By: Anika Repole Wilson
In 1934, psychoanalyst, psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology; Carl Jung published his work ‘The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious’, stirring the pot as it were, in early Psychology leading to further advancement and dynamism in the field. Why is this relevant? Well - Jung introduced then the concept of the Collective Unconscious, wherein subconcepts of Archetypes exist - these archetypes simply put, are universally shared, categorical understandings of how we perceive our world, things within it and thus ourselves.
You may not have been aware of this theoretical approach but whether you knew it or not, you most certainly are aware of Archetypes. Regardless of culture and time in history, Archetypes exist, crossing language barriers, educational background etc to define various behavioural and social constructs. Examples include The Mother, The Rebel, The Lover and what we will cover in this Brand Study; the Hero. Since Jung outlined his Archetypes in 1934, they have evolved only minimally, and individuals have applied them to various fields of study since; such as Marketing.
In crafting your brand strategy, it is helpful to understand the desired Archetype you wish to convey subconsciously to your audience. You do so through the intention placed behind your design elements; colours, typography, creative direction and tone of voice in communication. This creates the personality of your brand, something with which your audience naturally aligns to based on either similarity or aspiration. In other words, you can mindfully craft a Brand Archetype which your desired audience either perceives they need in their lives or wishes to be themselves. In the case of IceCream giant; Ben & Jerry’s - the Hero.
Before we nose-dive into the world of ice-cream, we first need to cover a fundamental understanding of the difference between Company Values and Brand Values. Company/ Business Values are created and outlined by the business, while Brand Values, though typically identified by the company, are fundamentally influenced and determined by the public.
Similarly, your brand identity can be visually created by the business, along with the personality of the brand, but it means nothing without the public to perceive it and draw a conclusion - this conclusion is the fulsome understanding and experience of your brand. Your business is determined by you - your brand is determined by the public.
A Brand is fundamentally the sum of its parts; influenced only minorly by the conscious marketer/brand stakeholder, but determined by the unconscious perception of the public. It is intangible, beyond it’s visual aspects, a brand can only be felt, and can only be experienced based on the unconscious perception of the onlooker - a brand’s true identity therefore can only exist within the Collective Unconscious of humanity.
In 1978, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield set out with a very clear intention - they wanted to sell ice cream, but from its very inception, Ben & Jerry’ had at their heart the intention to build a social enterprise, founding their brand upon a core principle, which they called ‘the double dip’. This double bottom line strategy focused on both “profit and people” placing equal value, if not more, on people over profit.
This ‘double dip’ philosophy has permeated their entire business model and brand identity from 1978 to present. Even after the sale of the company to Unilever in 2000 and though the details are a bit blurry, the parent company (Unilever) lists Ben & Jerry’s on their brand tree site as;
“A wholly-owned autonomous subsidiary of Unilever, operates its business on a three-part mission statement emphasizing product quality, economic reward and a commitment to the community... The purpose of Ben & Jerry's philanthropy is to support the founding values of the company: economic and social justice, environmental restoration and peace through understanding, and to support our Vermont communities.”
Regardless of the bureaucratic details of the business, Ben & Jerry’s has become one of the world’s most recognized social enterprise brands. It is this value-punctuated experience that I will attempt to dissect in this Brand Study; to show aspiring Social Enterprises and Entrepreneurs what staying power looks like and what it takes to make your Brand a Hero.
The Conscious: Visual Brand Identity
Through color theory (psychology), understanding and applying simple symbolism, one is able to craft a brand identity which communicates at a much deeper level than just fun fonts and colours. Well thought out brands typically follow this route: Company Values inform Brand Values, Brand Values determine Visual Brand Identity, Visual Brand Identity influences how your brand is perceived. This is the only control a brand stakeholder has in the process of their Brand Development and it is a crucial step often forgotten. Let's take a brief look at Ben & Jerry’s.
At a glance the Ben & Jerry’s brand persona/personality is communicated through potent visuals and colours. The brand is immediately relatable, playful, wholesome, simple, direct and provocative.
Through the use of the funky yet structure-styled typography, their communication style is precise, impactful yet connotes a sense of establishment and tradition - their intention is clear, but approachable, business-like but rebellious.
Visual references for the brand focus on quality and conscientiousness ‘from cow to cone’ as they explicitly state in their mission. This is done through fun, flexible and relatable images.
Taking it a step further, two distinct colour palettes can be observed, one being their primary; aligned with their business and product lines. This palette features bright and joyful colours which communicate a sense of innocence, trust and simplicity - echoing the sentiment of quality assurance and consumer satisfaction. Their secondary palette however is a bit more subdued, calmer and thoughtful - these colours provide much more depth to the brand personality and urge the free-thinking consumer to explore what’s beneath the surface of this seemingly light-hearted brand.
I can only assume that Ben & Jerry’s photography direction goes something like this; ‘focus on real-life situations and product-in action shots in which ice-cream is the star of the show with the support of characters who build the scene around either ingredients or the theme of the ice-cream flavor’.
On the other hand, graphic design direction is heavy on illustration, with paradoxical fantasy-like yet true-to-life images. These illustrated images are often very provocative, but also subliminally suggest that even as a viewer, we too can create and illustrate another reality - we can change the world.
Taking an even closer look; hidden in plain sight, Ben & Jerry’s highlights the depth of their intentions to make a positive impact on the world and humanity and the role we each can play and have the responsibility to play. We too can be heroes…
The Unconscious: The HERO Brand Archetype
So, what does a Hero mean to you? How did you create this construct? Was this notion influenced by books, movies or stories you heard as a child? Ok fine, but let me ask you this, how did the creators of these stories determine the characteristics of the hero?
The Hero, battles figurative evil, seeks out challenges, not without fear, but with bravery in the face of danger to the end of victory. This victory is subjective; whether it be to save the disenfranchised, sacrifice themselves for the greater good or defeat the enemy, or all of the above - the hero is seen as an aspirational figure for good, for change, for revolution and challenging the status quo.
It is this desire for good which begins the Hero narrative for Ben & Jerry’s. As outlined on their site; “We have a progressive, nonpartisan social mission that seeks to meet human needs and eliminate injustices in our local, national, and international communities by integrating these concerns in our day-to-day business activities.” This aspirational desire for social good is at the core of all Ben & Jerry’s communication, this is the prologue at the beginning of their Hero’s quest since 1978.
As can be expected in any heroic story, the hero leads in the face of adversity, dares to be different and looks out for the interest of the disenfranchised. The hero also must meet obstacles, even betrayal like the rebellion of shareholders who pushed for the sale of the business to Unilever in 2000. However another key characteristic of the Hero is their sense of faith in their mission, despite adversity; and Ben & Jerry’s has added layer upon layer to their Mission and Vision of serving the greater good over the years. Their entire platform appears to almost use the income earned from the sale of their ice cream products to fund efforts in social and environmental change, either directly or indirectly impacted by their business and furthermore, society on a whole.
Whether it be being the first dairy buyer to adapt the Milk with Dignity Program, which provides immigrant workers on dairy farms a safety net through enforced employment rights and incentivizes Farmers to care for their workers, livestock and the environment mindfully. Or taking it a step further, Ben & Jerrys' manufacturing plants actively reducing their carbon footprint by sending back production waste “to regional anaerobic digesters where it goes into a methane digester along with other farm waste—and generates renewable energy.“
Ben & Jerry themselves have always been outspoken advocates on social issues, going back way before their 2016 arrest during a public protest regarding voting rights. The brand has personified the fun, compassionate, direct and ‘fight the man’ attitude of its founders in the crafting of its tone of voice. There truly is no way I could cover the depth and breath of the ongoing advocacy of Ben & Jerry’s in this study, but I've dropped a few additional resources for you to dig further on your own below.
Harvard Business Review - Ben & Jerry’s Speaking Out against White Supremacy, Cannabis Reform, LGBTQ Community Support + MORE links You can also read their latest Impact and Influence Social and Environmental Assessment Report HERE.
Values and Positioning
It’s typical for many individuals to assume that you create your brand's visual identity first, but as you can see from this deep dive into Ben & Jerry's, creating such a powerful and impactful brand is done on the basis of how the stakeholders wish the brand to be perceived.
Had you not had some background knowledge on the depth of the values-positioning of Ben & Jerry’s prior to reading this, then you would have only been exposed to their brand identity crafted around their products perhaps. However what Ben & Jerry’s has done is carefully curated a brand experience that satisfies the individual who cares enough to either look deeper or fall into the rabbit hole of social and environmental reform. Their brand strategy has given rise to not just brand loyalty but advocacy from its consumers - Their ideal target consumer will not just buy their ice-cream, they will also stay for the vision, positivity and mutual desire for change.
This individual is someone who craves knowledge, they are frustrated with the status quo, they are the rebels and aspiring change makers and heroes. What Ben & Jerry’s has done is create a platform for a community to grow. So what’s Ice-cream gotta do with it? Ice-cream is the conversation starter, it's the great equalizer, it's what brings people to the table, it softens the harder issues, it sweetens the words and it allows for disarming and hopeful change by bringing people together.
In summary, when developing your brand:
This will create a powerful and loyal community, a band of supporters and essentially an army of like-minded advocates, to help you not only tell your odyssey, but also actively participate in it.
Now go forth and slay that dragon!
Anika Repole Wilson
Follow me on IG: @businesschicceo