Ben & Jerry’s examines American racism in new podcast series

Dive Brief:

  • Ben & Jerry’s developed a podcast series that addresses historical aspects of American racism that are often overlooked, but remain entrenched in national culture, according to an announcement.
  • Produced with Vox Creative, Vox Media’s brand studio, and the nonprofit The Who We are Project, “Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism In America” examines how legal discrimination and police brutality put up barriers for Black Americans in areas like jobs, housing, education and healthcare. The series is based on a presentation of the same name by Jeffrey Robinson, director of the ACLU Trone Center for Justice and Equality and founder of The Who We are Project.
  • “Who We Are” premieres Sept. 15 and encompasses six 30-minute episodes. Robinson, serving as executive producer, will contribute to the show, which is hosted by New York Times bestselling author Carvell Wallace.

Dive Insight:

In backing a project like “Who We Are,” Ben & Jerry’s aims to advance its positioning as a brand deeply invested in social justice and educating consumers about the history of American racism, including topics that are overlooked.

While the Unilever-owned ice cream label has often thrown a spotlight on progressive causes, its initiatives around combating racism have ramped up considerably in the wake of the killing of George Flloyd while in police custody back in May. Ben & Jerry’s now bills itself as “an aspiring social justice company,” per a company bio shared via press release, and the new podcast represents how the brand is looking to spread a forward-thinking message through richer content marketing that centers more on the issues versus its products.

“Who We Are” intends to dismantle misconceptions around how aspects of racism died away following the abolition of slavery. Instead, the series will look back at historic inflection points and then explain how they link to modern-day systematic racism, ending each episode with a call-to-action for listeners. Robinson’s multimedia presentation, the source material for the podcast, is also being developed into a documentary.

“Economic and social justice has been a part of Ben & Jerry’s mission since our founding 42 years ago,” Jabari Paul, Ben & Jerry’s U.S. activism manager, said in a press statement. “We now sit at a critical inflection point in our nation’s history. If we are to seize the opening that this moment presents, we must be willing to acknowledge the sins of our past so that we move together toward a future of justice and equity.”

In recent months, Ben & Jerry’s has grown more vocal in directly tackling subjects that other brands have largely avoided, even as more join the fray in supporting organizations like Black Lives Matter. In June, as protests surged around the U.S., Ben & Jerry’s issued calls to dismantle white supremacy across its social media and online channels, pressing elected officials, including President Trump, to commit “to a formal process of healing and reconciliation.” The company has touched on topics like implicit bias, the school-to-prison pipeline and criminal justice reform for its broader Justice ReMix’d campaign.

By focusing its latest outreach on the podcasting space, Ben & Jerry’s could engage the young, cause-oriented audiences that favor the audio streaming medium that saw ad revenue spike 48% to $708.1 million last year, according to estimates from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers. The series marks the first time that Vox’s podcast network has developed an original program in partnership with a brand, and builds on the publisher’s recent work with other marketers. Its brand studio, Vox Creative, recently released a documentary short with kitchenware marketer KitchenAid that chronicles women’s struggles to break out in the restaurant industry.

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