This Mother’s Day, Lush and Ben & Jerry’s Helped Bail Black Mothers Out of Jail

Both brands used social to raise awareness for the cause to their sizeable followings

National Bail Out created an initiative to help bail out black mothers for Mother's Day. National Bail Out
Headshot of Melissa Kimble

For some, Mother’s Day means time spent with loved ones. For others, the holiday could now mean a chance at freedom.

This Mother’s Day, some brands may have focused on pancakes or babysitting services, but Ben & Jerry’s and Lush chose to use the day and their large followings to highlight Mama’s Day Bail Out.

National Bail Out (NBO), a black-led and black-centered collective of abolitionist organizers, lawyers and activists, has been building a community-based movement to support black communities and end systems of pretrial detention and, ultimately, mass incarceration. This past year, the NBO coordinated the Mama’s Day Bail Out to help incarcerated black mothers spend the holiday with their families.

Marketers can learn that creating social media campaigns for causes connected to holidays doesn’t start and end with said holiday, looking to brands like Ben & Jerry’s and Lush and these types of campaigns as examples. In order for this move to become effective, impactful and to establish a genuine connection with their consumer, the effort should be a part of the brand’s overall mission, should focus on impact and should also center on those who are on the ground doing the work.

Simply put, the campaign shouldn’t be about the brand at all. It should be about the cause.

Consumers and audiences alike can tell when a brand is looking to benefit off of aligning with a cause. Marketers make the mistake of basing their partnership decisions on what seems trendy at the moment. That doesn’t equate to anything authentic because causes must be a part of the brand’s foundational values.

“Advocacy is at the heart of everything we do as a brand. We love to use our platform to give a voice to campaigns and causes we care about. This isn’t an effort or strategic initiative; this is who we are as a business,” Brandi Halls, brand director at Lush, said about supporting the initiative. “We were extremely inspired by the work the National Bail Out collective is doing.”

The cosmetics brand used their Facebook and Instagram platforms, which have a gross audience of more than 5 million people, to elevate NBO’s mission with the hopes of raising awareness of their initiative and driving donations to the organization.

“At Ben & Jerry’s, we start with what our values are, what’s the change that we seek to make in the world, and then how do we design campaigns that help our customers join us in taking action to drive change in the world,” said Christopher Miller, social mission activism manager at Ben & Jerry’s.

Ben & Jerry’s primary execution of their support was also highlighted on Facebook and Instagram, and they also utilized their own digital home to provide more in-depth information. On their brand website, Ben & Jerry’s has a page dedicated to their ongoing social efforts and shared a detailed Mother’s Day post around the initiative.

The ice cream giant supported this initiative as a part of a larger campaign that the brand is focused on criminal justice reform in the United States. Ben & Jerry’s has a long history of using the brand and its relationship with its consumers to advance progressive social change. Alongside their partners Color of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization, and The Advancement Project, the brand is focusing on reforming cash bail, the school-to-prison pipeline and getting cops out of school and prosecutorial reform.

NBO shared that tens of thousands of people languish in jail every day simply because they cannot afford bail. Black people are over two times more likely to be arrested, and once arrested, are twice as likely to be caged before trial. LGBTQ and gender nonconforming people are targeted and caged at even more alarming rates.

These stats are much bigger than a cause marketing campaign, and supporting this initiative is bigger than making a sale. It’s about igniting awareness to drive home the impact, something that Lush connects with, according to Halls.

“In advance of Mother’s Day 2019, we posted about the initiative because this work is an innovative way to talk about unfairness in the criminal justice system as well as make real change in the lives of people in pre-trial detention.”

For years, Ben & Jerry’s has been focusing on the profound inequities in our criminal justice system and its impact on people of color by partnering with organizations and amplifying the organizations’ efforts. On their dedicated webpage, when a customer opts to join the campaign, they are linked with Color of Change.

To date, the brand says almost 59,000 people have signed up. This strategic move allows Ben & Jerry’s to amplify the strategic work of their partners, organizations whose sole purpose is being tapped into what’s happening on the ground to effect real change. It also requires that a brand be willing to take a backseat approach and amplify something greater than themselves.

“We’re not going to do something that’s so tone deaf or inconsistent with what the larger movement is trying to achieve because we’re looking to advance a strategy of others, not a strategy we’ve created ourselves,” Miller said.

Melissa Kimble is a Chicago-based writer, digital strategist and founder of #blkcreatives, a digital collective and lighthouse for black culture's most impactful creators.