The Player: Adding dose of discipline to culture at Ben & Jerry's

By Published on .

Marty Hogan plans to bring a military-like discipline to the hippie culture that is Ben & Jerry's Homemade.

With his four-year tenure as an Air Force officer and a five-year stint at Procter & Gamble Co., Mr. Hogan, 39, is no stranger to highly structured organizations, and that experience is a large part of why he was brought on as the ice cream company's director of brand management.

Hired by Chief Marketing Officer Walt Freese-who had also recruited him to entrepreneurial tea marketer Celestial Seasonings shortly before Mr. Freese departed last year -Mr. Hogan is charged with bringing a consistent message to the Ben & Jerry's brand across all channels including international and its retail scoop shops, both functions that were handled separately in the past.

"The mantra in my part of the organization is threefold: wild innovation, disciplined analysis and perfect execution," Mr. Hogan said. But his biggest focus-and this is where the military and P&G training come in-will be on the analysis and execution. "These folks here are already about wild innovation," he said.

While he is quick to point out that Ben & Jerry's under Mr. Freese and himself will not veer from its roots as a homespun, environmentally conscious company, the highly entrepreneurial spirit with which it has been run is changing a bit as a result of its new parent, Unilever. The changes at Ben & Jerry's come amid shifts in the ice cream industry. Nestle-Ben & Jerry's biggest competitor-recently agreed to take a controlling stake in Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream, Ben & Jerry's primary distributor.

"Ben & Jerry's is going through a kind of a change from its history, where people here were used to doing things very, very fast," Mr. Hogan said. "The saying I have is that at P&G it took six years, at Celestial it took six weeks, and I think at Ben & Jerry's we'll strive for somewhere in the middle."

agency of record

Part of the adaptation from a loosely structured organization to a more disciplined one is the decision to hire an ad agency of record, something that Ben & Jerry's has not had in recent history, if ever. Previously, in part to keep the process quick, the company has chosen instead to use internal resources and to work with various agencies on a project basis.

But despite the ongoing review, which is expected to be completed by the end of October, Ben & Jerry's still has a low $2 million to $4 million ad budget and-at least for the short term, Mr. Hogan said, such historic norms will hold.

The priority for the company, then, in dealing with such a slim budget, is to key up integration of what he calls the "many moving pieces" to create through public-relations, event-marketing, traditional-media, Internet and retail initiatives a "fabulous immersive experience for consumers."

Mr. Hogan is "the proverbial needle in a haystack," said Mr. Freese, a marketer who has also worked with just the right kind of "experience" brands.

Fast Facts

Name: Marty Hogan

Age: 39

Now: Director-brand management, Ben & Jerry's Homemade

Challenge: Formulate a strategy to confront a shifting competitive landscape

Most Popular
In this article: