It’s hard to make a pint of Ben & Jerry’s unappetizing, but even I can resist peanut butter and chocolate when the carton sports two men on top of a wedding cake.
This month, Ben & Jerry’s renamed their Chubby Hubby flavor ‘Hubby Hubby’ to celebrate Vermont’s legalization of gay marriage (which went into effect September 1). Hubby Hubby sundaes will be available in Vermont Scoop Shops throughout September as part of the ice cream giant’s work with Freedom to Marry, a non-profit organization working for legalized marriage for homosexual couples.
Companies often market their food to reflect the political climate, but Ben & Jerry’s will tell you this isn’t about marketing. Sean Greenwood, the Public Relations Manager of Ben & Jerry’s, emphasized this campaign is about social justice and values.
“This was not an undertaking that was done to sell more product,” Greenwood said. “It’s something that we did because we felt it was the right thing to do.”
Now, I ordered Baskin-Robbins’ Democrat party ice cream flavor during the election, since I figured they were in it more for the money than my actual party affiliation (for the record, the person behind the counter goofed up and gave me the Republican flavor anyway). But ordering a Hubby Hubby sundae is about getting my approval, not my money. Greenwood explained the campaign is really a “celebration” of the legalization of gay marriage in Vermont, and that Hubby Hubby is an opportunity for the company to be able to speak with their values.
The campaign isn’t uncharacteristic. There was Ben & Jerry’s American Pie campaign, which promoted spending money on children’s health care rather than nuclear weapons; Yes, Pecan earlier this year, which celebrated Obama’s victory and raised money for the Common Cause Education Fund; and the ongoing Lick Global Warming campaign. As far as Greenwood knew, Ben & Jerry’s approached Freedom to Marry about their most recent campaign, not vice versa.
And Ben & Jerry’s isn’t too fond of capitalism. Their mission statement says, “Capitalism and the wealth it produces do not create opportunity for everyone equally. We recognize that the gap between the rich and the poor is wider than at any time since the 1920’s. We strive to create economic opportunities for those who have been denied them and to advance new models of economic justice that are sustainable and replicable.”
How Ben & Jerry’s decides to market their product is their choice and the choice of their consumers — which is why, thanks to the evils of capitalism, I’ll be comforting myself with Bryers or Baskin-Robbins from now on.
Actually, it would be nice if I could console my ice cream craving by celebrating a conservative cause. As long as there’s a Ben & Jerry’s Hubby Hubby, I’d love to see a save the children ice cream campaign that went toward crisis pregnancy centers (talk about guilt-free ice cream!). Part of this is a cultural double standard that needs to change. Liberal morals are ‘in vogue.’ If conservatives launched a similar campaign, people would call it lame or tacky, regardless of how successful it really was. A flavor celebrating the return of my Second Amendment rights in D.C. would get me laughed out of a Scoop Shop.
Maybe, however, it’s about time someone tried. Greenwood said traditionally Ben & Jerry’s consumers appreciate the company is willing to take a stand. Conservatives can appreciate that just as much as liberals. And since conservatives are usually more willing to put their money where their mouth is (remember Arthur Brooks’ 2006 Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism, which showed conservative households on average gave 30% more to charities than liberal households, even though the liberal families made more), corporations could celebrate initiatives that conservatives found cause for celebration — the bravery of our troops, or remembering our veterans.
There’s one other thing conservatives can do. Greenwood said feedback from fans is considered in their products.
“For our company, so much of our success has been tied to listening to our fans, and I think we’re never going to step outside of that,” Greenwood said.
So if you’re unhappy, let Ben & Jerry’s know. Or if you want an ice cream flavor that celebrates human rights for the unborn, let them know. They’re about equality, after all.