Lesson #3: Creative Marketing Will Generate Sales Success

Ben & Jerry’s is not your typical company. From its bright and multi-colour painted stores to its interactive animated website, Ben & Jerry’s has consistently shown creativity and imagination in its marketing strategies. Owners Greenfield and Cohen decided early on that ice cream was a fun product, and thus so too should be their means of promotion.

In 1986, Ben & Jerry’s launched its famous “Cowmobile” in what was their attempt to bring their product to a nationwide audience. A modified mobile home, Greenfield and Cohen wanted to take the Cowmobile on a national tour to distribute free scoops of their ice cream. This was the one of the first cross-country marketing drives of its kind. Unfortunately, the Cowmobile burned to the ground when the pair reached Cleveland, four months into their trip. With neither Cohen nor Greenfield injured, Cohen remarked that it looked like “the world’s largest baked Alaska.”

In the short time that the Cowmobile was in operation, it generated much curiosity and publicity and resulted in increased sales for Ben & Jerry’s products. As a result, the next year Cohen and Greenfield launched Cow II, their second Cowmobile, and successfully traveled across the U.S. serving free scoops of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Again, the brand continued to rise in popularity.

Wherever they could, Cohen and Greenfield tried to take creative advantage of situations to push their product. In 1986, New York City was suffering the effects of the October 19 stock market crash. What did this have to do with Ben & Jerry’s? Little, until Cohen and Greenfield decided to send its scoop truck to Wall Street to serve free cones of their “That’s Life and Economic Crunch” ice cream. It proved to be a huge morale booster and helped drive the company’s sales.

The creative names of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavours also go a long way in explaining their popularity. In 1987, the company introduced what would quickly become one of its best-selling flavours – Cherry Garcia. Named after Jerry Garcia, lead singer of the Grateful Dead, Cohen and Greenfield listened to the suggestions of two “DeadHeads” from Maine in creating the first ever ice cream named for a rock legend. The suggestion for their “Chunky Monkey” flavour – banana ice cream with walnuts and chocolate chunks – also came from a customer from New Hampshire. When it came to coming up with creative ideas for marketing and promotion, Cohen and Greenfield were not above taking them from wherever and whoever they could.

Today, the public has come to expect the unexpected from Ben & Jerry’s. From offering public tours of its ice cream-making operations, to implementing a nationwide Free Cone Day, serving more than one million servings of ice cream to its customers at no cost as a ‘thank you’, to sponsoring worldwide toe-wrestling championships, Ben & Jerry’s is not afraid of trying new and innovative techniques to get its message and its product across to larger markets.

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