About a decade ago, we hosted a leadership meeting and passed out hats that said Be It. It was a short form for our new role of encouraging clients to change the reality instead of promoting an image. There is no better example of this than Unilever’s Good Humor campaign which debuted this week.
Good Humor pioneered the use of ice cream trucks and while it hasn’t owned an ice cream truck in nearly 50 years, the brand’s products are beloved treats on trucks across the country. The jingle that brought kids like me away from our soccer games in the alley next to our building in Chicago was Turkey in the Straw, a familiar childhood nursery rhyme. Earlier this year Edelman was briefed by the client on an idea for Good Humor’s 100th anniversary, emphasizing its role as the original ice cream on a stick.
It turns out that the Turkey in the Straw song is around 200 years old, with origins in Ireland but was later used in minstrel shows in the U.S. with racist lyrics. Shortly after the murder of George Floyd, discussion of the racist roots of the song surfaced and Russell Lilly, Senior Director of Ice Cream at Unilever, made a quick decision. "Good Humor invented the ice cream truck and is the maker of some of today's most iconic ice cream truck treats. And while we have not owned ice cream trucks since 1976, we wanted to be part of the solution and offer ice cream truck drivers a jingle that can bring joy to every community. So, to create a new jingle, we knew we had to team up with the mastermind behind some of the most memorable melodies of our time."
RZA, legendary music producer and founder of Wu-Tang Clan, was engaged by our creative team to compose an original ice cream truck jingle for a new era. We broke the news on CBS This Morning with RZA and superfan Vlad Duthiers. Coverage in the LA Times, Rolling Stone, HuffPost, the Root followed the TV hit. The social coverage was stunning, with 120,000 organic views on Instagram in just a few hours.
The new anthem is available to ice cream truck drivers nationwide via Nichols Electronics, maker of ice cream truck music boxes. Good Humor will provide educational materials to the truck drivers on the problems of the Turkey in the Straw and the iconic new theme song. RZA describes the new anthem as a combination of traditional ice cream truck music and jazz and hip hop elements such as trap drumbeats.
I reject the idea of support for the community over belief in capitalism; we need to be like an A frame house with one pillar supporting the other. Business needs to continue to rectify injustices as they come to light. We must commit to change that includes those who have been left behind, by training, new store locations and transportation options for those unable to get to jobs. Nike may have been right in its immediate response ad, “Be Part of the Change.” But the real work lies in supply chain commitments to diverse-owned small business, hiring talented diverse practitioners, making sure that Black and Brown people portrayed positively in our marketing. It is Be It, 365 days a year.
Richard Edelman is CEO.