🐩 How to Create Customer Loyalty

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🐩 How to Create Customer Loyalty

When Ben and Jerry started Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in 1978, they had next to nothing. 

Their first TV commercial aired in 1986, lasting just 12 seconds on late-night television because that’s all they could afford.

Flash forward to today, Ben & Jerry’s is the most popular ice cream brand in the United States.

They earned $951M from sales in 2023, more than any other ice cream brand in the United States. 

So what makes Ben & Jerry’s so special? How did the two founders go from failures to market leaders?

Here’s what we got for ya:

  • 📈 From Failures to Market Leaders

  • 💸 It Pays to be Different

  • 🌎 Ice Cream Changes the World

Read time: 4 min 40 sec

📈 From Failures to Market Leaders

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield met in middle school. They were the slowest two kids in gym class. 

Flash forward to their late 20s, they were still the slowest in their class. But this time it was more serious than not running a 7 minute mile. They felt like they were the only ones not doing something with their life.

Jerry was rejected from 20 medical schools, twice. And Ben was trying to sell his pottery, but nobody wanted to buy it.

They decided they should try to fulfill their childhood dream and make a food business together. What was there to lose?

They chose ice cream because it was cheap.

Ben and Jerry

The problem was, that neither of them knew how to make ice cream or run a business.

So they signed up for a $5 course from Penn State University’s creamery and bought 20¢ business brochures from the local post office.

In 1978, they opened their first store near the University of Vermont.

It was far from glamorous. The first Ben and Jerry’s used to be a gas station. There were holes in the ceiling. But it was the best they could buy.

And soon their best would become the best.

There are four levels of quality for ice cream. Ben & Jerry’s is at the top: Super Premium. 

Customers noticed the quality difference, and the small shop became a big hit. 

In 1981, Ben & Jerry’s expanded with a second store.

That same year, Times Magazine wrote an article claiming Ben & Jerry’s makes the best ice cream in the world.

This put Ben & Jerry’s in the national spotlight. 

Ben & Jerry’s started to distribute pints in New England, then by 1985 they were all over the East Coast.

In 1986, in a deal with Dreyer’s ice cream, Ben & Jerry’s pints went cross country. 

Today, Ben & Jerry’s sells 194M pints every year in the US alone. And can be found in 36 different countries.

Ben & Jerry’s topped the ice cream sales charts in the United States, earning $951M in 2023.

What makes Ben & Jerry’s stand out above other Super Premium ice cream brands like Häagen-Dazs?

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💸 It Pays to be Different

Would you buy a nice cold pint of Schweddy Balls?

During its limited time on shelves, this flavor became the best seller.

This is just one of Ben & Jerry’s creative flavors. We can’t forget about Wavy Gravy, Chubby Hubby, and Dastardly Mash. While all these flavors have since died, they rest in peace in Ben & Jerry's flavor graveyard. 

Ben & Jerry’s boldly explores new combinations. To date, they've made 98 unique flavors of ice cream. 

This creativity all started because Ben has something called anosmia. He can’t smell or taste. 

So Ben started putting fruits and candies into the ice cream to give it texture. That was something he could enjoy. 

Jerry was hesitant at first, but when Ben’s new flavor of chocolate chip cookie dough was a hit, he gave the creative reins to Ben.

Thanks to Ben, we don’t have to imagine a world where we couldn’t order chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream or cookies and cream. 

Not only did Ben & Jerry’s do something different with their ice cream, but they did something different with their mission too.

🌎 Ice Cream Changes the World

Countless times Ben & Jerry’s has forfeited higher profits for its moral values.

In their early days, Ben and Jerry were offered money by venture capitalists. But they declined every offer and instead sold their stock only to the citizens of Vermont. 

They drove around the state to talk to real people and convince them to “get a scoop of the action.” This helped them to give back to the people who made their dreams possible… and raise $750k.

In 2000, when Ben & Jerry’s was acquired by Unilever for $326M, the two founders cared more that Unilever would carry on their mission than how much money they could make from the deal.

Unilever has to donate 7.5% of Ben & Jerry’s profits to driving social change. Most corporations just give 1.5%.

Some movements Ben & Jerry’s supports include fair trade, democracy, non-GMO, and limiting its climate impact.

In 2005, to protest oil drilling in Alaska, Ben & Jerry’s baked a 900 lb Baked Alaska and passed it out for free in front of the US capitol. 

In 2009, when gay marriage became legal in Vermont, Ben & Jerry’s changed the name of Chubby Hubby to Hubby Hubby to show their support. While this alienated some customers, it made a larger portion more loyal. 

And in 2022 they stopped selling their ice cream in Israel in support of Palestine.

While normally company’s are warned against sharing their personal values, for Ben & Jerry’s it has worked in their flavor. 

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