For same-sex couples fussing over what to serve at their wedding reception, Ben & Jerry's has a new dessert course suggestion: How about Hubby Hubby ice cream? That's right, the premium ice cream maker, renowned for its publicity stunts, has renamed its popular Chubby Hubby flavor to recognize the fact that Vermont's decision to grant gays and lesbians the right to marry took effect on Tuesday. Ben & Jerry's home state in April became the fourth state to recognize gay marriage.
While the company's decision to scoop up Hubby Hubby will certainly cheer proponents of same-sex nuptials, it is likely to leave critics of gay marriage cold. The issue continues to divide the nation, with 44 percent of Americans saying same-sex couples should be able to get hitched, according to an April CBS News/New York Times poll. But does that mean it's a bad move from a branding perspective? One expert thinks not.
"Coming up with Hubby Hubby has no real downside, because the brand is for Ben & Jerry's constituents," says Rob Frankel, author of the book Revenge of Brand X. "More than likely, the radical right would have boycotted Ben & Jerry's a long time ago."
Frankel says successful brands typically stake their claim and hold true to it. Ben & Jerry's has always been known for going against the flow, and people love them for that, he adds. One of the company's first novelties was Cherry Garcia, a reference to the Grateful Dead's front man Jerry Garcia. Garcia was checked in to a drug rehab facility when he died from a heart attack in 1995. "Let's face it, everything has always been very, very left of center," says Frankel, who is based in Los Angeles. "It is reflected in Ben & Jerry's PR."
Of course, Ben & Jerry's is now part of Anglo-Dutch conglomerate Unilever PLC (UL), the name behind household names including Lipton, Dove, and Pond's. "I'm sure that the suits at Unilever are soiling their underwear as we speak," Frankel says. "But for no good reason." Frankel says that boycotts don't have a good track record of working. "It's business as usual."
The Hubby Hubby flavor, which starts with a vanilla malt ice cream base and includes pretzels covered in fudge and filled with peanut butter -- as well as fudge and peanut butter swirls -- will only be available in Vermont during the month of September. That may provide cold comfort to same-sex marriage opponents.
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