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Here's The Scoop

Ben & Jerry's on powerful promotions.

It began with $12,000, two big sweet tooths and a complete disregard for business rules. It snowballed into a $167-million-per-year ice cream company with more than 160 "scoop shops" known collectively as Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc. Famous for their socially responsible business practices and unique ice cream flavors, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield lead the pack in combining a quality product and social activism with creative and unusual promotions.

From their first ice cream shop, housed in a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont, Cohen and Greenfield have led their business with their hearts, believing that business has a responsibility to give back to the community. "The more you support the community, the more it supports you by purchasing your product," explains Mitch Curren, the PR Info. Queen. (Her title exemplifies the unconventional nature of Ben & Jerry's.) Cohen and Greenfield continue their efforts by donating 7.5 percent of the company's pre-tax earnings to social awareness projects through the Ben & Jerry's Foundation, which disburses the money to nonprofit organizations, and by creating products such as Rainforest Crunch ice cream and Peace Pops ice cream bars that get their messages to the public.

Cohen and Greenfield combined their community support with fun promotions from day one. The self-proclaimed hippies knew two things about themselves and their business: they liked to throw parties, and they wanted to support their customers. After the first successful summer at the original scoop shop, they threw the first "Fall Down," a celebration of the coming autumn season. With other local businesses, they created a street fair featuring a stilts-walking contest and an apple-peeling contest--and lots of ice cream. Thus, Ben & Jerry's unique style of "event marketing" was born.


Laura Tiffany enjoys finding new reasons to buy Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

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This article was originally published in the December 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Here's The Scoop.

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