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Eco-Marketing

Ben & Jerry's: A Green Pioneer

Ice-Cream Maker Has Made the Environment a Priority; Now It's Looking to Up Ante With 'Lick Global Warming'

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- When Ben & Jerry's launched its "Lick Global Warming" campaign in 2002, it was not out of the blue sky. The social-mission motivated ice-cream purveyor made the environment a priority 15 years ago when it named Andrea Asch its first manager of natural resources, a position she still holds.
Meltdown: Baked Alaska effort in Washington attacked a plan to drill in the Arctic refuge.
Meltdown: Baked Alaska effort in Washington attacked a plan to drill in the Arctic refuge.

But while Ms. Asch has regularly been measuring the company's carbon-dioxide emissions (including those emitted from corporate employees' air travel) and committing to renewable energy sources, it's only since the launch of "Lick Global Warming" that the marketer has drawn in consumers in a major way.

More than slogans
The history of concern over being green has meant a lot toward making its recent efforts believable. Noelle Pirnie, Ben & Jerry's integrated marketing manager, who's charged with leading these "values-led" efforts, says, "These aren't just ad strategies; [being green] is built into the way we do business."

Ms. Pirnie works closely with Ms. Asch and other staffers who monitor marketing and emissions. Under that campaign banner, Ben & Jerry's partnered with the Dave Matthews Band and Save Our Environment to launch the One Sweet Whirled flavor; purchases of the product supported the band's global-warming-focused Bama Works Foundation. That effort has expanded as the concept of global warming has become more mainstream. Ms. Pirnie is in charge of what Ben & Jerry's terms "quick-turn events" that it can turn around quickly, to support its global-warming message.

Driven by its passionate employees' concern over Congress' decision to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling, for example, Ben & Jerry's created the world's largest Baked Alaska for Earth Day 2005, placing the 1,140-pound, four-foot-tall dessert made from Ben & Jerry's Fossil Fuel flavor in front of the Capitol to symbolize the environmental damage drilling in the wildlife preserve would cause.

The results were pleasing (if not directly for the environment, at least from a publicity perspective) as Ben & Jerry's received more than 30 million media impressions in exchange for a $40,000 outlay.

After all, in addition to saving the world, the Unilever unit also hopes to sell ice cream. "From a strictly marketing standpoint, the global-warming campaign definitely helps with our brand identity and we're recognized as a leader in environmental issues," Ms. Pirnie says.

Hitting the quad
The effort is building campus awareness of Ben & Jerry's via a "Campus Consciousness Tour" Ben & Jerry's is sponsoring with rock band Guster. The combination rock show/eco-fair educates students on global warming while doling out Ben & Jerry's flavors. As Ms. Pirnie says, "Out on tour, we're still promoting our brand, doing sampling, etc. We're just doing it in a place that's a better fit with our brand than the Nascar brand."

In addition to offering kids postcards they can send to entreat Congress to support emission-reducing efforts, Ben & Jerry's also touts its campaign website, lickglobalwarming.com, which features a video game where kids have to make sound environmental decisions like recycling and driving a fuel-efficient car to score backstage passes to a Guster concert.

It's not too much for Ben & Jerry's to ask of consumers, Ms. Asch says, "because we make sure we're asking no more of them than we're asking of ourselves."

For every truck Ben & Jerry's uses, every air mile logged, Ms. Asch is committed to purchasing clean renewable energy from Native Energy, a Vermont-based energy provider with methane-capture, wind and solar projects. "Consumers know we're doing something good, especially as they get used to hearing these global-warming terms more and more," she says.

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