How brands jumped on the polar vortex: Marketer's Brief

Marketers seize on the deep freeze

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Goose Island seized on the frezing temps to launch a new beer. Find out more in 'Would You Buy This' below.
Goose Island seized on the frezing temps to launch a new beer. Find out more in 'Would You Buy This' below. Credit: Goose Island

This column emanates from Chicago, or what this week is known as Chiberia. In case you haven't heard, it's bone-chilling cold here, like much of the Midwest, which is caught in the polar vortex that is keeping most of us inside all day long as the temperature remains stuck far below zero (In Chicago, it warmed up to 15 below this afternoon after hitting 20 below or worse overnight.) This has not stopped attention-seeking brands from seizing on the misery on social media. Find out more below, as well as how State Farm is moving into esports and how one piece of Gillette's business could be benefiting from its controversial "We Believe" ad.


There's a saying that "the show must go on," but there are exceptions when there's a polar vortex. You know it's cold in Chicago when performances of "Hamilton" are cancelled. Or as one person on Twitter summed up the storyline:

Plenty of brands are seizing on the bone-chilling temperatures to push their products or build loyalty with consumers. Lyft is offering free rides to warming shelters in cities including Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Madison, Milwaukee and Detroit.

Potbelly, which is based in Chicago, made plenty of mentions of the polar vortex on social media. And it also found a way to promote its soup and delivery efforts in the process.

Insomnia Cookies gave its own interpretation of a cold front.

Florida's tourism organization also took advantage.

The Cleveland Indians issued a challenge.

But according to Barstool Chicago, it's a fine day to golf.

Meantime, the U.S. Postal Service shut down delivery through much of the Midwest on Wednesday, with some odd quirks. The shutdown stretched to Cincinnati, where the low was only expected to reach -1, but didn't affect some eastern or southern (Kentucky) suburbs where it was just as cold. The USPS mostly got praise for the move on Twitter, though one person pointed out the old (unofficial) motto: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." Technically, note that this doesn't cover low temperatures.

'We Believe' Gillette ad has helped club traffic

For all the negative sentiment about Gillette's "We Believe" ad from Grey—which put the onus on men to stamp out various forms of bad male behavior—the impact for the Gillette On Demand shave club is looking more positive two weeks after the fact, according to traffic data from SimilarWeb. Procter & Gamble Co. Chief Financial Officer Jon Moeller last week described shave club sales as "in line" with what Gillette was doing before the ad.

But with another week of traffic data since, things are actually looking better. Average daily traffic to is up 8 percent to 18,480 during the two weeks since the ad broke Jan. 14 vs. the prior two-week period, according to SimilarWeb. Daily traffic was actually trending downward right before the ad and has been on the upswing since, with social media driving some of that. Daily social traffic to Gillette On Demand has more than doubled to an average of nearly 300 people since the ad broke. The biggest sources of social traffic to Gillette's website lately have been YouTube and Twitter, where the controversy has played out primarily, vs. Facebook, which previously led social traffic to the brand and where the club continues to advertise heavily.

Home of the earned media impressions

Burger King went back in time on Twitter, hitting the like button on old tweets from influencers including Casey Neistat, to promote the return of funnel cake fries, which, like the tweets, were out years ago.

Neistat, for one, wasn't pleased and posted a video on YouTube on Tuesday (including music from "The Godfather") expressing his annoyance at being used to hawk "sugar-coated French fries." Neistat then switches gears and says BK's social media team should be applauded for the effort and pushes the company to turn the earned media impressions into funds for organizations that help underprivileged kids. BK's King responded, on Twitter, of course.

It all smells like a scripted stunt, but Neistat claims in the video that "this is not a branded campaign."

State Farm gets into e-gaming

Players of popular video games like Fortnite are getting the mainstream sponsorship treatment. State Farm announced this week that it will double down on gaming through the sponsorship of Benjamin "DrLupo" Lupo, a Twitch streamer and captain of Rogue's Fortnite team. This is the insurer's first time sponsoring an esports streamer. Lupo has seven million social media followers, and has raised money for St. Jude's Research Hospital.

Would you buy this?

Chicago-based Goose Island chose the coldest week of the year to launch a beer seizing on the Chicago tradition of "dibs," which is the act of claiming parking spots using everything from folding chairs to Jesus statues. The items are placed to save the parking spot on a public street once it has been cleared of snow.

Number of the Week

13,914: The number of restaurants McDonald's had in the U.S. at the end of 2018, down from 14,036 a year earlier. That means there are fewer than 14,000 McDonald's in the U.S. for the first time since 2009.

Tweet of the Week

Comings and Goings

WW (the company formerly known as Weight Watchers) named Oprah Winfrey's longtime chief of staff Amy Weinblum as chief business development officer. Weinblum is responsible for developing new business platforms, with a focus on leveraging Winfrey's role as an advocate for the brand.

In order to market more effectively on the community level, REI has created the role of director of local brand engagement and impact. The retailer has tapped Jennifer Lindenauer, most recently chief strategy and marketing officer at the Good media group, which includes Upworthy, for the gig.

Contributing: E.J. Schultz, Jessica Wohl, Adrianne Pasquarelli, George Slefo, Jack Neff

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