An Icey Spring

With the coming of spring, consumers and brands alike are ready to celebrate. Rita’s Italian Ice turned it into an actual celebration. For no other reason than it’s finally springtime, Rita’s was giving away free Italian ice on the first day of spring last week.

This year was the 22nd Annual Free Ice Giveaway. No purchase necessary – all you had to do was head to your nearest Rita’s between 12 pm (when the store opens) and 9pm. You had any of the 65 flavors to choose from and after that, only the third part of their motto – Ice, Custard, Happiness – was left to fulfill.

Rita’s Free Italian Ice

Of course, there was a social media component too. Rita’s guests were encouraged to post pictures of their free 12-oz cup using the hashtag #RitasFirstDayofSpring in hopes of winning some “cool” prizes. No word on what the prizes were, but Rita’s now has some cheery group photos of customers with their “Rita’s fix” on their website.

It all started in 1992, when only a few Rita’s stores were open this early in the season. Since then, the company has grown to 600 locations in 20 different states that participate in the icy giveaway. Rita’s is also in the process of opening stores internationally in China, India, and Canada.

Rita’s financial advisers were probably cringing with how many cups of free ice they were just letting people take for free. Over the years, more than 10 million cups of free ice have been given away. But there is obviously a method to the madness; how else could they continue the tradition for over two decades? The interesting thing is that Rita’s hardly promoted their event at all. Other than a few social media posts, there were no ads on TV or Youtube videos. It isn’t unusual for the company – they’re used to relying on word of mouth for their advertising. Even this guy helped boost their image by writing a song about their delicious treats:

Do you think their hands-off approach is working? Or better question: did you get your Rita’s?

– Christine Schulze