Seasonal Marketing in the Windy City: Adapting to Chicago's Rhythms

April 11, 2024

12 Minute Read
Seasonal Marketing in Chicago - Be Found Online

Deep dish pizza, world-class museums, Navy Pier—on the surface, there are plenty of incredible things that those outside Chicago associate with our beautiful city. And sure, we’re biased, but we couldn’t imagine working anywhere else!

If you’re a Chicago-based business, there’s a special kind of magic hereMarketing in Chicago, Illinois waiting to be harnessed. From restaurant week to baseball’s opening day to Lollapalooza, your brand has a unique opportunity to use the city’s ever-changing seasons to craft compelling marketing campaigns.


But how the heck can you do so? We’re glad you asked. Below, we’re sharing more on how you can deepen your connection with the Chicago community and sync your marketing strategy with the rhythms that define Chicago’s seasons.


Understanding Chicago's Seasonal Rhythms

Lucky for us, Chicago’s climate falls distinctly into the Midwestern category:

  1. Beautiful, blossoming springs
  2. Sweltering, energetic summers
  3. Stunning, crimson-hued falls
  4. Freezing yet incredibly cozy winters

But before we jump into how to make the most of each season, we need to talk about how these fluctuating weather patterns impact consumer behavior. We were likely indoors throughout the winter, leading to an increase in online shopping and delivery services.


Now that spring has finally rolled around, outdoor activities are having their moment in the spotlight, prompting businesses to pivot marketing efforts towards community events, promotions, and offers tailored to warmer weather. Understanding these different patterns is the first step in effectively targeting and engaging with Chicago’s diverse consumer base.


Spring Awakening: Embracing the Change in Seasons and Renewal

As the chill of winter (FINALLY!) fades and the city comes alive,Spring in Chicago Chicagoans are ready to hit the streets and embrace warmer temps. For businesses, this season of renewal is the perfect chance to tap into the energy of spring.


Examples of Successful Spring Campaigns:

  • Chicago Architecture Foundation’s "Spring Fling" Membership Drive: Through targeted email campaigns and social media posts, CAF promoted exclusive spring-themed events and member benefits such as guided walking tours of Chicago's architectural landmarks, discounted tickets to boat tours along the Chicago River, and invitations to members-only receptions.
    • By offering compelling incentives and highlighting the allure of Chicago's architecture in the springtime, CAF successfully increased membership enrollment and fostered a sense of community among architecture enthusiasts.

Strategies for Tapping into Spring-Related Trends:

  • Embrace the feeling of spring: Highlight spring decor, bring new life into your color palette, and get creative with your imagery as you step into this refreshing season.
  • Offer spring-themed promotions: Create special promotions or discounts tied to the arrival of spring, whether it's a "spring cleaning" sale or a promotion centered around outdoor activities.
  • Partner with influencers: Collaborate with influencers or local gardening, outdoor recreation, or wellness experts to create engaging content and reach new audiences interested in spring-related topics.
  • Get outside: With the weather turning and more and more people itching for outdoor activities, look into farmer’s markets, craft fairs, and other outdoor events that your brand could sponsor or have a presence. If enough of your team is local, consider organizing an outdoor team activity to highlight company culture on social media.

Spring Events to Keep an Eye On:

This spring, don’t be afraid to have some fun. Those living in Chicago (or the Midwest in general) are excited about the new season, and your campaigns should reflect that excitement!


Summer Vibes: Maximizing the City's Vibrant Summer Scene

As temps rise and the streets buzz with new energy, summer in ChicagoSummer in Chicago is simply the best. Don’t get us wrong—we love every season here. But something about those warm days on Lake Michigan makes us extra grateful.

Bonus: Outdoor festivals and summer activities provide plenty of inspiration for creative marketing campaigns.


Examples of Successful Summer Campaigns:

  • The Peninsula Chicago’s "Summer Staycation Package": The Peninsula Chicago hotel launched a "Summer Staycation Package" targeting local residents looking for a luxury escape in the city.
    • The package included special room rates, complimentary breakfast, and access to exclusive amenities such as the hotel's rooftop pool and spa.
    • By creating targeted campaigns and partnerships with local influencers, The Peninsula Chicago effectively promoted its fun new offer and attracted guests looking to relax in the heart of Chicago.
  • Navy Pier’s "Summer Fun Starts Here" Campaign: Navy Pier launched the "Summer Fun Starts Here" campaign to promote its array of summer attractions and activities.
    • Through a combination of digital advertising, social media promotions, and targeted email newsletters, Navy Pier showcased its lineup of summer events, including outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, and family-friendly attractions.
    • The campaign positioned Navy Pier as a must-visit destination for summer fun in Chicago, driving attendance and engagement (especially among tourists).

Highlighting Summer Festivals and Events:

  • Feature iconic summer festivals: In the summer, there’s no shortage of fun festivals happening across the city, including Taste of Chicago, Lollapalooza, or the Chicago Air and Water Show (links below). Your brand can easily tap into both residents and tourists by highlighting these different events.
  • Create event-specific promotions: Offer special promotions or discounts for specific summer events, such as ticket giveaways, exclusive merchandise, or discounts for attendees. Places like the Shedd Aquarium offer free days to Chicago residents, which is a great way to engage with the city and remind people you’re a part of the community.
  • Partner with event organizers: Collaborate with organizers of summer festivals and events to sponsor stages or booths, providing opportunities for brand exposure.
  • Utilize location-based targeting: Use geo-targeted advertising to reach locals and tourists alike who are looking for summer fun in the city.
  • Don’t forget airports and train stations: Chicago sees a lot of visitors in the summer, from near and afar! If you’re local or have a local component to what you do, keep in mind that thousands upon thousands of people visit the city via plane, train, and automobile. We’re not saying you need to put a billboard on 90, but if it makes sense…

Summer Events to Keep an Eye On:

Whether you’re a restaurant offering a discount for Lollapalooza attendees or a hotel offering an exclusive summer rooftop party, there are plenty of ways to capitalize on the vibrant summer scene we see throughout Chicago’s warmer months.


Fall into Autumn: Harnessing the Cozy and Festive Spirit of Fall

It’s always bittersweet when summer rolls to an end, but mostAutumn in Chicago Chicagoans are quick to embrace fall’s arrival (here’s lookin’ at you, pumpkin spice and apple picking). Businesses can tap into this season's nostalgic and festive spirit by considering the following ideas.


Examples of Successful Fall Campaigns:

  • Goose Island Brewery's Autumn Ale Fest: Limited-edition beers such as pumpkin ales and Oktoberfest lagers, coupled with their "Autumn Ale Fest," make Goose Island Brewery an autumn marketing star. They collaborate with local businesses and use their emails, ads, and social media content to build excitement and generate engagement.

Promoting Seasonal Products and Services:

  • Create limited-time promos: Offer special discounts tied to the changing season, such as a "fall clearance sale" on summer merchandise or a "harvest festival discount" on seasonal goods and experiences.
  • Lean into seasonal emotions: Craft engaging narratives that resonate with the feelings and experiences associated with fall, whether it's the excitement of the back-to-school season, the nostalgia of family gatherings, or the thrill of Halloween.
  • Bundle your offers: Embrace the cozy vibes of fall by offering special discounts that encourage customers to indulge. Consider promotions such as "buy one, get one free" deals on hot beverages, discounts on fall-themed merchandise, or bundled offers for cozy nights in.

Fall Events to Keep an Eye On:

Think of fall as a way to recapture your consumers as they hang up their swimsuits and bring out their sweaters. Whether it's a cozy, autumn color palette or a season-focused offer, help contribute to your audience's fall experience.


Winter Wonderland: Capitalizing on Holiday Festivities and Cold Weather Activities

There’s nothing like a good Chicago snowstorm to have you question whyWinter in Chicago you live in a place that’s not warm year-round. But without the biting winds, we wouldn’t have such an appreciation for our gorgeous summers (at least, that’s what we tell ourselves). 


Fortunately, our winters are cold, but they’re still packed with festive holiday celebrations and cozy indoor activities. This leads to plenty of opportunities for Chicago-based brands to engage with their audience.


Examples of Successful Winter Campaigns:

  • Commemorative Christkindlmarket Mugs: Nothing says a Chicago winter like a trip to one of the Christkindlmarkets that pop up as the temps drop (Daley Plaza is still our favorite). When it comes to holiday marketing, one of the many things the market gets right is its yearly commemorative mugs. No Chicagoland household is complete without a few of these momentos, and people line up every year just to ensure they secure that year's special mug. If your business can tap into the season with yearly collectibles like this, you're off to a great start in a yearly tradition people will look forward to enjoying!
  • Chicago Park District's Winter Programs: The Chicago Park District offers a variety of winter-themed programs and events, from ice skating at Millennium Park to holiday-themed fitness classes. Promoting these activities encourages residents to embrace the winter season and stay active despite our “ohmygodIcantfeelmyface” weather.

Tips for Creating Winter-Themed Content and Promotions:

  • Highlight seasonal offerings: Showcase winter-themed products or services, such as gift guides, winter apparel, or holiday promotions, that resonate with customers during the holiday season. 
    • Bonus points if you can use recognizable backdrops from around the city. We might be bundled up inside in the winter, but we love marveling at how beautiful the city is in the snow.
  • Create engaging holiday content: Who doesn’t love a good ad that’ll make them cry around the holidays? Get creative on ensuring your audience is on the edge of their seats this season, whether it's heartwarming stories, festive recipes, or entertaining holiday guides.
    • Work to build a campaign that shows how your brand fits into your audiences' existing traditions. The holidays can be sacred, so show you deserve a seat at the dinner table.
  • Utilize social media: Engage with your audience on social media by sharing winter-inspired content, running seasonal contests or giveaways, and encouraging user-generated content related to winter activities.
    • Yes, it gets cold out there, but get out in the city and highlight that winter Chicago beauty. If applicable, think of some businesses that may have a hard time during these slower months and use your social media presence to highlight and show some love while building community.

Winter Events to Keep an Eye On:

By capitalizing on holiday festivities and cold weather activities, your business can create memorable winter campaigns that resonate with Chicagoans (and give them a little something to look forward to as they count down the days ‘til spring).


Seasonal Sentiments

Leveraging the distinct characteristics of each season—from the renewal of spring and the cozy spirit of fall—can help your business create compelling marketing campaigns that resonate with Chicagoans year-round.

And if your marketing efforts need a little TLC, that’s what the team at BFO is here for. Whether you’re looking for a lead generation campaign, need to create demand for a new product line, or want a full-funnel solution, we’re all hands on deck. Send us a message today to get started!

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Kyle Geib - Director, Marketing & Digital Communications

Kyle Geib

As Director of Marketing and Digital Communications, Kyle brings an extra layer of enthusiasm to BFO’s incredible team of experts. Dedicated to continuing to cultivate BFO’s presence as a unique and knowledgeable voice in the industry, he leans in on his experience marketing in both the B2C and B2B spaces.