On the heels of a controversial statement issued by the popular ice-cream brand, Ben & Jerry’s, the echo of a potential Bud Light-style boycott reverberates throughout the company’s customer base. Tensions have been stoked after the company’s audacious claim on Independence Day that the United States is rooted in the ‘stolen land’ of indigenous people, compelling customers to participate in the restitution of these lands, starting with the iconic Mount Rushmore.
The call to action was unsheathed in the midst of Independence Day celebrations, an act that provoked disgruntlement among social media users. The company brazenly stated via Twitter, “This 4th of July, it’s high time we recognize that the US exists on stolen Indigenous land and commit to returning it.” Accompanied by a supporting blog post, this unprecedented action spurred immediate outrage online, igniting calls for a boycott of the widely recognized ice-cream brand.
This 4th of July, it's high time we recognize that the US exists on stolen Indigenous land and commit to returning it. Learn more and take action now: https://t.co/45smaBmORH pic.twitter.com/a6qp7LXUAE
— Ben & Jerry's (@benandjerrys) July 4, 2023
Adding to the fury, the company ostensibly rebuked traditional Independence Day celebrations, asserting “the only problem with all that, though, is that it can distract from an essential truth about this nation’s birth: The US was founded on stolen Indigenous land.” In an era where corporate ‘wokeness’ is viewed skeptically, consumers appear unimpressed by such statements, with an impending backlash brewing.
The company’s contentious statement also triggered political response, with Jeremy Redfern, press secretary for Floridian Governor Ron DeSantis responding succinctly by saying, “No it doesn’t.” Other Americana personalities, like singer-songwriter John Rich, suggested the company deserves a similar treatment to Bud Light, referring to previous backlash and subsequent boycott the popular beer brand faced.
Touting unusually polarized positions on sociopolitical issues is not a novel strategy for Ben & Jerry’s. When technology dynamo Elon Musk took over Twitter last fall, the company ceased advertisement on the platform. Asserting the rise of ‘hate speech’ and the alarming receding of content moderation, the company held steadfast in the face of public criticism. Furthermore, Ben & Jerry’s faced boycotts in 2021 for refusing to sell its ice cream in Israel’s “occupied Palestinian Territory” which includes the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
With a significant portion of the public expressing their discontent, this latest controversy has left Ben & Jerry’s facing a challenging backlash. The brand’s firmly planted stance has irked consumers, stirring concerns beyond the company’s salability. Ben & Jerry’s stands at an inflection point – push forward with an agenda laden with grand gestures towards social justice, or teeter on the precipice of a shipwrecked relationship with its, potentially former, customers.
In conclusion, the recent Twitter statement from Ben & Jerry’s ignites questions about the role of corporations in social and political discourses. While some customers laud the company’s commitment to perceived social and political wrongs, others perceive this as an unwelcome overreach that lacks consideration for a diverse customer base. Albeit controversial, Ben & Jerry’s appears steadfast in its position, refusing to melt under the pressure of potential boycotts. As the debate continues to churn, future business trends will reveal whether the brand’s unusual approach will pay off or result in a rocky road ahead.