Environmentalism as advertising

From Ben and Jerry\’s ice cream:

He insists that focusing on “shared values” – rather, presumably, than share value – is “very profitable”. Whereas conventional companies “pay a whole bunch of money to advertising agencies to come up with a made-up story to try to make the public feel good about their brands, a value-led business puts its resources into adding to the quality of life in the community. That builds customer loyalty.”

Super, go for it. Have fun, make money.

But of course, this only works with those who share or desire those values that you are pushing. And there are some very different value systems out there. There is an, admittedly and thankfully very small, market out there for a company whose values include being beastly to Jews. I don\’t think it will shock anyone at all to hear that there really are racists in our society who would respond to having their idiocy pandered to. Or sexists, capitalists, neoliberals and all sorts of groups that have slightly different value systems from those put forward by Ben and Jerry\’s.

And yes, there are those who will respond to the idea that the Brazil nuts in their ice cream were harvested from wild forests. Although quite why they should, given that the nuts don\’t grow well in plantations and are thus not commercially farmed in that manner is a tad beyond me.

So, companies that appeal to the values of their potential customers: yup, great idea. Have fiun and make money. But I\’m afraid you cannot complain if some of them appeal to values you don\’t share: for many will not share the values that you push.

Which leads then to the joy of this market thing. Companies that do define themselves by these values get to compete for the attentions of those who care about such things. Those catering to the rarer prejudices will either fail or stay small, those who cater to the mass ones successfully will prosper and grow fat. Which is excellent, isn\’t it?

For it is how we get both Simon Cowell and the Royal Philharmonic, both Virgin Airlines and Ryanair and both Walls and Ben and Jerry\’s.

12 thoughts on “Environmentalism as advertising”

  1. Um, Ben and Jerry’s is now part of Unilever. Hardly a bastion of quirky non conformist liberalism really.

    Tim adds: The article points that out and even claims there’s been something of a reverse takeover on this.

  2. Does that make it “envirowaltism”?

    Certainly means it is as truthful as most adverts. That is “scrupulously so in exactly what they say but giving a completely misleading meaning”.

  3. In the real world firms prosper by producing and selling stuff the customers don’t want…

  4. Pingback: “Shared values” can only take you so far in the market « Quotulatiousness

  5. “But I’m afraid you cannot complain…”

    Just why not?

    “Those catering to the rarer prejudices will either fail or stay small, those who cater to the mass ones successfully will prosper and grow fat. Which is excellent, isn’t it?”

    Yes, the tremendous arete of pandering to the lowest common denominator!

  6. Who does he think he is fooling with that “shared values” stuff? Ben & Jerry’s advertising is overtly aimed at teenagers and twenty-somethings for whom eating Wall’s ice cream is not cool because their mothers bought it for them when they were kids. It’s a niche marketing strategy. “Shared values” and “adding to quality of life in the community” – yeah, that’s to appeal to the lefty twenty-somethings who’ve been led to believe advertising is bad, big corporations are bad and we should all live in self-sufficient communes. Where there is of course Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Starbucks.

  7. So Much For Subtlety

    I would have assumed that B&Js was more of a U and Non-U thing. It is a not very subtle class marker. It is Stuff White People Like.

  8. B&J’s (and Haagen Dazs) ice cream is in fact a very good example of the triumph of marketing over substance, not the reverse.

  9. Yes, the tremendous arete of pandering to the lowest common denominator!

    I don’t think, especially as the egregious Cowell versus the Royal Philharmonic were given as analogous, that our host was talking about Walls as the epitome of excellence. I think he was pointing out that filthy lucre (yes, I know, contradicting myself) is its own reward.

    But, as has been pointed out, all we are talking about is different sections of the marketing dept of the same conglomerate (yes, and anybody who believes that Polman is committed to anything other than making money – and, by the principal / agent hypothesis, for himself not Unilever – needs a good re-education session).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *