A Story About Ice Cream, Innovation and B2B Marketing

A Story About Ice Cream, Innovation and B2B Marketing

Several years ago, our B2B marketing agency in Atlanta was helping a major healthcare client with a project related to an internal innovation initiative.

The goal was to solicit innovative ideas from across the company, and they wanted to encourage employees to recognize problems and suggest solutions.

While the program was in development, their veteran HR Director expressed doubts that anything would be done with the ideas because she said the company had done a similar program once before. None of the submitted suggestions were credited to employees or implemented.

She balanced her skepticism with optimistic input, including an excellent story involving Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. I liked the story so much that I’ve since googled it and couldn’t find anything to confirm or deny its authenticity. Truth or fiction, it’s a great story, nonetheless.

Have you heard the Cherry Pits Inspector story?

As you may know, one of the most popular flavors of ice cream ever introduced by Ben & Jerry’s is Cherry Garcia. An unexpected consequence of that popularity was what became known as the worst job position in all of Ben and Jerry’s – the Cherry Pit Inspector on the line when they were running Cherry Garcia. Everyone hated the job because it was so painfully dull. There were rarely any issues with cherry pits, and staying vigilant was mind-numbing. It was becoming even more of a problem because people were doing everything possible to avoid that assignment as word spread that it was almost considered a punishment.

Someone looked at the problem from a different angle. What if we flip the perceived punishment into a recognized reward?

Ben & Jerry’s decided to start offering a REWARD for each rare pit discovered. The position soon became so desirable and “fun” that there was a waiting list for the newly engaging assignment of Cherry Pit Inspector. To put this in content marketing speak, they gamified it. Even executives were signing up for a shift and looking forward to finding a few cherry pits. A punishing job position became a highlight of the operation and a shared experience for many engaged employees. The value of the reward was beyond monetary because the recognition was special, too. The role of the Cherry Pit Inspector became one that was respected and valued by all employees.

Does your B2B marketing program have tedious and critical assignments that no one wants and everyone avoids?

Suppose your department is like most B2B marketing departments. In that case, you may need more staff and time. Whether your title is Marketing Director or Marketing Manager, you probably wear many hats. Along with delegating assignments, you can only sometimes throw money at the problem.

I’ll use a simple example to illustrate my point:

Optimizing a complex set of landing pages is assigned to an individual while others are working on more exciting parts of the project. For this scenario, it will be someone else’s turn next time.

Once the work is completed, they get a tangible and desirable reward for doing an excellent job on an undesirable assignment. It could be dinner for two, movie tickets, an afternoon off, special recognition, or a few pints of their favorite ice cream.

Next time, it’s more likely that you’ll have volunteers.

The overarching message is finding creative solutions to make even the most tedious marketing tasks more enjoyable and rewarding, improving employee engagement and marketing outcomes. The Cherry Pit Inspector story is a metaphor for the transformative power of positive reinforcement and creative thinking in the workplace.

When making delicious ice cream or crafting complex B2B marketing campaigns, tedious tasks and challenging situations can lead to insightful observations, good questions, and great ideas.

Before publishing this post, I asked my AI tool about it. See the answer below. Does that mean it’s true after all? Although AI becomes increasingly intuitive every day, I’m not sure it has replaced our ability to consider human nature and first-hand observations to flip the script for solutions like the Cherry Pit Inspector.

Me: Do you know the story about the cherry pit inspector at Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream?

ChatGPT: Yes, the story of the Cherry Pit Inspector at Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream is interesting and speaks volumes about the company’s commitment to quality and customer satisfaction. Ben & Jerry’s, known for its innovative and chunk-filled ice creams, faced a challenge with its Cherry Garcia flavor, loaded with real cherries. The problem was that cherry pits or pit fragments could occasionally end up in the ice cream, posing a risk of dental damage to consumers.

To address this issue, Ben & Jerry’s employed someone as a “Cherry Pit Inspector.” This person’s job was to inspect the cherries for pits to ensure that none made it into the final product. This dedication to product quality is unique in the food industry, demonstrating Ben & Jerry’s commitment to ensuring a safe and enjoyable customer experience.

While it might sound like a quirky or unusual job, it underscores the lengths to which some companies will go to maintain the integrity of their products and protect their consumers. Ben & Jerry’s has been known for its social responsibility and innovative approaches to product development and ensuring product safety and quality.

What can you do to make the toughest job functions within your B2B marketing program more rewarding – and fun? Give me a call and let’s talk about it. I’m sure we can help create a story with a positive outcome for you too.

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