At the Vermont headquarters of Ben & Jerry’s, we’re always looking for the next fun and funky thing. Whether it’s a new flavor tied to late night’s Jimmy Fallon, a quick turn-around response to a timely opportunity like the legalization of gay marriage or continued strategic communications efforts about the ways we use our day-to-day business decisions to help make the world a better place. While we hear all the time that “there are no new ideas” and that every marketing effort has been done before—we refuse to believe it. And that is how we came up with a new twist on Twitter to support our commitment to Fair Trade.
For as long as we’ve been mixing up big chunks in ice cream, we’ve been mixing up values and business. We think making ice cream flavors with Fair Trade ingredients is an important way that we can live out our mission. We continue the process of converting our ingredients to Fair Trade Certified globally where we feel we can have the greatest impact on improving the lives of farmers, strengthening their communities and protecting the environment. But before we jump to the results, let’s start at the beginning.
As a business led by values, Ben & Jerry's is always looking for ways to communicate our mission and to provide fans with the knowledge and inspiration to create positive change. With an awareness level hovering somewhere near just 30%, one of the challenges we face is to create awareness and educate consumers on the benefits of Fair Trade. On May 2, Ben & Jerry's launched "Fair Tweets" to rally awareness of Fair Trade and World Fair Trade Day in an inventive, novel way: by changing how people use Twitter.
How It Works
Anyone who relies on word-of-mouth communication, like Ben & Jerry’s does, knows Twitter. While we all have friends who often battle to limit their tweet to 140 characters, there are many efficient Twitter users who’s tweets are actually much shorter, only 40 characters on average. The Fair Tweets campaign puts those "unused" characters to good use, committing them to Fair Trade awareness.
A participant in Fair Tweets would simply write a tweet as usual, but then witnessed as a new message about Fair Trade auto populates itself to bring the tweet to exactly 140 characters. For example, a tweet such as “Loving the new dog park” has only 19 characters. When posted by a Fair Tweets participant, the leftover characters would automatically become a distinct message about Fair Trade, so that the full tweet might say, “Loving the new dog park. You know what’s fair? Putting leftover Twitter characters to good use.” #FairTrade. http://fair.es/051 #FairTweets. The Fair Tweet messages vary with the number of characters and change over time, so the participant usually would see a different Fair Tweet message added to each original tweet.
Getting the Word Out
This Fair Tweets campaign was conceived by Ben & Jerry’s digital partner Amalgamated. Amalgamated helped from concept to execution, working hand in hand with our team at Ben & Jerry’s. We didn’t purchase any advertising to promote the program. We did actively promote Fair Tweets through our Chunksplunker email club, owned digital spaces, and we also reached out to other external partners to help spread the word. Key retailers, NGOs, and like-minded companies, were all asked to help us by participating in Fair Tweets and tweeting as they normally would. It was a fairly easy “ask,” and we saw a high level of participation from brands like Honest Tea, Green Mountain Coffee and Seventh Generation. After all, who doesn't think farmers should earn a fair wage?
A New Form of Activism
Ben & Jerry's has been using word of mouth marketing to support our Social Mission programs since the company was founded in 1978. It's part of our DNA. Now with social media, we have the tools to amplify our voice like never before. Five years ago for World Fair Trade Day, we may have held a rally in front of 100 or so people, hoping the media would come out. Now we can reach our fans around the world with a single click and truly engage them in the conversation to understand that for all of our Fair Trade partners: every purchase counts. We saw people engage in the conversation all around the world
* 43,600 site visits from over 100 countries
* 518,000 Twitter characters have been contributed.
* Fair Trade messages have been tweeted out to more than 12 million
* Mentions in more than 1,000 blogs
We’re applying the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” phrase to the Fair Tweets program. While the program was originally built to create awareness for World Fair Trade day, we feel there is an opportunity to give it new life for Fair Trade Month, which is right around the corner in October 2011. And just like our flavors, we are exploring fresh ways to create excitement around the initiative, engage our partners and get the word out. Stay tuned!
Noelle Pirnie is the senior global marketing manager at Ben & Jerry’s, a member of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association.