It never ceases to amaze me how tone-deaf some of the great companies in the United States can be. On March 28, 2019, I came across a Ben & Jerry’s stand in Chicago that actually took my breath away. You read that right…2019. How in the world did this make it through concept testing? How is Ben & Jerry’s even remotely okay with this slogan? I guess it is time to dig in my heels about an issue that isn’t strictly about multiculturalism…it is just a matter of ethical standards.
First let’s look at some staggering facts that make it clear that this sort of advertising is not only unethical, it is dangerous.
According to Hudson et al. (2007):
- At least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S.
- 1.5% of American women suffer from bulimia nervosa in their lifetime.
- 2.8% of adults suffer from binge-eating disorder in their lifetime.
These aren’t statistics that any of us should be taking lightly. We have seen the impact of advertising on overeating for years. McDonald’s has come under fire for promoting unhealthy foods to children, and made major changes to their kid-friendly options as a result. Marketers are constantly tweaking package sizes and presentation to increase consumption of their products with very little concern for the people they are harming. This type of thing isn’t new…but that doesn’t mean it is okay.
Ben and Jerry’s is a company that I consider to be better than this. They are a company that is very aware of social justice issues and trends. On March 11, 2019 they posted on social media about the need to cut carbon emission to avoid “the worst effects of climate change”. On March 21, 2019 the ice cream makers took to social media to raise awareness for International Anti-Racism Day and called on their fans to learn “what it means to be an Ally”. The company is well respected across many industries for their vocal stance on such issues…yet they seem to have fallen asleep at the wheel on this one. While it may seem like a funny punchline to “eat away your feelings”, it most certainly goes much deeper than that. Leading people to believe it is healthy to mask their feelings with a possible addiction is potentially harmful. Ben and Jerry’s needs to take responsibility for an incredibly irresponsible advertising campaign. Toying around with emotional issues that can lead to destructive physical behaviors is not a game.
Ben and Jerry’s touts “Peace, Love, & Ice Cream” but seemingly ignores the importance of loving yourself. While I have always enjoyed the quirky names they have attached to their incredibly delicious ice cream, and I have appreciated their no-holds barred attitude when it comes to issues of social justice…I can’t get over this one. So…Ben and Jerry’s…if you somehow come across this blog I hope that you will take it to heart. I hope you will make some quick changes to a potentially dangerous campaign. Because frankly, I like your ice cream and really would like to continue eating it. So what do ya say?
Hudson, J. I., Hiripi, E., Pope, H. G., & Kessler, R. C. (2007). The prevalence and correlates of eating disorders in the national comorbidity survey replication. Biological Psychiatry, 61(3), 348–358.