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What Cold? How Three Brands Got Event Guests to Brave the Polar Vortex

Colgate, Klarna, and Aerie all successfully carried out events while wind chill dropped below zero.

By Ian Zelaya February 11, 2019, 7:00 AM EST

At the entrance, a mannequin with a 20-foot-long arm held shopping bags from Klarna partners, including Topshop, Mango, and H&M. 

Photo: Christian Rodriguez

When temperatures hit single digits in New York, most people aren’t looking for a reason to go outside. So when the polar vortex blasted the northeast with 15-below-zero wind chills on January 31, events could have easily seen a big drop in attendance or have been canceled. But for three brands, events went on as scheduled and they managed to get attendees to brave the cold.

Klarna, a Swedish banking company similar to Paypal, held its first U.S. event at Michelson Studio in the West Village. Because the venue’s elevator opened onto the street, check-in had to be outdoors. Luckily, since planners were aware they would be hosting an event in New York in January, they had already installed heat lamps at the outside entrance.

Klarna’s “Smoooth Session” (so smooth it needed the extra “o") drew around 200 guests, mainly clients that were either current or prospective merchants, along with influencers. The event, which was produced and designed by Sequence Events, had interactive stations designed to push attendees out of their fashion comfort zones, and a panel discussion about how brands can create authentic customer experiences. The panel was moderated by Women’s Wear Daily’s Arthur Zaczkiewicz and featured C.F.D.A.’s director of strategic partnerships, Ashley Sandall; Daniel Wellington’s marketing commerce manager, Allissa Lascala; Shoes of NYC co-founder Huston Conti; and In the Style’s chief operating officer, Paul Masters.

“Klarna’s branding is beyond fun. It’s bold, colorful, visually pleasing, and allows you to take risks, so we knew whatever we came up with needed to not only complement their unique style but also allow for cohesion throughout the event,” said Jacquie Romano, project manager at Sequence Events.

Meanwhile, in midtown at Center415, Colgate held an event to promote the Colgate Total SF toothpaste, which the brand bills as its most innovative product in 20 years. The interactive experience, which was produced by BMF, featured Instagram-friendly photo ops and interactive stations where scientists who work for the company took guests behind the scenes of what goes into making the toothpaste. The event also featured a sneak peek of the brand’s Super Bowl commercial and a performance by JoJo.

Brian Feit, founding partner of BMF, said based on data collected from the company’s in-house research team, they had expected a 40-percent drop off rate in those who RSVP’d. But despite the weather, the event still had a strong turnout.

“In the event that more people came than anticipated and we had to shut down the door for a certain amount of time, we made sure there was enough space at the indoor entry point where people could wait,” said Feit. “We didn’t want people waiting outside in the freezing cold.”

In NoHo, lingerie retail company Aerie held an intimate dinner event, Aerie Changing the Course Dinner, at Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria. The event, which announced five new brand ambassadors, known as “Aerie Role Models,” for 2019, drew brand spokespeople, influencers, and media. Conversations revolved around the brand’s #AerieReal movement, which focuses on body positivity, self-love, and women’s empowerment.

Jamie D’Attoma, senior vice president of Shadow, which produced the event, said all invited guests showed up and his team made one last-minute logistical change. “We decided to start production load-in two hours earlier in the morning to ensure all production needs were completed well ahead of schedule,” he said. “This allowed us to keep the Il Buco Alimentari’s doors from continuously opening and closing in the hour leading up to the event, providing ample time to keep the venue heated and cozy for guest arrivals.” The event also added spiked hot cider to the menu, in case guests wanted a warm cocktail.

Here’s a look at some of the event ideas from Klarna, Colgate, and Aerie that made it worth it for attendees to go outside in the polar vortex. 

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