Adobe Summit 2021 - how Ben & Jerry’s scales and optimizes its creative assets

Profile picture for user ddpreez By Derek du Preez April 29, 2021
Creative assets are central to how Ben & Jerry’s speaks to its customer base. But how do you optimize creative marketing when your product reaches people globally?

Image of a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream van
(Image by Eveline de Bruin from Pixabay )

Ben & Jerry's is known the world over, with its colorful tubs of ice cream and unique flavours having attracted a loyal customer base for decades. The company started back in 1978 in Burlington, Vermont, by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield and has since scaled to a global empire, which is now owned by Unilever. 

However, it's a company that has strong values at its core - with it not being afraid to speak out on issues such as racial justice and climate change. For instance, during the Black Lives Matter protests during 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, Ben and Jerry's vocally came out with a statement on dismantling white supremacy. 

On its website, Ben & Jerry's lays out its three part mission statement, which aims to create "linked prosperity for everyone" that's connected to the business, including suppliers, employees, farmers, franchisees, customers and neighbors. The three part mission statement includes a focus on product, social issues, and sustainable financial growth. 

In other words, Ben & Jerry's thinks long and hard about how it does things - it's not just focused on making a quick buck and pleasing shareholders. Central to its drive is its creative mission, where it uses creative assets and digital marketing to speak to its customers and fans the world over. 

This isn't easy. Optimizing creative content for individual markets, that have different products, and different needs, requires a considered approach that makes use of data, collaboration and technology. 

Speaking this week at Adobe Summit 2021, Michael Hayes, Global Head of Digital & Technology at Ben and Jerry's, explains how the ice cream giant thinks about speaking to its customers through creative tools. He says: 

Digital marketing has really transformed our ability to optimize our marketing efforts - we have more data, and thus more insights on what's performing, what's not performing and our go to market strategy. So at Ben and Jerry's, we're constantly looking at our live insights, we're aiming to make real time optimizations and then scale those learnings around the world.

When we think about creative at Ben & Jerry's, we want to be making sure that our creative talks about everything that we want to accomplish and what we stand for as an organisation - that's from our delicious products to our social mission to our heritage as a 40 year old business to the new channels that we're trying to grow in like e-commerce.

Working closely together 

Hayes says that one of the biggest challenges for Ben & Jerry's over the last few years has been the global scale of its business, when thinking about creative and marketing optimization. He notes that if you're a small regional brand it may be a bit easier to tailor creative assets to your customer base, but if like Ben and Jerry's you're in 35 markets around the world, all producing different creative, all getting different learnings, to pull all of that together becomes much more challenging. 

Part of solving this global scale challenge includes helping teams work closely together. Hayes says: 

For us it starts really around having an end to end [approach] -it's having our media team, our creative team ,our marketing team, and our data and analytics team, all working together with a focus on really driving impactful creative. And each one of these teams has a different approach, a different vantage point, and a different ability to kind of analyse and ensure the impact of this creative that we're developing is impactful.

In addition to this, Ben & Jerry's aims to give creative teams the data they need to take action. Hayes says that the company is able to do some in depth analysis of what creative and content is performing well, in what markets, but that this can sometimes be costly. It isn't efficient to do this level of analysis for all assets, globally. As such, the business over the last few years has focused on "democratizing data" and has created dashboards for teams that pull in performance data across all Ben and Jerry's digital channels - including the website, paid media, organic social media, email - and surfaces that to relevant teams. Hayes says: 

[Those dashboards] are actionable and really allow us to do the optimization that we're looking to do.

This then goes back into what Hayes describes above, in terms of bringing all relevant parts of the organization together, helping them create effective feedback loops for creative. Hayes explains: 

I think one of our biggest challenges that we saw was, whether it be media campaigns or organic social media, oftentimes marketeers would be getting this information, getting these results, and then not sharing that back with the people who are actually producing these assets. 

So a few years ago at Ben & Jerry's we developed a process called data driven creative, that really brought together the marketeers, the creative teams, the data and analytics teams, to analyse these assets holistically. 

So quarterly at Ben & Jerry's we sit down as a cross functional group, we analyse the performance of all of that creative, we create hypotheses on different and new creative that we want to test and learn, we evaluate the performance of that creative, and then we hypothesise why something worked, why something didn't work, and we bring our content producers right into those conference conversations

Ben & Jerry's is also making use of Adobe Dimension to more efficiently scale and reuse assets. For example, it allows marketing teams to make use of the same backgrounds, but superimpose different product images quickly and easily into the forefront, depending on the needs of different markets. Hayes says: 

The challenging thing for Ben and Jerry's is we have different flavours in different markets. And so how do we produce world class creative at a global scale that really meets all of the business needs? That's not to mention, how do you do that through a pandemic when photoshoots are even harder and more challenging? 

One of the things that we've been able to do is leverage a product called Adobe Dimension to produce more assets at scale. And all of these assets feed through our data driven creative process. We get to use the Adobe Dimension's technology to actually share the same background for different flavours that we've seen work well, and then swap in different flavours so this allows us to produce more assets, at scale, but really do it in an efficient way.

Key learnings

Hayes concludes his discussion with a number of key learnings, which have helped Ben & Jerry's focus on to produce effective creative assets at scale across the world. These include: 

  • Democratizing data - Hayes says that for too long Ben & Jerry's kept too much data in the hands of its agency and media partners, or even its marketing team, without sharing it with its internal creative team. Key has been finding processes and tactics to make sure that people throughout the organization have access to that data. 

  • Eliminating silos - As digital marketing becomes more prevalent throughout the organization, and the more people become involved in it, Ben & Jerry's is keen to make sure that everyone is working towards the same goals and has a common understanding of what it is trying to achieve. This means breaking down organizational silos and bringing all teams together to evaluate creative content. 

  • A framework for testing and learning - Hays says that it has been beneficial for Ben & Jerry's to identify what are the creative assets it needs to test in which markets, and then also to find the right learning opportunities so that digital and social media continues to evolve. And then scaling those testing and learning opportunities across the organization, as quickly as possible.