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Marketing Stunts Decoded: When Uber Melted Hearts With Ice Cream

With the number of brands that are competing to make a name for themselves or stay relevant, it is a battlefield of fame. Sometimes, brands throw in a grenade here and there to surprise everyone. And if any brand has mastered staying in the game AND surprising everyone, it is Uber. From giving chopper rides to delivering kittens and ice creams, Uber has done it all.

#UberIceCream is a notable marketing stunt and here is why.

The Beginning

Launched in 2009, Uber was traditionally known for their high-end service of providing rides in luxury cars. However, in 2012, Uber suddenly announced that they would be delivering ice cream to select cities in the US. This, of course, created a lot of buzz online as their primary function was delivering rides. So why the ice creams? Uber had just expanded their range of cars to SUVs and hybrids, which was a huge change from their luxury cars. To let people know that they are versatile with their rides, they chose to hire ice cream trucks and deliver ice cream on-demand. In addition to ice cream, customers also got Uber T-shirts, sunglasses and more. And the timing could not have been better, they had identified the hottest day of the year and launched the event perfectly.

Uber ice cream order screen shot 2012.
Uber App screenshots from 2012. (credits)

“We’re offering a new way to experience ice cream similar to transportation,” Michael Pao, a general manager at Uber shared. (2012)

The results? A lot of tweets with #omgubericecream started spreading around like wildfire. And for that scale and time, it was huge. More people now recognised Uber. They saw this reaction and took it as an opportunity. So #ubericecream became a yearly event. Every year, on the hottest day, users can order ice cream at their location.

Uber Ice Cream: The Evolution

In 2013, they upped the game from 7 to 33 cities globally. Customisation and cost differed from city to city. But the reception of the idea was all the same if not bigger and better. Though the event took place year after year, it was done differently every time. They introduced marketing decals on ice cream trucks to let people know about the event offline.

Ice cream trucks with Uber decals.
Ice cream trucks with Uber decals. (credits)

They included temporary tattoos in the Uber ice cream packages delivered in 2014. In 2016, they partnered with Magnum who added new flavours that were exclusive to some cities. A lucky few from Seattle received ice cream from pirates.

Uber Ice Cream: The Statistics

To put the marketing stunt’s success into perspective, here are some statistics. Just from the online discussion related to the marketing stunt in 2015, Uber had achieved:

  • 92% increase in online discussion. The mentions on social media on the day of the event was 92% higher than the preceding month.
  • The content generated by the brand nearby the timeline of the event had 112% more social media reach.
  • Over 25k tweets with #UberIceCream were posted.
  • 84% of the mentions with the hashtag were positive
  • Nearly 70 million social media users came across the marketing stunt.

Data source: Brand24

In Poland, the success of the stunt even increased the weekly average trips per user by 7%.

Uber ice cream publicity stunt statistics
Uber ice cream publicity stunt statistics (source)

“A majority of our riders are young people, between 18 and 30 years old, who start using Uber because of recommendations from their friends. And that is why we organize our marketing stunts to increase the effect of grassroots campaigns.”

Krzysiek Radoszewski, Marketing Manager at Uber. (2015)
Uber themed ice cream cone
Uber themed ice cream cone (credits)

They partnered with McDonald’s in 2017 and let their users enjoy more free ice cream. This time, their users got a reusable cone when they ordered ice cream through the app. The cone was a ticket to more ice cream and free! from McDonald’s. For weeks, users with the cone could walk into McDonald’s on Fridays and get one softie free.

Marketing stunts are not all about gathering attention. They create a sense of trust and connection between the public and the brand. And what better way to do that than ice cream. If you have noticed, Uber does ordinary things in extraordinary ways and keeps looking for more unique ways. The one thing that is consistent though, is their stunt have the essence of the brand values. The takeaway here is to make sure your brand values come through your marketing stunt. So there you go, now that you know a little better about marketing stunts, what would be your move to grab the public’s attention?

Done reading this? Checkout our blog on Brand Identity Kit: Your Brand’s Visual Rule Book and find out how a well laid out brand identity kit boosts your brand image.

The Purple Papaya Blog

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