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Ben & Jerry's Product Differentiation Product Differentiation

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One means of gaining a competitive advantage is through the use of a differentiation strategy to provide a better product that buyers believe is worth the premium price (Thompson and Strickland, 1998). Since higher quality ice cream generally costs more than the economy and regular types of ice cream, Ben and Jerry's has incorporated product differentiation in its general corporate strategy in order to command a higher price. The use of all-natural, high quality ingredients and the innovative flavors of Ben & Jerry's ice cream illustrates the strategic use of product differentiation to gain a competitive advantage in the ice cream market. Quirky flavor names such as Chubby Hubby, Wavy Gravy, Phish Food, and Chunky Monkey also set Ben & Jerry's apart from the traditionally-named ice cream products of rival companies. Furthermore, the use of recycled materials and dioxin-free (unbleached) paper in product packaging contributes to the uniqueness of Ben & Jerry's ice cream and helps keep its costs down.

Marketing Strategy

According to the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) annual report, Ben & Jerry's use of natural ingredients, high product quality, periodic introduction of new flavors, focus on grass-roots community involvement and the "down home" local image are essential elements of the company's marketing strategy. The company's Waterbury ice cream factory is the single most popular tourist attraction in Vermont. In addition, the company is well known for it's creative television advertising and public relations campaigns. The use of innovative online marketing and web-based promotions with Yahoo have further emphasized this image and strengthened brand name recognition (SEC Report, 1999).

According to the Ben & Jerry's Mission Statement, the goal of the company is to integrate product quality with economic success and social responsibility. One of the key strategic factors that successfully links these three missions together is the differentiation strategy. In this respect, the environmental and general corporate strategies are very much in tune with each other. Differentiation not only increases the competitive advantage of Ben & Jerry's, but it also leads to environmental excellence in the operation of the company. By focusing its attention and energy on recycling, energy efficiency, and product innovation, Ben & Jerry's can reduce its impact on the environment while at the same time reducing product cost. This is being achieved through the work of the Packaging Information Group that focuses on reducing the incoming packaging which adds to the waste stream, and the production of the compostable "Eco-Pint." These and other actions help build a competitive advantage within the market. By using all-natural, rBGH-free ingredients and dioxin-free containers, Ben



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