Unilever’s dollars 326 million acquisition of Ben & Jerry’s is a bold move.
Unilever’s dollars 326 million acquisition of Ben & Jerry’s is a
The question on everyone’s lips: will Ben & Jerry’s stay true to its
original charter now that it’s owned by a dollars 43 billion consumer
Unilever certainly seems to have worked hard to convey positive
messages, prompting The New York Times to declare that Ben & Jerry’s was
going ’To Unilever with Attitude.’ B&J will also, we are told, donate
7.5% of its pre-tax profits to charity, be run as a separate company
(still in Arlington, VT) and have a separate board of directors. Ben &
Jerry’s founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, will even be employed
as ’caring capitalism’ ambassadors, traveling to Unilever outposts
worldwide and preaching the gospel of a three part mission - social
concerns, product quality and profits, according to Ben & Jerry’s CEO
Ben & Jerry’s is one of the most brilliant examples of cause-related
marketing of all time. It retained its wholesome image long after it had
become a publicly owned corporation, and in spite of the fact that its
ice cream uses as many ’natural’ flavorings and essences as other
premium-brand ice creams.
As Unilever Food North America president Richard Goldstein said: ’Much
of the success of Ben & Jerry’s brand is based on its connections to
basic human values, and it is our hope and expectation that Ben &
Jerry’s continues to engage in these critical global economic and social
But while Ben & Jerry’s fans concern themselves with the long-term
commitment of Unilever, an all-important by-product of the deal seems to
have been ignored: the effect on Unilever. Such is the emotive nature of
the Ben & Jerry’s brand that Unilever risks exposing itself to a lot of
future scrutiny in its other businesses.
Anything unwholesome within Unilever - layoffs, exploitation,
globalization, not to mention the quality of its products - could well
be headlined as a ’Ben & Jerry’s parent company’ problem. The corporate
communications department has got lots of work to do to ensure that
Unilever considers this in everything it does.