Case 1: Brand Awareness through Event Marketing at the Chicago Hot Dog Fest

"How does a 3-Day music and food festival in Chicago solve a marketing problem?

This one building brand awareness."

Aerial Festival Drone Footage


In 2012, I noticed that the Chicago History Museum had strong awareness.  The only exception to this was in the local neighborhood.  One story stands out for me to illustrate this.  I was visiting my local optometrist for a regular check-up and his office was just four blocks from the museum.  In the course of conversation, my optometrist asked me where I worked.  I indicated that I work for the Chicago History museum, to which he responded, “Where is that?”   I was incredulous and could not believe he did not know us.   I told him that we are just down the street and only a few blocks away.  I asked him how long he had worked in the neighborhood.  He said, “Thirty-years”.   I knew we had an awareness problem, when a local business man did not know us, even after working in the neighborhood for 30 years.  


Facing this lack of awareness, I determined to build greater awareness for the museum in the local neighborhood, but how?  I also noticed that events tended to bring people together, and especially neighborhood festivals in Chicago.   Festivals are huge in the summer months in Chicago because our winters are so long that everyone wants to be outside in the summer.   So there it is, let’s do a festival.   But what kind of festival?   I wanted to do a festival that fit with the Chicago History Museum brand, and I noticed that food festivals were popular in Chicago.  I was aware that in Chicago history there was a little known story that hot dogs were popularized in Chicago by some Austrian brothers who were selling hot dogs outside the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.   These Austrians later founded the company Vienna Beef who are now responsible for more hot dog stands in Chicago than there are McDonald’s and Wendy’s combined.   That was the solution.  We would create the first, Chicago Hot Dog Fest in 2012.


2019 Annual Attendance

The Chicago Hot Dog Fest has set records every year.  In the first year of the fest, 2012, we were hoping for 500 in attendance but we were mobbed with over 2,000 attendees.  The first year the fest was held in our plaza and was only a 4 hour event on a Sunday.  But after being mobbed, we realized that we had something here and we professionalized the event, and brought in outside event management partners.  And in each successive year, we saw dramatic growth in attendance, with 2019 achieving a record 35,000 attendees.  The event has now been expanded to 3 days to accommodate the crowds and has moved twice into larger park district spaces the size of several football fields.   The festival has record media impressions and sponsors.  

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