The 1986 Ben & Jerry's Publicity Stunt That Went Horribly Wrong

Who doesn't love enjoying a spoonful of ice cream? The icy dessert is the perfect staple on a hot day, but can also be a sweet treat on cold nights when enjoyed by the fire. It's also the perfect accompaniment to cake if you're in a celebratory mood or want to enjoy it with warm apple pie for a holiday. But if you're craving an ice cream flavor that's a little more unique than your basic vanilla variety, Ben & Jerry's is always the right choice.

The ice cream company has unusual flavors like Phish Food which contains chocolate ice cream, gooey marshmallows, caramel, and fudge that's shaped like fish. They even have an option in honor of host Jimmy Fallon called The Tonight Dough that contains caramel ice cream mixed with peanut butter and, of course, chocolate chip cookie dough. Apparently, these choices have been a hit with fans, as The New York Times reports Ben & Jerry's raked in $681.5 million in sales during 2019. Which is a far cry from the company's humble beginnings and an early publicity stunt that went horribly wrong.

Company property goes up in flames

It appears that the founders of Ben & Jerry's, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, were at the right place at the right time when they decided to create their now iconic brand, according to Thrillist. The pair got the idea of making premium ice cream after learning their plan to bring bagels to the market would be more expensive than they thought. There weren't a lot of great options for quality ice cream at the time, and their company started quickly gaining momentum with customers. To capitalize on this success, the founders opened more storefronts, but Ben & Jerry's also wanted to get the word out about the company in another way.

Before the internet, you had to get creative with how you advertised your business and that's just what Cohen and Greenfield did when they created the "cowmobile" in 1986. The duo bought a mobile home, painted it with the Ben & Jerry's logo, and went across the country, giving out free scoops of ice cream to those that wanted them. Unfortunately, while they were returning home from their trek, the cowmobile caught on fire just outside of Cleveland, and all that remained were its ashes. Thankfully, nobody was injured during the accident. According to Thrillist, Cohen commented that the vehicle going up in smoke looked " ... like the world's largest Baked Alaska."