No, this is not a comment on the new B & J flavor/PR stunt: Shweddy Balls. As distasteful as that is (pun intended), I’ll stay out of that discussion because the company is already getting enough ink on that harebrained decision.
No, this is about another, bigger disappointment from the good guys who changed forever the way consumers look at packaged goods companies.
It’s about their Vermont Factory Tour. We all know that Ben and Jerry have been closely associated with The Green Mountain State since the beginning. They have stayed loyal to their roots, even after selling out to mega-conglomerate British-Dutch Unilever in 2000. So, the faithful, including my family and friends, took the pilgrimage to Waterbury, Vermont to see where it all happens. The website promised “fun”. The factory tour did not deliver.
Here’s the problem: Ben & Jerry’s IS fun. It’s a fun brand with a fun website. So I naturally had a high “fun” expectation. I imagined a zany, memorable and generous experience. I say generous because the trip to Waterbury Vermont is not an easy one. Unless you are one of the eleven people who live in town, it’s a nine-day car trip from your starting point. And I feel you should be rewarded for that.
Once you get there, you stand in line to give them money – $3 a head. Sounds cheap, right? Except that, once you pay your money, you get to wait in a crowed space with dozens of other ice cream zealots, until you are led into a “theater” to watch a five-minute, poorly produced commercial about Ben, Jerry, and the (yawn) history of their company. Then it’s up some stairs and into a room where giant window shades roll up to allow you to look down on the B & J production line – which is, quite simply, a big fat letdown. You gaze down at a factory that is slightly less interesting than watching the green grass grow outside.
Ready for the big finish? Down the stairs into the “tasting room” where they bring out a tray of tiny paper cups with a tiny scoop of whatever flavor they have too much of, and you’re out the door and into the gift shop from hell – filled with loads of items destined for next year’s tag sale.
For this I paid $3? Not even a coupon for a free quart when I get home? Get me in, take my money, show me a commercial, give me a thimble full of chocolate chip cookie dough, try to sell me a B & J dog bowl – and then tell me (from the website): …”we invite you to spend the rest of the day browsing in our gift shop for all things Ben & Jerry’s, and reading about additional company history…” Hey kids – let’s read some more! FUN!
Ben & Jerry’s over-promises and under-delivers in Vermont. Guys, you really need to hire someone to take a fresh look at this part of your marketing. The factory tour disappointed adults and kids alike. You charged me for something that you should not have. You damaged your brand. Badly.
I hear there is a Haagan Dazs plant in Laurel, Maryland. Road Trip!