DQ’s Blizzard Turns 20, Parties Online

Dairy Queen’s Blizzard turned 20 this year.

To celebrate, the company launched an online fan club for the popular ice cream and candy shake — a confection so thick employees are trained to serve it upside down with a spoon on the side. DQ planned to manage the club with a Web site and email list, and to drive registrations by using Blizzard cups themselves.

DQ tapped Fishbowl, a loyalty marketing agency in Alexandria, Virginia, to create and manage the program. The objective: to drive Web traffic, fan club registrations and ultimately, in-store sales. The target: a broad demographic of men and women aged 13 to 45.

Fishbowl had just over a month to launch the effort, whose lynchpin was an online instant-win game driven by unique codes printed on the cups. Since it takes a while to eat one of these shakes, Fishbowl figured consumers would likely still have the cup with them by the time they got back to their desks. From there it’s a quick step to visit Blizzardfanclub.com, enter a unique code and play the game, which takes the form of a virtual scratch-off ticket. Prizes include a plasma TV, an iPod, an Xbox and a year’s supply of Blizzards.

After playing, site visitors are invited to join the fan club and receive news, promotions and coupons. Those who join get a Blizzard two-for-one coupon and a promise of another coupon on their birthday.

The Club

The fan club site contains several content features, including Blizzard history and trivia, a “flavor of the month” section, and a recent TV spot for the shake created by DQ agency of record Grey Worldwide. Content is promoted in monthly email drops to club members. One recent message encouraged fans to watch and rate the Grey ad online. Fishbowl said another TV spot will likely follow.

“Whereas other of our clients build a Web site and say, ‘Join our club,’ with DQ, there’s a lot of content… interactivity, investment in the fans,” said Marilyn Coffey, Fishbowl’s VP of client services.

Some site sections are more fan-oriented than others. The tab detailing Blizzard’s history occasionally lapses into business speak, referring to the candy shake as a “product.” It’s a tone that may not be the best way to position the brand for ice cream lovers.

More fan-friendly is a page detailing DQ’s plan to create the World’s largest Blizzard on June 21, the first day of summer. A Dairy Queen staff in Springfield, Mass. plans to break its own Guinness record of 5,738 pounds in the category of “World’s largest frozen blended treat,” while raising money and awareness for Children’s Miracle Network.


The fan club has built up a vast membership since its March 15 launch. Members now number 273,000, with 4,000 joining every day, according to Patty Halvorson, director of national and local promotions for International Dairy Queen. The homepage has gotten a total of 36 million hits; more people have joined the club than have played the instant win game.

“The Blizzard fan club… has exceeded all our expectations, even within days of the launch,” said Halvorson in a statement. “And this is only the beginning.”

The average age of fan club members is 35, which might seem high until you consider that today’s 35-year-olds were 15 when DQ broke its Blizzard campaign. The first ad depicted a girl hanging upside down from a swing while holding a Blizzard, once more demonstrating the shake’s cement-like qualities. The tagline then: upsidedownrighthick.

The company has been unable to assess the impact of the fan club on in-store sales, said Coffey, since its vast network of franchises is fairly low-tech and lacks the tracking mechanisms to count coupons. What’s certain is that DQ earned a sale for every one that was redeemed, since the offers were all “buy one, get one free.”

Going Forward

While the initial numbers are outstanding, Coffey expects a long tail indeed for this campaign.

“My personal Nostradamus is not all the cups are in the stores yet,” said Coffey. “These are big chains and they might have a big stock on hand until they get to the new cup, because they weren’t forced to throw away the inventory. There’s tremendous growth to come in next three to four months.”

As the campaign goes forward, Fishbowl and DQ plan to add new product information and interactivity to the club Web site, content that will then be promoted in mailings to members.

“We’re going to increase site interactivity in general, and [add] content that’ll make it 20 times more fun,” said Coffey. “The trivia is flat right now. It’s not interactive. There will be a lot more stuff built into it.”

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