Acquired: Jun 24, 1995
Back in the summer of ’95 I was approached by some fellow grad students at Queen’s University about taking a road trip to Vermont for a festival of live music, camping, and all the free ice cream you could eat. Although it seemed too good an offer to be true, I couldn’t resist going along to see if there was any truth to the crazy rumours. As it turned out we were going to the 4th annual Ben & Jerry’s “One World One Heart” festival, which was essentially a shareholder’s meeting for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, but open to the general public. And, yes, admission was entirely free, and so was the ice cream, music, and a host of other fun diversions. One of those was the “spin art” maker, a spinning platter onto which you poured drops of paint to form masterpieces like the one shown above.
Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the founders of Ben & Jerry’s, were the quintessential ex-hippies who had started out in the late 1970’s selling ice cream from their VW minivan, growing it into a nationwide success story in a little over a decade. This festival was their way of thanking not only their shareholders, but anyone who cared enough about the brand to hear about the festival (which was mostly through word of mouth in those pre-social media days). And although in the back of our minds we knew the whole purpose of the festival was to build-up brand loyalty and ultimately sell more ice-cream (which I can personally attest that it did!), the event still managed to seem completely authentic and uncontrived, closer to a real family picnic than a corporate marketing event.
But perhaps we were all fooled. Just a few years later, in 2000, Ben & Jerry sold out to Unilever for a cool $326 million, the festival was cancelled, and the brand was never the same again. (You can read more about it here.) But I still have fond memories of those simpler times, and this piece of spin art.