Jerry’s Netflix and Chill marketing campaign was an amazing partnership between two huge brands that capitalized on a current pop culture moment—ultimately inspiring the flavor of Netflix and Chill’d. This is just one example of the creative partnerships that Ben & Jerry’s has created, and every time the company revolves the marketing campaign on a hot moment or topic in pop culture.
Part of the reasoning behind this strategy is the fact that Ben & Jerry’s is not trying to be “your father’s ice cream brand.” The company understands its brand, mission, and target audience so well that it can create explosive campaigns with the right partners.
Ben & Jerry’s chooses their partners carefully. They want to partner with other brands that both share the company’s values and challenge the company to be better. Another example of a partnership like this is when the company partnered with filmmaker Ava DuVernay on the ice cream flavor, Lights! Caramel! Action!, which benefited DuVernay’s non-profit Array Alliance.
Ben & Jerry’s supports racial justice causes, but the company doesn’t know how to solve the problem of racial tension. DuVernay is a fierce advocate for people of color in the film industry, so the partnership served as an educational opportunity for Ben & Jerry’s. The partnership also used the Ben & Jerry’s platform to shine a light on an important issue.
How Ben & Jerry’s continues to live out its values amidst huge growth
Ben & Jerry’s has worked hard to maintain and live out its values even as the company has seen huge growth. The bigger a company gets, the more difficult it can actually be to stay aligned with its values.
Part of Ben & Jerry’s success in this area is in the company’s ability to admit that it isn’t perfect and still has a long way to go. While one cause that the company is passionate about and puts a ton of effort into supporting is racial justice, they admit that their workforce is still not as diverse as it should be.
An openness to continue learning and admitting when they don’t get it right is what makes Ben & Jerry’s such a trusted and transparent company.
The biggest differentiator between businesses that succeed and the ones that fail
Sean believes that the difference between Ben & Jerry’s success and other ice cream brands is the way that they include their values and mission into everything they do, from how they source ingredients to how they communicate with their fans.
Important sections of the conversation:
- [3:31] The PR strategies that have contributed to Ben & Jerry’s success
- [9:18] How Ben & Jerry’s measures its marketing impact
- [10:10] Taking a stance on political issues
- [19:27] The success of the Netflix and Chill campaign
- [27:05] Maintaining values through huge company growth
- [31:03] The biggest differentiator between businesses that succeed and the ones that fail
Connect with the guest
Did you know that 82% of consumers will shop from brands whose values align with their own? Now more than ever, people are looking to brands to do good and a brand that does this very well is none other than Ben and Jerry’s. In this episode, we are taking the lid off and scooping up some of Ben and Jerry’s favorite campaigns. And who better to walk us through that then the Director of Public Relations and Communications at Ben and Jerry’s, Sean Greenwood, who is also known as the Grand Poobah of PR, Sean teaches us, Ben and Jerry’s unique approach to PR and communications and also how we can get better on infusing our values into our business. Hey, everyone, this is your host Akua konadu. And you’re listening to the independent business podcast, more people than ever are working for themselves and building profitable businesses in the process. So on this show, I get to sit down with some of the most influential authors, entrepreneurs and creators to break down the science of self made success so that you can achieve it too.
Hello, Shawn, I’m so excited to have you on the show today. Welcome. This is a treat for us. Thanks for having us. Absolutely. Well, okay, I just have to kick it off because I’m so curious to know after like reading your bio, how did you earn the title of Grand Poobah isn’t Poobah of PR.
But don’t think the BIOS thing always is amazing. Like you go, how long do we have to work in our careers before someone else will write your bio for you? Like, I’m like, you know, it’s been 3540 years of working in businesses. And here I am still writing my own darn bio like, so the titles at Ben and Jerry’s is a big deal like people. I’ve had the pleasure of every time I’ve hired somebody like in our PR department, you go, one of the challenges is you got to come up with your own title, right? Because we have this belief that business should be fun, right. And this goes back to our co founder, Jerry, whose philosophy was if it’s not fun, why do it. And that was one of the two big philosophies for the company. So ever since then, you know, for the last 40 years, we say, Okay, we need to make work fun. And part of that, you know, like I’m saying when we hired you, folks, okay, what’s your title gonna be? So I had actually worked for years leading up our joy gang, which is an internal group that does kind of like how do we keep work fun. And so that my title, there was the Grand Poobah of joy. And so then when I got the job as PR director about 20 years ago, it was then Alright, I’m gonna hold on to Grand Poobah of public relations, it has a good ring to it.
It really does. I was like, okay, it gave me a very like Yoda vibe. Which was really cool. And I love that making work fun, especially like as business owners in general, and just working for companies, right? Like you can lose sight of you get so caught up in your goals and stuff that you can really lose sight of what’s important, and the reason why you got started, and I love that, that you guys really put that fun and that joy in the forefront so that you can really you see the passion, honestly, in a lot of what Ben and Jerry does everything ranging from campaigns to all the various different fun flavors. And so I’m really excited just to talk more about just some of your more PR and communication strategies, and how we can honestly communicate our values. I think that’s something that a lot of us as business owners still struggle with. And so that’s something I’m really excited to tap into. And so overall, Ben and Jerry’s has a really unique approach to again, just really like communicating just your brand’s your values. So what strategies do you think has really contributed to an injury success over the years?
Yeah, I think you know, those underlying principles, right, when we stopped seeing fun is certainly one of them and bends was a business has a responsibility to give back to the community. Right, that set the tone that was ever since the first year that the guys were in business when they started in 1978. So that’s the kind of you know, what the message is for us in terms of employees to try to continue to support and then 10 years into the company’s history in 1988, we actually put together a mission statement, right. And the interesting thing about Ben and Jerry’s mission statement, I know, one of the questions we previewed was saying like, you know, what is the return for the company on this? And when you look at, especially as we do these things around values, and then what does that mean for a for profit business? And the truth is, there’s never anything about at Ben and Jerry’s, it’s just money, right? We always have this consideration. And with this three part mission, establishing that for us for you know, since 1988, we know that we’re measured not only in we want to make a reasonable profit as a business, but we also want to use some of that investment to be able to go back to support our global community and make sure that we’re, you know, sticking up for those folks who are marginalized, and how do we use the power of business to try to address some of those issues, right. So that’s our mission. And when you start off with that, it really allows you then to be able to go and take these stances, get involved with campaigns get involved with these issues that we care about. It doesn’t mean that you don’t, not everyone agrees with you, right. And that’s okay. Our co founder, Ben has always said, you know, we don’t need 100% of the people to like us and when You take a stance on issues, there’s going to be some folks who don’t agree with you. So we kind of have that baked into our DNA as well.
I mean, it really shows I think a lot of your campaigns, which I found a really cool article that highlighted a lot of your really fun campaigns, which one specifically, I definitely will break down. But I have other questions I want to touch on before that. But it’s true, like you guys are very, very clear with your values, you can look at the brand, and you don’t have to question it. I mean, it’s truly totally engulfed in all of your marketing campaigns, and also to the storytelling is just kiss and love so many fun campaigns. But I guess to a question that I have within that is that how are you weaving that into your marketing, even with your product launches? What are some key strategies that you’re doing that also to small business owners can take away from that as well and start implementing their values into their marketing their products and services as well?
Yeah. And you know, it’s really interesting, when you bring up the size of the business, what can small businesses do? How does that work compared to large businesses? Great to remember that Ben and Jerry started as a small business, right? It started as two guys who were best pals who said, you know, they like eating together. So let’s go open a food business and their favorite foods were bagels or ice cream. So here we are, right. And I think when you remember that, and say, they started this out as two people to co owners, and that was the only employees to start with right and, and having to do it on a shoestring budget. So I think it’s important for folks to understand that what it is that we try to do in terms of using this business to do good is not about an issue of large or small, there may be a scalability to it that when you become a global organization, and I was just talking with Jerry about this a week ago, saying, you know, I had a request from from a journalist in Poland, who was saying, Hey, we know you’re one of the leading businesses that sticks up for the LGBTQ plus community here and wanted to talk to you about that. And I was saying to Jerry, like, this is amazing to think that, you know, here we are 1978. And now you fast forward to today and say, it’s not that many decades, right, that you go now in 35 countries and being able to bring those values with you to those countries, that’s one of the most amazing things. So I think when you have a really clear vision, as as co founders, and as a small business, you carry that along. And then when you’re big business, you start to say, how do we implement that? And I think, you know, to your question, that’s pervasive throughout our business. So it doesn’t matter, whatever. You’re the marketing manager, you need to say, how do I bring them value is how do I bring the fun? How do I bring the product appreciation and having great quality products? Same thing, if you’re the finance, right? If you’re the CFO, you can just go my job to count the beans at the end of the day, the expectation is they care about the social mission, right, that that one unique mission that I think sets us apart from a lot of other businesses, and certainly did, you know 40 years ago, when when it was first beginning,
I love that, I think, again, being really, really clear about your vision, and taking that time to just have a full understanding right with what it is that you care about. And being able to weave that into all of your products and services, because you guys do it so well. And so naturally, which you guys, we will be linking some of the campaigns into the show notes so that you guys can really see, because I think now more than ever, a lot more people are making purchasing decisions based with brands that align with them. I think there was a the Harris Poll, it said that 82% of shoppers want a consumers brand values to really align with their own. And I think especially when the last few years, it’s become even more prominent. And this is obviously in no way of an episode of You know, becoming political and anything like that. I think it’s so important as business owners to really, especially as you’re trying to communicate with who it is that you want to connect with clients that you want to work with, you have to be able to really showcase your values and who you are. And so you guys just do that so wonderfully. And that’s why I just love hearing some of the strategies that you guys are doing. But a question that I have to ask, though, because you said a lot of people don’t really like you guys are very brutally honest, and how you do things, and it’s not gonna really resonate with everybody. And it’s true, like as business owners, small business owners, and your business is not for everybody. How do you measure the impact of your PR efforts? Right, and your brand’s reputation? And the bottom line? How do you measure that? How do you find the balance in between that, because I think that is a really common misconception of business owners that if you communicate with your values, whatever that may be, that it will cost you money. And so how do you guys find the balance within that Ben and Jerry’s?
Right? And I think part of is having that vision, knowing that there’s more than a single bottom line, right? It’s at least a double bottom line, when you measure what’s your impact on those marginalized communities that can use your help and your income as a business. Right. And I think we have this three part mission that’s that includes both of those as well as we want to make great products, right? So I think when you look at all of that in in kind of its totality, that’s where the magic happens to be able to bring that in, you know, we measure our PR impact itself within those equations with impressions, right? We look at what is it that we get and what we hear from people they’ll often businesses will say, Aren’t you scared about in including your values are getting into an issue that may be political or polarizing, because it’s going to limit those numbers. And I think what you hear from from the people at Ben and Jerry’s is, we’ve never seen our numbers go down, right? People will say, Oh, that you get involved with so much controversy, and we still see our sales go up. So that piece in terms of affecting the bottom line, we believe that taking a stance on issues allows you to be able to create a product, just your comment of read that that poll saying 80% plus of people want to purchase something that aligns with their value. So Ben’s saying is the strongest connection you can have with your your fans that way is through shared values. So to be able to put that out there, right. And then it naturally kind of leads to there’s gonna be some people who don’t agree with you. So part of that, that I think is still a work in progress for us is how do we bring people along, right? If you say, if we take a stance and say, right, we did a campaign 2015 called Save Our swirled where we wanted to identify climate warming, and how we could try to address with alternative energies. And so we ended up buying an electric vehicle, wrapping it and saying, We’re gonna send us around the country, it’s zero emissions. And we want to ask people to talk to their elected leaders and fill out this form and say, you know, I want us to consider alternative energy. So we ended up, you know, having a, we always have an impact goal for our campaign. So, you know, we had, like, 100,000 people, we want to have sign up, we ended up getting a couple 100,000 people that signed up, then we brought all those signatures to the cop 21 that year that was in Paris, to present it right to say, we want to share that here’s a couple 100,000 of your supporters who want you to make sure to pursue these alternative energy, you know, possibilities for our countries, and it was, you know, one of the largest gathering of world leader. So it’s knowing there’s a timelessness to that that makes sense. And knowing that some people are gonna say I don’t believe in global warming. So one of the things we’re trying to work on is, how do you not get so polarized to say, well, either you believe or you don’t, so you’re out for us it, we’ve always used ice cream as the on ramp to these issues, right. And doesn’t matter if it’s global warming, or LGBTQ quality, or marriage equality, something like that, to say, we use ice cream as the on ramp, it’s a lot easier to say to people, Hey, come have a scoop of ice cream, let’s talk about this issue that we care about, as opposed to just trying to set it up and say, okay, either you’re here or you’re there. So we want to try to bring people into that discussion. And like I said, that’s something we’re still trying to do better at.
I love the transparency. And I think that that’s something that small businesses, even us as well are still trying to navigate that right. Like, I love though that you’re using ice cream is that core thing to be like, come sit down have a conversation. I always like to say like, break bread with me, right? Because that’s where you have such as the best conversations where you get to really know people know, their stories, no matter who they are, is over food. I mean, so and like what better type of dessert than ice cream? Right? So I love that. And I love that the transparency, because a lot of us still struggle with that of how you don’t necessarily have to agree on anything. But how can we bring people along the journey with us even maybe necessarily, they don’t see eye to eye and I think that’s something that a lot of business owners as well are struggling with and still trying to navigate. But I do love that there were certain things that you highlighted even within the efforts to do that, and to get people still excited and still at least sparking the conversation, which I think is so important. And so even a small business owners, how do you feel like we can spark that conversation within our own businesses about whatever our values are? And bringing people along the journey with us, even if they may not necessarily align? Yeah,
I agree. I think it’s been real clear what those values are for your employees to know. And then hopefully, when they’re joining your company, that’s part of the onboarding and part of the orientation when they’re coming in. And hopefully, they’re, they’re exposed to it beforehand, right. So it’s not a shock. And I’m not saying that we’ve definitely had over our 40 plus years, people come into the business go, Whoa, I was going to come here and work this, you know, whatever role in this business, and I realized, now you’re trying to save the world with ice cream too. And maybe that’s not what I signed up for. So, you know, I think we try to be better about sharing what that is, and maybe the reputations get out there a little bit better as well. You know, and I think having that start then being real clear on those values. And then the fact that you want to measure all of your employees in terms of how do they contribute to that, right, that’s part of our annual review, part of your bonus is tied to how well did you do to support all three parts of that mission, right? Like we said, even outside of your the CFO to say, you need to bring some value as part to this company. If you just did money, you’re missing kind of the full impact. And I think that part, you know, plus, maybe there’s a chance to start small and your local community if you’re a small business to say the expectation is not that you’re saving the world if you’re a two person business in a small community, but what can you do in your local community that can make a difference and if your values are, you know, similar to Ben and Jerry’s, in terms of being progressive to say we want to take a stance on on these issues, right, we may be to that As the 16 was the year that we got involved, really trying to be much more deliberate and intentional to work on race issues, right? When we said that we officially went in, had met with some nonprofit organizations, mostly in North Carolina, kind of a combination of of because of the balance there of their population plus their history of civil rights and ask them, What can we do, and they advise us to go out and try to work in these communities of color and get people excited about voting again. And, you know, I can definitely speak for myself and say, I didn’t understand voter suppression that happened. Right? We’re here up in Vermont, mostly white state, mostly white company. And I, you know, when we’re working with these organizations advising us, we’re like, what, what do you mean voting empowerment like, and all sudden, you would realize, you know, you go to one of these towns and cities in North Carolina, and there’s 100,000 white people in the community, and they get 40 voting booths, and they go down, and they vote in 15 minutes, and they’re back at their, you know, on their lunch break. If you go to the next neighborhood over, that’s the same exact size of black folks. And they get eight voting booths, and they have to come down and wait in line for six hours to vote. And maybe they have to then take a day off, or maybe they have a job, they can’t take a day off and you start going, Oh, okay, I see now what it is that’s going on, right in terms of those voter suppression tech tactics. And there’s been a lot more Stacey Abrams, and other folks who have kind of identified some of that for us. But being able to identify that in your local community, how can you take a stance right, I had one group, a community I was talking with, a gentleman said, I own a small auto parts store, like a franchise, but I’m one person who owns one franchise, I don’t have a social mission department like Ben and Jerry’s, how do I if I want to stick up and say, I want to try to be, you know, progressive in terms of addressing racism? How do I do that in my local community? And I said, you know, what, if you put a jar out on your counter and put on it and said, My business is going to sponsor $500, and we’re going to ask 500 other customers to sponsor $1. And then we’re going to take that $1,000 and offer it to a young person of color in our community, to go to automotive school, to become a mechanic to be able to do the work, like our business, what we’re selling here for parts for and you go, that would be a beautiful thing, right? To be able to do that, to take that stance in that community to be able to share, here’s what I care about, I’m going to put some money in my business, and I’m going to ask my customers to be part of this, right? It’s not changing the world, but it’s going right into that heart of the community and doing within kind of their own supply chain. And I think some of those, when you find a way to stack some of those things up, that’s certainly a part of the magic that helps to unlock and make these things more impactful.
Yeah, absolutely. I think I love that. I think it’s, um, you know, really putting yourself out there, you know, again, like, I think sometimes because we see Ben and Jerry’s, that’s a huge company, but it’s somebody like myself, who’s a solopreneur and so many others, like the change literally can start with one person, whether yes, that has gone to a person of color also to a business owner, right, like so supporting small businesses, those things are so impactful and so important. And I love that I love that you guys took the time to fully understand people that are very different from you and understand things from their lens. And I think that that’s just so important as business owners is to truly understand others having that empathy empathizing and understanding other people’s point of view and their stories and it does not align with yours but you can still have some compassion and greater deeper understanding and putting yourself in a space to be open and learning and growing and that definitely shows at Ben and Jerry’s as a company which I this is why we’re so excited to have you here. And so even shifting to because polarizing right you guys are very polarizing and not just even with you know political things like you guys are you guys are keep up with the trends keep up with the Joneses. Okay, I mean, you got one of my favorite campaigns is the Netflix and chill campaign, which I love that because Netflix and chill became kind of, you know, we all know what that means. Y’all, I’m not gonna rehash it, but I love that campaign. It was so much fun and being able to just number one, you have two big brands, Ben and Jerry’s and Netflix and how you guys were able to collaborate. So well together. Let’s talk about that campaign. So I really would love to know just how you guys were able to just leverage two huge successful brands and create number one a really cool flavor. So product launch, and then also to the campaign. I loved the ad it was so good. So what can you share with us a little bit more about that?
You’re part of it, right is trying to say like, we know, we can’t just stay. You know, we can’t be your father’s ice cream brand. Right? We need to still evolve. We can’t sit back and just go Ben and Jerry had a cool idea in 1978 Let’s just do exactly what they did. We need to continue to grow this business and keep it current right well it’s really easy to become outdated and so I think that’s something that’s very important to us so I think we we have been fortunate have a history of like, you know, the first ice cream we named after the guitarist the Grateful Dead Jerry Garcia was our Cherry Garcia that was our number one cell for about 25 years, and with that, it opened the door to these pop culture references and connections for Ben and Jerry’s. And it really became kind of a sweet spot for us, right that people expect that now and say, Well, you guys come up with a lot of these fun partnerships, right. And so we, we, you know, try to leverage that and understand bringing the rest of your values along with that. So the Netflix one was one, we knew it was such a popular opportunity that so many people utilize Netflix and you know, as and it was definitely one of the leaders in terms of streaming services and to be able to tie in, there’s absolutely a corporate sense of irreverence that Ben and Jerry’s has, right and that we always have. And so the idea of tying in that name, the concept of the Netflix and chilled, and then going, Okay, now let’s get past that and go to you know, something that’s, that’s real fun, make a great flavor, great partnership, be able to go out there and try. And we’ve actually had a couple of, you know, individual flavors that have come out partnered with different shows. So it’s been a bunch of fun to be able to connect with them and find that moment in pop culture, right that where it’s hot, it’s it allows you I think, the synergy of really bringing together a couple of brands that is exponential when you do that, right. We were talking before about kind of that layering, like being able to stack those things on top of each other. And doing that I think when you have these partnerships, I remember working years ago, maybe 1012 years ago, Elton John, the musician was coming to Vermont, he had never played Vermont before. We were so excited. And so at Ben and Jerry’s, we had actually catered his wedding years before. So we reached back out through a contact and said, Hey, with, with Sir Elton come to town, we’d love to do a flavor, what we’ll do is just make enough to sell here in Vermont. And all the proceeds we raised from this will donate to his AIDS Foundation. And so, you know, they came back they were they were really excited. So we ended up doing this. And when their team came to town, you know, all the PR manager, the AIDS Foundation manager, and they said, we were with Elton in New York City a week ago. And we’re sitting in an elevator, you know, with Elton’s, and we see the the scroll on the little video screen and the elevator that says Elton John has his own Ben and Jerry’s flavor now. And they were they were like, this has blown us away that there’s so much love coming in around this. And I think it is the exponential piece just like Netflix, right? You choose something that’s popular, and that whole community comes along. And so you do get that exponential return on that. Yeah, I
guess too, because, you know, there were so many things trending at that time. I mean, the timing of it was perfect. By the way, that campaign. I mean, it’s 2020, a lot of us are confined to our homes, streaming services are all of us were streaming Netflix, all different types of streaming platforms. And Netflix was definitely number one. And so I guess do what as you see all of these trends, how are you deciding and a sense of like, alright, this is the one that we really want to lean into. As you guys are creating your campaign like, I guess, too, how are you sifting with? Like, what will work for your brand? What will not? Who do you want to collaborate with? Who do we not? I think that’s something that’s important to small business owners, because I think collaboration is key for us, too, with a lot of success, especially solopreneurs. If you are a single individual, or if you have a small team, I think that is so important. Collaboration is key. And it can be especially if done well can have huge, huge benefits in your business. So I asked like two questions within that. But
it but it’s that part, I think, you know, in terms of which partners do you choose those that have both values that you share, but also I think partners that can challenge you, right, that get to just find a partner, that’s all easy to say, Okay, we’ve got all this figured out, as opposed to partners who bring along values and challenge you to be better. Right. I think one of the things we’ve tried to do with our our focus kind of working on racial justice issues over the last few years, you know, we talked about the Netflix and chill launch, I think we we had about a billion folks who were talking about that in terms of his PR impressions. But the following year with the murder of George Floyd, when we took a stance on that and put that out, we had, you know, five to the over 5 billion people talking about that, that stands out, we so it doesn’t just have to be about a product, it doesn’t just have to be about something you’re selling, right? It can be about what it is that you care about, that can still land kind of these, you know, brilliant, impressive numbers of people that you connect it to that Zeitgeist right and what was going on at the time. And so I think Netflix, certainly, you know, there’s who during COVID, there was a certain time where people were home saying, right, I’m not I’m not going out to restaurants, but I can buy some ice cream and bring it home and sit here on the couch and stream on Netflix show. So that certainly worked really well for us. But I think it’s finding those partners that align with your values and then challenge you in other ways, right? I think we’ve had our latest flavor this year was a partnership with Ava DuVernay filmmaker and you know, she’s just such a leader in not just the industry of of entertainment, but also of just trying to be intentional and deliberate about supporting people of color within that industry and challenging where the shortcomings are, that we don’t again, we’re not an expert in the entertainment business. And we’re not an expert in how to som racism. But as we work with those folks who are and find those good partners, right, here’s Eva who said, to try to challenge the lack of people of color within the entertainment business, she would always hear people go, I can’t find a director of photography, who’s a person of color. So she ended up putting together a database and sharing that and you’re like, Oh, my God, this is the kind of partner you want someone who is addressing those societal challenges that allow you to be able to support them, shine the light on them, and then you’re immediately walking the talk, right? That that provides that legitimacy, because you are having an authentic impact, then,
I love that so much really find having people that yes, like your values align, but also to challenges you It challenges you to be a better person challenges you to be a better business owner, really opening up your perspective and shifting things for you. Because when you, you know, like our experiences have led us to how we run our businesses, right. So it’s like, really, when you’re taking that time to again, having partners and collaborate people who challenge you, it totally will open up a new world a new way that you look at your business and new different way that you do different things. And I absolutely love that, because it’s so impactful. It’s very inspiring. And it’s extremely impactful. And just a good reminder of when you’re collaborating, find people that are going to challenge you and push you forward and make you uncomfortable, because it’s the fact to highlighting that you said look, I’m not an expert in these areas, but I’m going to find a person that is and learn but also collaborate also to give them the platform as well, which I think is so so valuable. And I love that. And I love to just innovation, I think I’ve said this to a couple of episodes. But I mean, you guys really do do such a good job of that of just innovating consistently in all of your campaigns and just your brand as a whole you can you can truly feel the passion that you guys do in your work and every single flavor and every single campaign that you have. So this is truly wonderful. And I mean, I did ask this before, but maybe not. I mean, do you feel everything comes at a cost is what I always say? And like after everything that you guys have done? Do you? Do you feel what you’ve gained more than what you’ve lost? I guess more. So if that makes sense. The question I’m asking. Yeah,
I mean, like I said, we’ve always grown as a business. We I think there was a time maybe 12 or 14 years into the company’s history, we had a like sales were down. I think it was that one quarter in our global history. And so in terms of taking a stance on these issues, getting involved, you know, creating great products and things that hopefully our fans are will delight in, there’s just been this trajectory that things continue to grow. Right. And so that feels like that’s the right way you want to evolve your business. Right? That there. What one of the challenge that comes with that is how do you grow your business and keep those values intact? Because it certainly is harder to say, Okay, we were one team here and the one roof and all together and we could connect now how do we right? So it raises up issues like communication that you need to constantly do a better job, you know, hiring, bring people in your team, and again, bringing in the right people that challenge you. So you’re walking the talk and what your commitments are and your values, and also that are going to make you a better organization. So there’s certainly a lot of work that goes into that. And I appreciate you, you know, the nice words, and and there’s also struggles, right? We’re not perfect at it. We have struggled all the time with that, you know, and so trying to say how do we do these things that we care about and tie that in? Is, like we’re talking before be honest about it, like put it out there. And if you say I cannot go out there and say, as much as we have tried to work on racial justice work, and last seven years, does our workforce look like the way that we want it to? It’s not there, right, we’re still committed to that to try to make that happen. But in terms of diversity, for long times, we kind of relied on this crutch of being a white company in a white state. And we’re now trying to be much more intentional and deliberate and go okay, you know, we’ve got a partnership with Howard University that we’ve been ramping up over the last few years ago. Let’s get into connect with these folks early. hear from them, advise us on what it is we’re doing with our business and involve them in our business. Right. So it’s that kind of intentionality that I think you can then leverage and learn and grow more because we certainly are not perfect, right. And when we’re not leaders in those areas, we’re hopefully having a good impact and and as we continue to learn and bring people in, like we were saying, bringing those experts like I remember doing some of the racial justice work, our franchisee those out in Colorado was going I’m really struggling with this. I’m not an expert in this. I feel like I want to make an impact, but I don’t want to make a mistake. And this woman who was a 30 year, you know, racial justice consultant was like, you know, I make mistakes every year, every day doing this work and I’ve been doing for 30 years. So don’t think you’re gonna come in and just be mistake proof. Right? So I think it’s okay. I think as long as your hearts in the right place, your values are in the right place when you’re trying to go there. It’s okay to make mistakes. I think we want to try to be as intentional and deliberate and aware as we are going into that. So when you do make mistake, hopefully Make Mistakes faster and learn from it faster and and when you have that intentionality out there, right? I think it’s certainly helpful that people say, Okay, I knew what you were trying to do that but here’s why it didn’t quite work. Let’s let’s try to do better.
I love that too. I think that’s so important as business owners accountability, just as a whole in general, like, you know what I mean? I think the self awareness is key, and that heart check, really being intentional, and just really asking yourself, okay, like, where’s my heart within this? Am I being able to be honest with myself and be aware, and then also to like holding myself accountable. I think that’s so important. And just having grace and compassion, right, because it’s true, like, we’re all human, we all make mistakes. And in order to change, in order to change, you’re going to mess up, you’re going to trip up, but you have to take the accountability, you have to move forward. It’s not something that’s going to be solved overnight. But at least at the end of the day, like progress has been made, conversations are being had, which I think is so important. And so this conversation has been great. So every episode, we’d love to end it with asking this question, and what do you think the biggest differentiator is between businesses that succeed and businesses that fail? I’m gonna say
values for from the Ben and Jerry’s perspective, right? There’s a lot of other great ice creams out there. The difference is we included values and our mission, our purpose, our you know, and it’s all the way from the supply chain of when we purchase ingredients, how do we help out right, we buy brownies from a bakery in Yonkers, New York, that helps homeless people has an open hiring policy, so doesn’t judge if you’ve been incarcerated before, whatever your history is, knowing that that’s how you can purchase ingredients and help out knowing when you deliver ice cream and ice cream trucks at the other end of your chain. Like, we have a self imposed carbon tax of $10 per metric ton that we go, we need to put some money into this because we’re leaving an impact just like any other company does. So it’s that’s all about values, right. And I think that’s been the differentiator, when you look at our, our mission statement, the all businesses want to count the pennies, at the end of the day, we have the financial part is 1/3 of our mission statement, but the values is the other third along with products, right? So so being able to do that, I think that’s been the biggest differentiator. And I think that’s why when people go to the store today and go, Alright, we’re going to treat ourselves to these little super premium ice cream flavors. And you know, they come with a super premium price that they go, Okay, this company seemed to do it right. And so let’s support them. Oh,
I love that. I love that it’s boundaries as values first. And as business owners, we need to be leading with our values first than our business. And I think that’s just so important. And it’s true, like you can see it throughout everything within the company. So thank you so much, John, I have loved this conversation. And if people want to connect with you, how can they find you? Yeah,
the easiest place for me on whatever Twitter’s called now on there at pr Pooh Bah, you can find me on there. And that’s definitely the way that I’m kind of most public accessible, or just come to Vermont, where it’s really easy. I’m at the factory now where we have a great factory tour. So you know, God stopped by here and just asked by
name. Oh, my gosh, I love that. Oh, well, thank you so much, the great poobah. It’s very nice to meet you. Thank you so much for joining us in this conversation. I loved it. It was so impactful. And I hope that as you if you’re listening, that you take so many key things that Shawn shared throughout this whole episode and apply it to your own business, because it’s true, like your values matter, we are more than our business. And so like we should be able to share the things that we truly care about, and be able to create a sustainable business at the same time. So thank you. Thank you so much. And thank you everybody for listening. Until next time. That ends our episode of The Independent Business podcasts. Everything we’ve discussed today can be found at [email protected] Hedra website to access for show notes, relevant links and all the resources that you need to level up. And if you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, be sure to subscribe to the podcast to make sure you never miss our future content. Drop us a review and leave our guests some love on social and thank you again for listening.