“When I first started, I shared a cubicle with Jerry.” Yes. That Jerry. Mike Hayes began his career at Ben & Jerry’s sharing space with the company’s legendary co-founder and he — like everyone on the team — has been living the brand ever since. On this week’s episode of On Brand, we had the opportunity to ask Mike what this means.
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About Mike Hayes
As the Digital Marketing Manager at Ben and Jerry’s, Mike Hayes is responsible for developing and executing U.S. and European digital marketing programming and social media engagement strategies. He’s responsible for U.S. digital media planning and procurement and creates and manages global digital campaigns. Hayes also formulates and implements best practices and case studies for cascading globally.
Like everyone at Ben & Jerry’s, he’s responsible for all things peace, love, and ice cream.
First, the hard-hitting question: What is Mike’s favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavor? Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. “We actually invented Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (ice cream).” A group of University of Vermont students brought them the dough and the rest is history. This is also an early example illustrating how they’ve baked listening to their customers into everything they do.
That’s why user-generated content isn’t that new of a thing at Ben & Jerry’s. “Cherry Garcia and Chubby Hubby were customer suggestions.” From fans submitting new flavors via postcard (there’s a web form now) to their recent #CaptureEuphoria campaign, a key value has always been, “How can we harness this (our customers’) passion?”
Which is one big advantage to “getting the digital keys” to a legendary brand. “You don’t have to create stories from scratch.” The brand has always had these passionate fans with great stories.
So what does living the brand really mean? First of all, Hayes tells us that many are surprised that it’s been 13 years since Ben & Jerry’s was acquired by Unilever. Their unique arrangement with the global conglomerate includes an independent board of activists that helps foster the brand and its culture. “It’s not just top down, though. It’s also bottom up.” Many decisions filter up through the company such as their involvement in various issues. For example, their infamous Colorado marijuana social image began as an internal joke.
BREAKING NEWS: We’re hearing reports of stores selling out of Ben & Jerry’s in Colorado. What’s up with that? pic.twitter.com/zBs8nyxZWn
— Ben & Jerry’s (@benandjerrys) January 2, 2014
How does Ben & Jerry’s decide which social issues and causes to insert their brand into? “Twenty years ago we created a social mission and a five-person social mission team.” This provides the framework for the brand’s social conscience and how that manifests itself everyday, online and off.
What about the brand’s notorious sense of humor? As it turns out, Hayes and the rest of the team live that aspect of the brand quite fully as well. This includes a quirky workplace that features a slide in the lobby, curved hallways, and conference rooms named after their flavors (this podcast was recorded in the Chubby Hubby Conference Room).
The other secret ingredient? Vermont. There’s a real sense of place to everything the Ben & Jerry’s brand does. This manifests itself in their brand voice as they have never ceded control of their social accounts to their agency. It’s always people from Vermont. This is another key example of how they live their brand.
What’s next for Ben & Jerry’s when it comes to digital media? “We’re a content-driven organization. We’re working to create more of a social storyline with more depth and breadth.” They’re planning on doing this through more long-form content such as blog posts and videos.
What brand has made Mike smile lately? Red Bull. “They’ve realized that it’s not just about logo placement everywhere.” Instead they work to create real content and stories that their customers can engage with. “They’re really a media company that happens to sell a product.”
A Few Final Reminders
A big thanks to a mentor of this podcast with a new resource that you should know more about. Jay Baer of Convince and Convert has done it again. In addition to being a digital marketing thought leader, speaker, and best-selling author he’s now created a new online resource indexing all of the great marketing podcasts out there — it’s called Marketing Podcasts and you can find it at MarketingPodcasts.com. If you like marketing and podcasts you need to check this out.
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Until next week, I’ll see you on the Internet!