Haagen-Dazs loves Honey Bees (Titanium Silver Lion Cannes 2009)

on April 28th, 2010

Why it was great

With relatively limited resources and a truly integrated marketing campaign Haagen-Dazs managed a massive pump in brand awareness; a boost in sales; an effective initiative for the environment and a Congress funding discussion for research into the bee crisis. It really doesn’t get much better than this.

About the campaign

The source of what follows is the agency’s presentation for the Effie Awards in 2009.

The Agencies

Primary Agency: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners
Media Agency: Zenithmedia
Contributing Agencies: Ketchum

Campaign Objectives

  1. Revitalize Häagen-Dazs sales: Grow revenue by a minimum of 4% with flat advertising spending while also maintaining price premium. (Source: Häagen-Dazs)
  2. Inject dynamism into the Häagen-Dazs brand
  3. Make “noise” on very little money: With no foreseeable increase in budgets, every dollar needed to work harder; the client’s charter to the agency was to create an “out of scale effect”—in other words, to create a media multiplier on our investment across the board.

We recognized that successfully integrating PR activity into the overall program was going to be crucial to make up for limited media dollars. Based on prior campaigns and case studies, our goal was to garner 125,000,000 PR impressions over the year. This sounds high, but a former high profile partnership between parent brand Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream and American Idol in 2007 had created similar results and generated the equivalent of $750,000 in added media. (Source: Dreyer’s Ice Cream/Ketchum)

The Idea

An all-natural ice cream should preserve its all-natural workforce—help Häagen-Dazs save the Honey Bees.

The idea of harnessing Häagen-Dazs to the honey bees was due to the confluence of three factors—plus an agency blogger.

  1. An all-natural brand: Since 2004, Häagen-Dazs had marketed itself on the platform of “Made Like No Other”—an ice cream brand made only from all-natural ingredients. The brand has adhered to this idea consistently in all of its communications, and it has served to help separate premium all-natural Häagen-Dazs from its competitors.
  2. A concerned consumer: Through an evolving set of qualitative conversations in 2006 and 2007, we understood that Häagen-Dazs consumers are increasingly more mindful (and less mindless) about what they eat, how and what they consume, and the kind of food footprint they leave behind them. Forget stereotypes of earnest Prius-driving, An Inconvenient Truth – watching, Michael Pollan-reading foodie liberals. Simply think of a mainstream America that is now far more alert to issues of sustainability and environmentalism—and wanting to help. (Source: Agency Qualitative Research 2006/2007)
  3. A-way-more-important-than-it-looks issue: Apis Mellifera (honey bees) play a pivotal role in the pollination of fruits, nuts and berries. These are the natural ingredients that occur in 40% of Häagen-Dazs’ 70 ice cream flavors. As important is the fact that nature’s workers—the bees—are ultimately responsible for more than 1/3 of the food we eat on a daily basis. (Source: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture)

The problem is that honey bees have been mysteriously disappearing in the U.S. Since 2005 1/3 of all the honey bees have disappeared, and nobody (not beekeepers, insect virologists or government agencies) has been able to establish why this is happening. An estimated 500,000 colonies disappeared in 2005–2006 and another 800,000 in 2007 (Source: U.S. Dept of Agriculture). The issue had been peripherally on the media horizon (usually among specialist agricultural or environmental commentators). By 2007 it had become more acute, and a growing number of commentators, bloggers and news reports began to pick up on the story. Among the bloggers was our own media director.

What looked initially like “an interesting but not immediate issue” suddenly began to take on a very different perspective. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) poses a real threat to U.S. agriculture as a whole and to Häagen-Dazs specifically. With no bees, there would be no natural flavors. And with no natural flavors, there could be no Häagen-Dazs.

The big idea was the result of a worryingly simple equation and a piece of enlightened self-interest from an ice cream company:

40% of Häagen-Dazs ice cream flavors + 1/3 of what we eat – honey bees = a bigger-than-ice-cream problem.

Bringing the idea to life

hb logo Haagen Dazs loves Honey Bees (Titanium Silver Lion Cannes 2009)

The creative and media solution we arrived at (they cannot and should not be separated) was to use a truly integrated approach to provide as many ways into the problem as we could, and to allow the program to work by a kind of catalytic reaction. No single element dominated, but beginning in February 2008 each component was designed to spark a conversation, trigger an action, and leverage the inherent talk value of the idea and the problem. What follows looks like a lot, but it only scratches the surface of the various components of the “HD loves HB” program.

  1. Starting out—distill the issue with bee ambassadors and donations: Early in 2008, the Häagen-Dazs brand team announced the “HD loves HB” campaign to the beekeeping and scientific community with $250,000 research grants to Penn State and UC Davis. To help gain press pickups, a Häagen-Dazs “Bee Board” of leading scientists and beekeepers served as CCD resources for journalists and editors. This was the first time a coalition of interested parties banded together around the issue.
  2. Spread the word—start with influencers: To get consumers talking, we reached out to those who were most likely to spark the issue. Leveraging the knowledge and influence of editors, we partnered with National Geographic, Gourmet, and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia to create custom advertorials. These allowed us to talk about CCD in a tone specific to each environment with customized content.
  3. hb icecream Haagen Dazs loves Honey Bees (Titanium Silver Lion Cannes 2009)
  4. Taste it—making it real with a new flavor: We wanted a different way to open up the problem, so we let people taste it. We petitioned for, and Häagen-Dazs agreed to create, a new Vanilla Honey Bee flavor with profits going to CCD research. Meanwhile, we created the “HD loves HB” logo, which clearly identified all Häagen-Dazs bee-dependent flavors in the ice cream cabinet. Whole Foods picked up on the cause after encountering our campaign in National Geographic. The interest of a single employee in the Northeast triggered additional Northern California Whole Foods stores to create honey bee displays at checkout counters, spotlighting Häagen-Dazs and CCD.
  5. hb website Haagen Dazs loves Honey Bees (Titanium Silver Lion Cannes 2009)
  6. Spread the word online: The program’s hub was helpthehoneybees.com. It was produced to educate consumers and inform them about ways to help. You could buy a shirt, learn more about CCD and send “bee-mail” to a friend. Partnerships established with Epicurious.com and SeriousEats.com illustrated the impact of the disappearance of the bees. As consumers searched for recipes, swarming bees landed next to bee-dependent ingredients so that consumers could see the potential scale of the problem. A custom video highlighted the connection between the bees and sustainable foods. A program with Graffiti (a popular drawing application on Facebook and other social networks) enabled people to express their concern for CCD through the drawing of bees and the bees’ plight. Each drawing created a media multiplier effect by launching into their friend’s news feeds, further spreading the word.
  7. plant this Haagen Dazs loves Honey Bees (Titanium Silver Lion Cannes 2009)
  8. Take this ad and plant it: We put change in consumers’ hands directly with a plantable print insert, embedded with seeds that would flower food for bees. A first of its kind, the insert armed consumers with an easy way to understand the problem and do something about it simply by crumpling it up, burying it, and giving it a little love and care.
  9. bee tv Haagen Dazs loves Honey Bees (Titanium Silver Lion Cannes 2009)
  10. Sing and dance the problem: There was no budget for a mass video effort. Instead, we used limited video assets tactically to generate PR. To bring mass awareness of Häagen-Dazs’ crusade, a TV spot (“Bee Opera”) illustrated the tragedy of an unpollinated flower and a disappearing bee. This was debuted on 60 Minutes, one of the first mass media outlets to announce the CCD crisis, and continues to be viewed on helpthehoneybees.com.
Playing off the fact that bees dance to communicate where pollen is located, we created a hip-hop “Bee Dance” video that launched on YouTube and was seeded across blogs and video networks. Think of a cross between Krump dancing and Saturday Night Fever in bee costumes. The videos were contagious; at the time of writing this entry, “Bee Dance” has generated over 1.2 million hits on YouTube. The press, including national television, picked them up to illustrate the impact of the problem. Being called the “best PSA evah” on YouTube (Source: YouTube user post) wasn’t too bad either!
  11. Reach out events: At farmers’ markets, epicurean and green events nationwide, Häagen-Dazs and its partners educated consumers on CCD, sampled Vanilla Honey Bee, and gave consumers seed packets to bring the cause (and a way to help) home. Häagen-Dazs invited community groups to participate by donating a million seeds across the country to foster their local projects – including urban community gardens, schools, farms—and distributed them in the backs of organic denim jeans (yes, bees pollinate cotton—the fewer the bees, the more expensive the denim).



Total Media Expenditure

$2–5 million


With a price hike and a reduction in marketing activity, there was little reason to be optimistic about Häagen-Dazs’ position. Equally, there was some skepticism about the potential impact of what one senior sales V.P. labeled “…the nematode strategy.”
However, as the Honey Bee program began to hit the market and the freezer cabinets in 2008 (and as media interest took hold), the campaign began to impact at cash registers.
1) Positive impact on sales: The injection of the honey bee initiative reversed the negative growth pattern. Revenue grew ×2 despite taking an unplanned-for price hike in March 2008 (the second increase in less than 12 months).
• In the year to date, Häagen-Dazs revenue has increased by 7% vs. 2007, outpacing the original growth target of 4% set by the client. (Source: Häagen-Dazs)
• Overall unit volume has returned to double-digit growth. YTD Sept/Oct volume sales are up by 10% versus 2007.
• Overall unit volume, which had declined from 2006 and 2007, jumped 18% between April 2007 and April 2008, and has continued to make gains year-over-year. (Source: Häagen-Dazs)
• At the time of writing this entry (October 2008), YTD unit volume sales are at their highest in 5 years.

Häagen-Dazs YTD Unit Volume
2) Closing the gap with Ben & Jerry’s: The campaign added velocity to the brand again, and the partnership with the bees began to close the distance between Häagen-Dazs and the Vermont ice cream makers.
• Unaided brand awareness increased from 29% -> 36% (Ben & Jerry’s remained essentially flat at 51% -> 54%). (Source: FRC Brand Tracking Winter – Summer 2008)
• Meanwhile, although the distance between Häagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s remained the same in ad awareness terms (Häagen-Dazs improved from 19% -> 29% and Ben & Jerry’s from 26% -> 35%), the move from winter to summer saw awareness of PR and word of mouth nearly double from 9% to 16%. (Source: FRC Brand Tracker, Winter ’07-’08-Spring ’08)
• Brand advocacy for Häagen-Dazs (the percentage of consumers who recommend Häagen-Dazs to a friend or colleague) jumped from fourth to first place, thereby displacing Ben & Jerry’s. (Source: FRC Brand Tracker, Spring/Summer 2008)
3) “The fastest moving agricultural issue”—a year in a week: As word went out about the CCD issue and Häagen-Dazs’ involvement, media coverage poured in—this created a self-sustaining dynamic around the problem and Häagen-Dazs’ role. In later testimony before Congress, one blueberry grower from Maine described the public take-up of the CCD crisis: “I have never seen a problem in agriculture get more press and consumer awareness in a shorter time than this.” (Source: Ed Flanagan: Wyman and Son June 26, 2008)
• Our initial goal for PR impressions had been set at 125,000,000 over 12 months.
• As “HD loves HB” rolled out, the issue took hold and we hit 125,000,000 impressions in one week.
• Häagen-Dazs notes that, to say the least of it, this was the fastest-evolving PR campaign in the history of Häagen-Dazs, Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream and Nestlé USA. (Source: Häagen-Dazs, Ketchum PR, Nestlé)
• The campaign generated more than 273,347,400 media impressions in 4 months—double the 2008 year goal and worth at least $1.15 million in advertising. (Source: Ketchum PR)
• We welcomed 448,931 potential “beekeepers” to our Web site and the YouTube viral “Bee Dance” video received over 1 million views in the first month and was also featured on YouTube’s home page. (Source: FeedCo., Google Analytics)
4) Unintended (good) consequences: Perhaps the most important thing we achieved was something we didn’t intend to do at all.
Following 2 years of “awareness without action” around the CCD crisis, Congress moved to discuss research funding in Summer 2008.
Together with other “bee-involved” brands such as Burt’s Bees and a coalition of national beekeepers called the Pollination Coalition, Häagen-Dazs was invited to testify before the House Agricultural Subcommittee on June 26, 2008, to urge Congress to allocate funding for additional honey bee research.
Sending a client to Congress is a first. Representative Dennis Cardoza called Häagen-Dazs’ involvement “extraordinary,” and the subcommittee moved to award more money to the CCD issue. Häagen-Dazs has committed to a second year of the “HD loves HB” program, and the rollout of the issue (and, hopefully, steps towards a solution) continues.
Meanwhile, at the time of writing this document, the estimated honey bee colony loss in 2008 is 1 million and counting—the bees need all the help they can get.


Effie Worldwide
Official Help the Honey Bees Website
The About the Campaign Video


2 Responses to “Haagen-Dazs loves Honey Bees (Titanium Silver Lion Cannes 2009)”

  1. Haagen Dazs loves honey bees and so do I :) You are doing a great job with your save our honey bees campaign. Keep up the good work and use your influence as a major company to put more pressure on our governments for far more funding into the reasons our bees are dying.

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ema Hoffmann. Ema Hoffmann said: New post: Haagen-Dazs loves Honey Bees (Titanium Silver Lion Cannes 2009) http://lime.mx/bSufm4 [...]