Brands tend to stay away from politics. If you’ve got a responsibility to maximize profits for shareholders, potentially alienating half the country is not necessarily the most intuitive move. But the Vermont ice cream hippies at Ben & Jerry’s have always been happy to zig where other brands zag (they made peanut butter & jelly ice cream, y’all). That zig has always included a deep commitment to progressive values, and a willingness to wade into the mess that is electoral politics–and not just with some milquetoast “both sides are essentially the same” ads.
It’s manifested in a couple of ways from Ben & Jerry’s this week. This afternoon, the company tweeted out its open letter to the President-Elect, offering a message of support couched in very specific terms. “We hope he succeeds” is a common message from even those who did not endorse Trump, because if he’s the President, his failures are failures that will impact all Americans, but the message from Ben & Jerry’s is specific about the qualifications of that hope.
“We stand ready to defend the progress our country has made on climate change. We will continue to be strong advocates for racial and social justice, LGBTQ rights, gender equality, respect for religious differences, and opportunity for all,” the letter states. “We stand with women, people of color, Muslims, migrants, refugees, the LGBTQ community, the poor, and others whose lives may be further compromised by the policies and rhetoric you espoused during your campaign. And we commit to stand with you if your work is toward building a more just, equitable, and sustainable world.”
“We commit to stand with you if your work is toward building a more just, equitable, and sustainable world” is a nice way to put it, and in addition to that message, a two-minute animated short film released released via Ben & Jerry’s Europe offers an idea of what that might look like.
The spot, from agency Nice and Serious, is decidedly political. It’s set in the world of Coneville (this is an ice cream brand, after all) in the midst of an election–which a lemon, with a leaf atop its head that looks similar to the swoosh of hair on the head of the next President, wins. Soon after, things in Coneville get dark. Cherries, strawberries, and raspberries find themselves harassed and threatened, told to get out of a place that doesn’t want them. They’re bullied and frightened, as though they are living under a leader who wants to build a wall to keep them out, or extend a ban that would prevent them from entering Coneville. It looks familiar, frankly.
The ad takes a sappy turn when President Lemon shows up and comforts an isolated cherry, and things from there get peppier–there’s a show of unity, they start building public works together, etc. It’s all a bit far-fetched–history tells us that people who run campaigns on bigotry don’t tend to show up and embrace the people they’ve demonized–but hope is few and far between these days, and if Ben & Jerry’s wants to imagine what Donald Trump building a more just, equitable, and sustainable world might look like, the parable of the lemons and the cherries is at least a start.