National Ice Cream Day: Celebration Tips

What and When is National Ice Cream Day?

At Pryor Learning, we like to mark serious observation months – like National Safety Month and Health and Fitness Month – but sometimes, it is also fun to mark something more playful! So, let’s celebrate National Ice Cream Day and Month, with a focus on customer and employee engagement.

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan declared that July would be National Ice Cream Month and marked National Ice Cream Day as the third Sunday in July. Good timing! In the United States, July marks the heat of summer, with camps and vacations – a perfect time for a cold treat. Ice cream can be a unifying and shared event at work too. For team members working their way through the summer, an ice cream focused event offers a nice employee engagement break!

Why Is There a Day and a Month Dedicated to Ice Cream?

Let’s look closer – why is there a day and month dedicated to ice cream? The celebration was established to help the United States dairy industry. By highlighting ice cream as both a great dessert and a special event, the government hoped to help increase demand for the sweet treat, directly helping milk producers and dairy processors.

Creating a special event centered around an everyday product is a great marketing approach for companies and organizations to remember:

  • You can celebrate your own product or service type or market segment with customer and employee appreciation events. This may include partnering with complementary service providers or even competitors to co-sponsor a local event to highlight a shared offering or product.
  • You can augment or tap into existing event celebrations that relate to your product, to highlight the connection and up your exposure to your target market. With all the celebration events available throughout the year, it is fun to great creative with where you could best align and connect.


Building Employee Engagement Through Ice Cream Celebrations!

Pryor Learning’s blog article 8 Simple Activities that Build Employee Engagement, lists everyday activities that build engagement. Here are some ideas for doing both in a teambuilding setting.

  • Invite your team to take an ice cream break. Depending on your office setting, you could walk somewhere in small teams, or bring ice cream in for a catered or bring-from-home event (if freezers are available). Be clear that you are hosting the event to say thank you. Enjoy just being together as a group.  If you have remote employees, consider sending them small gift cards for a national ice cream chain so they can participate with the team.
  • When you bring in the ice cream, engage teams in the process. Ask for volunteers to bring in their favorite toppings – for a personal touch, ask them to share what their favorite topping says about them – what about the topping aligns with their personality?
  • Encourage a more serious – but still fun – organization culture discussion. Ask team members which ice cream flavor best describes the organization (or team or unit) and why. Examples: Vanilla, because our mission is simple and clear; Rocky Road, because there are lots of bumps in the road, but the ride is still sweet. This exercise can be done with or without ice cream and can be part of a larger engagement or strategic planning event – with small gift cards to a local ice cream shop to thank employees for engaging.
  • Assign a team – perhaps as part of a leadership development program – to design and implement a trivia contest, centered on ice cream! Encourage the team to create or invite questions about the history of ice cream and the ice cream business, questions about dairy or ice cream production or demographics (Who eats the most ice cream where? What is the most purchased flavor?); and then host a contest for the team or organization. These types of experiential learning projects are great ways for managers to encourage skill development in a fun, low-risk way.
  • Consider a teambuilding event with a community service or outreach touch. Deliver and hand out ice cream bars at a senior or community center – coordinating with the organization in advance, of course!
  • Check out Pryor’s Create Effective Employee Development Plans for more ideas to build your staff. If you already have an Employee Development Plan program, consider checking in to assess its effectiveness with Pryor’s Improve Your Employee Engagement Plan

Ice Cream as a Tool for Strategic or Engagement Planning

In Motivating Employees Through Employee Engagement Surveys, we introduce approaches for gathering information from employees about engagement efforts. These types of exercises are great for generating input to inform a strategic planning process in a fun and focused way.

Here’s an exercise to integrate National Ice Cream Month into your engagement and development work. This can be done as an individual exercise, where people work on their own and report out to the group, or as a team activity with small teams or a single team depending on the size of the group. Build in enough time to debrief the activity by allowing each person or group to share their ideas with the team and talk about common themes and differences.

Tell your team that to celebrate National Ice Cream Month, and to support strategic planning and/or engagement activities, you want them to think about the organization (or team) as an ice cream sundae in a cone or cup. Present the following list, with some examples to spark the team’s creative thinking and to frame the exercise.

  • The cone or cup represents the organization’s core values or reason for being. It provides a foundation for all other activities. All ice cream treats begin and end with cone or cup – all organizations begin and end with its mission and core values.
  • The ice cream itself represents the organization’s activities – its products and services. Without effective operations, the ice cream melts and gets very messy! An organization may have lots of flavors, or just a few, depending on its range of services.
  • The toppings are what differentiates your organizations from your competitors and makes your product or service special for your customer. It can also include the customizations that your organization offers that makes a product or service unique for each customer. Use your organizational context to pick the connection that fits the team the best.

Then, ask the individuals or group to create a picture of an ice cream sundae that addresses the three points above in the context of your topic, such as engagement, employee training and development, or strategic planning. They can use words, pictures, colors, shapes or anything else that communicates their ideas and work. The metaphor of the ice cream can spark people’s creativity, allowing them to be honest and creative, and enabling them to share their perceptions in a new way.

For the individual or team report-out, ask them to describe their work to the broader group, and then ask for common themes and differences between the work products. Note or ask the group for any action items that they see coming out of the exercise. Of course, these activities don’t need to just be during Celebrate Ice Cream Month – it is never a bad time to say thank you, and to show your appreciation to your team!  Enjoy!

A Diversity Perspective

Employee engagement and retention is supported by respect for diversity, and an appreciation of differences among employees. What does this have to do with National Ice Cream Month? Not everyone likes or can eat ice cream. For some, it’s a Health and Wellness concern; for others it may be a religious or cultural preference.

So, instead of abandoning the ice cream engagement idea all together – which some managers do to avoid upsetting a small group of people – consider providing options. Offer whole fruit options, or a non-dairy snack alternative in a low-key way, or if you are hosting a team event, encourage people to bring whatever snack fits their needs if they would like. This lets people choose the option best for them, without losing the spirit of the event.

The Pryor Learning seminar Inspiring Employee Motivation and Engagement has other great ideas for engaging individuals and teams in both inspiring and meaningful ways, and our blog article Connect to Engage reminds us of the simple but high impact ways we can connect each day.