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Haagen Dazs Viral Vid Sparks Bee-Lovin' Buzz

Ice cream's golden ticket

Associating environmental, social, or political causes with brands isn't just a cheap trend. Done properly, it is also effective: studies say 7 in 10 consumers have purchased a product or service because it supports a cause they believe in.

Such passionate emotional connections can lead to sky-high ROI. American Express demonstrated this when it witnessed a 45% increase in credit card applications during its Statue of Liberty restoration campaign.

But brands must be careful to select an appropriate cause. If the issue doesn't fit what they're selling, they could be accused of using trendy charities to make a profit.

Cases don't have to be high-profile to be sound marketing strategies. In lieu of following well-trod routes, such as breast cancer, AIDS or genocide, ice cream company Häagen Dazs took up the case of the disappearing honey bees.

Honey bees began dying mysteriously about two years ago. The reason for this hasn't yet been discovered, but scientists' failure to correct the situation may yield potentially catastrophic repercussions on the human food supply. Since 30 of its 73 flavors use ingredients that depend on bees for pollination (e.g., almonds, blueberries, peaches), it was considered a highly relevant issue to Häagen Dazs.

With help from Omnicom's Goodby, Silverstein, & Partners, the firm launched a multi-platform campaign that included TV ads, print ads that flower when planted, a microsite, and philanthropic sponsorships.

But its viral video, Bee-Boy Dance Crew, generated the biggest impact. Inspired by a dance that bees do to divulge the location of nectar to hive members, a breakdancing crew, dressed like giant bees, competes on a dance floor. Targeted to youth thirsty for honey, hip-hop and a cause to support, the complex footwork of the Bee-Boys — a pun that plays on "b-boys," a street term for breakdancers — sparked the interest of kids that follow breakdancing culture.

At the end of the video, only one bee-boy is left standing. He looks around, wonders, "Where my bees at?" and fades dramatically into darkness.

Los Angeles-based Feed Company spearheaded the initiative to put the Bee-Boys in front of digitally connected youth across social networks, video sites and blogs, acknowledging their participation — and hopefully their desire to pass it on — was key to the video's viral success.

"Young people online are sharing content and issues that are important to their lives," said Josh Warner, president and founder of Feed Company. "Using video to engage that audience on the web, where they hang out, is a great strategy for brands that are willing to take risks."

The pay-off was significant for Häagen Dazs, which isn't known for its youth appeal or digital-savvy. In two weeks ending Aug. 1, the video garnered two million views and 3,500 comments. It also earned a four-and-a-half star rating out of five on YouTube, was covered across 150 sites and blogs, and was mentioned in 11,000 forum discussions.

Coverage in the Huffington Post, on Treehugger, and CNN, which picked up the story and spread it nationwide, contributed to significant microsite traffic.

Visits to Häagen Dazs' "save the bees" site spiked, reflecting heightened interest in the bee issue, and solidifying consumers' connection between brand and cause. While bees haven't yet been saved, intensified consumer interest in Häagen Dazs ice cream — of which every pint sports the pro-bee message — suggests perhaps people have begun to care.


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