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äagen-Dazs Loves Honey Bees: Let’s Lick This Problem — Reputation / Brand Management
Ketchum and Häagen-Dazs, Jan. 1, 2009 — Silver Anvil Award

Summary: 2009 Silver Anvil Award Winner — Reputation / Brand Management — Business — Companies With Sales Of More Than $500 Million To $10 Billion

Stung by a lack of relevance with consumers, the Häagen-Dazs® (HD) brand tapped Ketchum to create HD loves HB, a honey of a program to engage consumers and change brand perception while maintaining HD’s philosophy. Committed to using all-natural ingredients, the program linked the brand to an issue threatening the existence of more than 40 percent of HD’s ingredients — the mysterious honey bee disappearance. In April, baseline sales increased 5.2 percent, the largest single volume increase in more than a year, sustaining growth above four percent through July and garnering more than 277 million impressions with $1.5 million in advertising equivalencies.

The Häagen-Dazs® brand recognized that it was an iconic, strong brand that had lost relevance with its consumers, and was looking for a way to highlight its all-natural positioning that would resonate. We were looking for a different way to crack the nut! The goal: to re-ignite consumer passion and boost annual sales growth by at least one percent and media impressions by 25 percent in 2008. At the essence of the brand is its commitment to all-natural ingredients. We uncovered an obscure problem, “disappearing honey bees” (referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD), threatening the existence of 40 percent of HD’s natural ingredients. HD saw a unique opportunity to be the champion of an under-reported, but critical cause. HD Loves HB was born to connect with consumers in an authentic way, be first to put the cause on consumers’ radar in a major way, and underscore HD’s “all natural” brand value proposition by inextricably linking the important relationship between honey bees and its ice cream. HD created a new flavor in honor of the honey bees, placed a captivating bee logo on all products threatened by these pollinators, launched a new consumer education website and produced print and TV advertising. But the biggest marketing lever of all for the campaign was public relations. The brand and Ketchum set the tone for the entire campaign, formed an expert advisory board, directed significant donation funds toward meaningful research and created an avenue for consumers in mass numbers to plant bee-friendly habitats to help save the bees. The campaign exceeded all management expectations in getting consumers, retail sales and media buzzing. HD experienced the highest sales increase in 12 months, garnered 277+ million impressions with $1.5 million in advertising equivalencies and increased consumer brand advocacy to 69 percent, the highest level among 19 different ice cream brands measured.

The brand identified actionable business, awareness, comprehension and behavior goals for year one of the HD Loves HB campaign. PR needed to bring instant awareness/clarity to the complex plight of the disappearing honey bees, and make a strong, direct connection in media coverage between the issue and the future of HD. HD hoped the campaign would become the long-term business solution to turning around stagnating sales and restoring the brand to its historically high rate of seven to 10 percent annual sales growth by 2010.

Business Goals:

  1. Drive sales of HD's new Vanilla Honey Bee and products carrying the honey bee "cause" symbol.
  2. Increase 2008 revenue growth by one percent over 2007.

Awareness/Comprehension Goals:

  1. Increase awareness of the honey bee issue and the HD loves HB campaign.
  2. Increase consumer media impressions on the HD brand by 25 percent over 2007 levels (total media goal: 125 million impressions in year one).

Behavior Goals:

  1. Convince consumers to plant bee-friendly habitats. Achieve HD’s first-year goal of planting 1 million bee-friendly flowers.
  2. Drive unique visitors to (achieve industry average of five page views per visit).
  3. Increase consumer recommendations of HD over Q1 levels.

Primary: Focus groups were conducted to determine consumer awareness, engagement and attitude toward the honey bee issue, and the brand’s possible role in the cause.

Focus Group Findings:

  1. When consumers see HD supporting the cause and educating people about the issue, they feel positive about the brand and its involvement.
  2. Creating awareness about the issue makes consumers feel that the brand truly cares and is not just interested in sales.
  3. The cause helps consumers feel more connected to the brand; there is a sense of “we’re in it together.”

Secondary research showed that while honey bees are essential to the U.S. food supply, no major food brands had adopted the issue. The research findings guided the communication strategy. To be authentic, and to create a reason for consumers to connect to the brand and advocate for it, the campaign needed to help raise awareness, educate consumers about the issue and engage consumer and community groups. To be successful, HD needed to take advantage of its first-mover status and be the first national consumer brand to “own” the bee cause.

Target: Age 35–54; most have children; male/female balanced; highly educated; affluent urban and suburban living; active.

Audience Analysis: HD consumers care about what they eat, and where their food comes from. They pay attention to what they put in their mouths and the quality of food their families eat. They are happy and eager to do their part to contribute to a sustainable society — particularly if they can make an impact through small, enjoyable, hassle-free actions. They’re also willing to support causes that are genuine and relevant, and are eager to find ways to teach their children about responsible sustainable living.

The team knew a cause-marketing campaign could help create an emotional connection between consumers and the brand, and help make the brand more approachable, but the program needed to be more than just another ribbon on a carton. The cause had to be engaging while still directly relating back to HD’s brand essence. The plight of the honey bees seemed obscure at first but after learning that bees play a pivotal role in pollinating ingredients in more than 40 percent of HD’s flavors, and moreover, that one-third of all foods are pollinated by honey bees, the team knew the cause was right.

Using the insights from research as a guide, the team set forth the following strategies:

  1. Give consumers a compelling way to engage more genuinely and frequently with the brand by educating them about the honey bee plight, HD’s concern and the brand’s authentic reliance on honey bees.
  2. Leverage first-mover advantage and become the first national consumer brand to support the issue and put the cause on consumers’ radar in a major way; strategically use the brand name to raise awareness and underscore the brand’s “all natural” brand essence by inextricably linking honey bees with HD.

Donation: After a deep-dive assessment of leading universities and organizations working to raise awareness and solve CCD, The brand decided to donate $250,000 to Pennsylvania State University (PSU) and the University of California, Davis (UCD) for sustainable pollination and CCD research, as well as an additional $10,000 to The Pollinator Partnership, an organization dedicated to preserving honey bee health.

Bee Board:
The brand created an advisory board comprised of PSU and UCD scientists to guide the brand and ensure communication was authentic and factual, and two beekeepers — one East Coast-based and one West Coast-based — to provide insight into the struggles beekeepers face. All Bee Board members served as media spokespeople to deliver campaign messages related to their specific area of expertise.

Flavor Launch: HD launched a new bee-dependent flavor, Vanilla Honey Bee, and pledged a percentage of overall sales of this flavor and all other bee-dependent flavors to go towards CCD research. The brand also created a special logo that was featured on all bee-dependent products and printed CCD information under the lid of every bee-dependent pint.

Industry Outreach: Prior to the official launch in early February, the brand announced the campaign to the beekeeping and scientific community at a key industry conference. As a result, experts were ecstatic about HD’s involvement, and served as credible brand ambassadors who later spread the word about the program within the industry and to other influencers.

Media Outreach: A comprehensive media strategy was created to ensure no media stone was left unturned. To expedite mass awareness, the team’s strategy hinged on launching the story with a “media multiplier.” The team allowed to break the launch date embargo, because the outlet directly feeds hundreds of others on the Web and drives broadcast and print coverage in local markets throughout the U.S. HD also understood the importance of education, and expanded its media targets beyond the usual food and lifestyle outlets to include scientific, agricultural, environmental, gardening and beekeeping trade outlets. The team conducted national and regional print, broadcast, radio and online outreach; developed B-roll featuring HD plant footage, comments from Bee Board members and bees pollinating crops and flowers, which was distributed to regional and national broadcast networks; and engaged Bee Board members as spokespeople for magazine, television and radio media tours.

Million Seeds Challenge: The team reached out to bee supporters online using Craigslist and, and challenged them to help HD plant 1 million seeds to create bee-friendly habitats. Enthusiasts received “HD loves HB” seed packets for planting in backyards and gardens.

Ice Cream Social on Capitol Hill: During national Pollinator Week, the brand and The Pollinator Partnership hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill about the status of the plight of honey bees, and an HD-hosted ice cream social. Katty Pien, HD brand director, testified before the Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture on behalf of CCD to keep honey bees and beekeepers top-of-mind for legislators and decision makers. Additional media coverage ensued, resulting in two more nationally-syndicated wire stories and a front page San Francisco Chronicle feature in HD’s own Bay Area backyard.

Response to the campaign exceeded all expectations for a first-year cause marketing initiative and goal to change brand perception; HD Loves HB revived consumer interest in Häagen-Dazs and spiked retail sales. Results included:

Business Goals:
Drive sales of HD’s new Vanilla Honey Bee/bee-dependent flavors; increase 2008 revenue growth by one percent over 2007:

  • A 5.2 percent April sales increase — the largest single sales spike in a year and a four percent growth sustained from April–July 2008.

Awareness/Comprehension Goals:
Increase consumer media impressions on the Häagen-Dazs brand by 25 percent over 2007 levels (total media goal: 125 million impressions in year one); increase awareness of the honey bee issue and the HB loves HB campaign:

  • More than 277 million media impressions, worth nearly $1.5 million in advertising equivalencies. The HD loves HB story was featured or included in more than 1,097 unique news placements, including CNN, NPR, The Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Everyday with Rachael Ray and "TODAY" (HD was mentioned in the headline or the lead).
  • In a media audit and ROI analysis, 93 percent of all media coverage was overwhelmingly positive toward the brand; virtually 100 percent carried brand name/product mentions and key PR messages, proving HD dominated the cause.
  • A strong 12-point increase in the level of PR and “buzz” was achieved over previous quarters.
  • An Omnibus survey conducted at the end of year one showed a large increase in honey bee awareness, knowledge and brand recall; an eight-point increase in awareness of the honey bee issue; a six-point increase in accurate identification of the issue; HD had the highest unaided brand recall among consumers identifying companies/organizations working to help the honey bees.

Behavior Goals:
Convince consumers to plant bee-friendly habitats; drive unique visitors to the website; increase consumer recommendations of HD over Q1 levels:

  • The team surpassed their goal for 1 million seeds distribution with more than 1.2 million bee-friendly flower seeds distributed to community groups and individuals, including local businesses, garden clubs and teachers.
  • 469,798 unique visitors swarmed and engagement was high — visitors viewed eight pages per visit (82 percent above industry average) and the number of new visits averaged 76 percent above industry standards.
  • More than 950 consumers and organizations contacted HD with suggestions, offers to collaborate, requests for more information and compliments on the program.
  • HD experienced a 13 percent increase in its brand advocacy rating (between Q1 and Q2) to 69 percent, the highest in the category (exceeding Ben and Jerry’s).

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