How I met Ben & Jerry, originators of… Ben & Jerry's!

While writing this blog post, I’m sitting on the train to Belgium. I’m on my way back from Amsterdam, where I attended the kick off of the ‘Givolution’-campaign of Ben & Jerry’s, the legendary ice cream brand. Although it’s very cloudy and rainy outside, I’m feeling excited. It has been an epic day, and this is how it all started:
Last week I got a call from Kristof De Wulf, one of our Managing Partners, asking me if I could make it to a Ben & Jerry’s event in the Netherlands. Apparently we got invited by the people at Unilever, as an introduction for an upcoming research project we’ll be doing in the coming months. I was about to mention my holiday plans when I heard Kristof say:
Kristof: The event is planned on Monday afternoon and euhm… Mr. Ben & Mr. Jerry will be joining the event in person!
Dado: Like, really BEN & JERRY? The original founders of the brand ??
Kristof: Yes, I know it’s hard to believe! 🙂
I immediately postponed my planned holidays. I mean, how much more can you ‘feel’ and ‘experience’ a brand, especially as a market researcher? This had to be the best project kick-off ever!
Ben & Jerry were coming to the Netherlands to set up their campaign called ‘The Givolution’ (www.givolution.nl). The goal: give away 100 free ice creams in the hope that the receivers will give away something else to other people. This way Ben and Jerry hope to establish a true ‘give-away’ chain. And last but not least: they were about to announce that all Ben & Jerry’s flavors will be Fair Trade Certified by the end of 2013.
After two days of nervous excitement I took the train to Amsterdam on Monday morning, without any idea about what was going to happen. I was just going to go with the flow. I arrived in Amsterdam around 11 am. In the morning the press was invited to the Lloyd Hotel, located just near the Central station, where Ben & Jerry would give personal interviews. On my arrival in the hotel, I met one of the brand managers of Ben & Jerry’s, who seemed to be very, I mean very, excited. Let’s face it, meeting the founders of the brand you’re working for is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
I looked around in the crowded room and was about to sit down when I suddenly spotted Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield in the corner of the room. No glamorous stars but just two ordinary, easy going guys with a big smile on their faces. They truly embody their brand…
During lunchtime I met one of the attending journalists who interviewed Ben and Jerry earlier on in the morning. I asked her how it went and she replied:
I was really amazed: two super friendly men with an enormous passion for what they do. While we were talking about typical Dutch food they suddenly started brainstorming together on how they could use typical Dutch ingredients in one of their ice creams…
Just what I hoped to hear…
 
Half an hour later, right after lunch, we headed to the centre where Ben and Jerry would hop on a wagon that would take them to the many invited fans, who were impatiently waiting. To my pleasant surprise, I was invited to the wagon as well! Suddenly Ben and Jerry were standing almost just next to me! This was clearly going to be a moment to remember J Off we went, destination: Scoopshop, Leideseplein.

When we arrived minutes later at the Scoopshop, hundreds of fans were standing in line in front of the shop, yelling out loud and applauding for their ‘idols’. It was overwhelming, especially when several photographers & cameras were gathering around the wagon. While leaving the wagon Ben and Jerry immediately started shaking hands with their fans. Again, very low profile and with a big smile for everyone.

Shortly afterwards Ben and Jerry were standing behind the counter of the shop, greeting the shop assistants and asking them to tell more about their experiences. In the mean time people of the team were preparing the necessary for the meet and greet with the fans. Everyone had the opportunity to shake hands with them and a professional photographer made sure it was a moment to cherish. A mythical moment for many fans.
While listening to one of the many interviews that Ben and Jerry gave after the meet & greet, I heard a guy, who was standing just behind me, say to his friend: “Ben & Jerry’s is not a brand, it’s an experience”. After this day I can only agree with that man…
Just before Ben and Jerry left the shop, I took a shot and asked someone to take a picture of me and my new heroes. The cherry on the cake 🙂
Both from a personal as from a market research point of view this was truly an amazing day. Being able to meet the original founders of what has become a legendary inspiring brand (or should I say experience) is unforgettable.
In the last interview Ben and Jerry were asked to give their advice to beginning entrepreneurs:
1. Start small
2. Be very passionate about what you do
3. Earn money while doing things ‘right’
“We measure success by how much money we made + how we contributed to the community”
Viva la Givolution! Viva Ben & Jerry’s !
Read the whole story behind Ben & Jerry’s via:
http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_&_Jerry%27s
http://www.inc.com/30years/articles/ben-and-jerry.html

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