As an iconic example of social enterprise, Ben & Jerry’s has long publicized its progressive mission as an integral part of its branding. Recently, in the fight for marriage equality in Australia, Ben & Jerry’s banned customers from buying two scoops of the same flavor until same-sex marriage was legalized across the country. The ban is a symbolic gesture to raise awareness and empathy, as customers were asked to imagine “how furious you would be if you were told you were not allowed to marry the person you love.”
This is not the first time the company used ice cream to support marriage equality and many other sociopolitical causes. Back in 2009, Ben & Jerry’s renamed their Chubby Hubby flavor to Hubby Hubby to celebrate the legalization of same-sex marriage in Vermont, and again in 2015 renaming “Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough” to “I Dough, I Dough,” to commemorate the Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage in the United States. Different from many businesses that used gay-targeted advertising to go after the reportedly lucrative and brand-loyal gay market, Ben & Jerry’s showed its commitment to the LGBTQ community by offering domestic-partner benefits since 1989, donating to gay rights organizations, and supporting marriage equality movements in various countries. Beyond advertising and the witty ice cream names, corporate responsibility initiatives are important to gay and lesbian consumers who are likely to embrace the motto of “voting with your dollars.” Many consult HRC’s Buyers’ Guide that rates American businesses on the treatment of their LGBT employees for their everyday shopping.
With rising demand of corporate transparency and authenticity driven by social media, companies’ practices, policies, and even political positions are constantly scrutinized. At the same time, boycotting and buycotting has become a common form of political participation. In particular, disenfranchised consumers who are often limited in their access and resources in the conventional political domain may exercise their consumer power to express their voice and concerns. While advertising highlighting diversity, inclusiveness, or equality has emerged as a popular trend, more and more consumers expect businesses to walk the talk beyond feel-good advertising.