Purpose has become a buzzword in marketing, but for the Unilever-owned ice-cream-maker Ben & Jerry’s, standing for something has animated and carried the brand - here’s how.

“The primary reason why so many companies are getting their ass kicked is because they actually don't stand for something important,” argued Matthew McCarthy, CEO of Unilever’s Ben & Jerry (B&J) ice-cream brand.

“If you're not doing something that's actually good, and you're not making it really clear to the people that you serve, you may be dead … and you might not even know it,” he told an audience at an ARF fringe event at Advertising Week New York. (For the full report, read WARC’s in-depth report: How Ben & Jerry’s fights to stay true to its 40-year-old purposeful mission)

The overall mission breaks down into three main tenets:
  • “Our Economic Mission asks us to manage our Company for sustainable financial growth.”
  • “Our Social Mission compels us to use our Company in innovative ways to make the world a better place.”
  • “Our Product Mission drives us to make fantastic ice cream – for its own sake.”
All three parts, McCarthy explained, “must thrive equally in a manner that commands deep respect for individuals in and outside the company and supports the communities of which they are a part.”

It’s a formula that now spans 38 countries and 10,000 employees. And the funky company that Unilever gobbled up for a reported $326 million in 2000 remains a purpose-driven example for marketers all over the world who have come to realize what Cohen and Greenfield knew intuitively: Customers (or “fans”, in the B&J lexicon) want more than just product attributes.

But despite Ben & Jerry’s success, more companies still struggle. And for a number of reasons, he says: whether it’s screwing up, a desperate scramble for a cause, or over-relying on marketing.

Ben & Jerry’s is the only Unilever company with its own CEO and its own board of directors. As such, McCarthy has the independence and agility of a free-standing enterprise. And the message from its highest office reflects the kind of ferocity that reflects the integrity of its founders.

“If you have the privilege of leading a brand,” he told the ARF/Advertising Week New York gathering, “it's incumbent on you to take action ... It should be more about moving towards the carrot and less about moving away from the stick.”

Sourced from WARC