PR stunts can be a mixed bag. Get them right, and you’ll have created palpable anticipation for a one-off event or campaign that can have lasting effects on brand perception. Get them wrong however, and even your most dedicated of fans will be questioning their consumer loyalty.
So, what makes a good PR stunt and more importantly, what are the lessons behind what makes them so successful?
Here, we unpick some of the top PR and marketing stunts of all time to figure out what makes them resonate so well with audiences.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the earliest and best marketing stunts was born out of the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles, California.
The Hollywood sign - a movie industry icon - is instantly recognisable across the world, however it was once just the brainchild of a real estate developer looking to drum up interest in a dreary LA suburb.
The talk of the town, the stunt has gone on to be identified as a shining example of how being bold and audacious can positively alter both the look and feel of a commodity in consumer minds.
2. Jeff Goldblum and the NOW TV statue
If Hollywoodland showed how being bold can positively impact consumer perceptions, NOW TV’s huge statue of a posing Jeff Goldblum takes the lesson one step further.
Weighing 331 pounds and over 9.8 feet tall, the statue, designed to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Jurassic Park, created palpable buzz in front of London’s Tower Bridge, with tourists and film fans flocking to get a photo with one of the movie’s most iconic characters.
Sometimes, simply being big, and a little quirky, can pay huge dividends when it comes to hyping one-off or timely events. Tie this in with the shareable culture of social media, and you can have a photographable trend that creates a buzz across the entire Internet.
3. Greggs and the vegan sausage roll
Greggs is no stranger to being bold and daring (see its sausage roll advent calendar), but their most recent stunt demonstrated another enviable lesson of PR marketing: sometimes it’s better to join a conversation than to start one.
Hijacking the health-conscious vegan trend of 2019, Greggs launched perhaps its most adventurous stunt to date, the vegan sausage roll. Sent to journalists and key influencers in packaging resembling that of a high-tech iPhone rather than a pasty delivery bag.
The stunt caused a social media storm – ‘how can you have a vegan sausage?’, many proclaimed, including the ever-divisive Piers Morgan. His scorn proved to be Greggs’ biggest success, with the company’s droll response (“Oh hello Piers, we’ve been expecting you”) helping to propel the brand and its vegan snack to even greater heights.
Now, one of the chain’s best-selling products, the stunt shows how a topical news agenda can be successfully leveraged to garner interest in your brand.
4. Carlsberg and the ‘Probably not the best beer in the world’ campaign
While being daring is great and rewarding when it pays off, you also need to be a little self-effacing when it goes wrong.
For many years, Danish beer brand Carlsberg has had a lot of fun with its ‘probably the best beer in the world’ strapline, but with rising competition from brands like Amstel and Coors, the truth of the statement didn’t quite add up with today’s audiences.
That is why recently, the brand launched its ‘Probably not’ campaign. With a note scribbled ‘not’ inserted into the brand’s traditional posters, the stunt came across as a consumer written backlash at first but was actually a self-inward look from the Danish beer brand on its flagging product.
Accompanied by a rebrewed taste and ‘Danish Pilsner’ strapline, the campaign will take time to determine its success. However, for now, it seems Carlsberg has taken positive strides to reauthenticate its brand in the minds of consumers, having pulled a similar leaf out of the great KFC, ‘FCK’ slipup correction book of 2018.
5. Dove and the ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’
Finally, if you’re going to make great strides with your brand campaign, you may as well challenge the mould.
In 2004, personal care brand Dove became a household name through its ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’, which opted to use real women in the place of professional models for its ads. The stunt was hugely victorious, successfully tapping into its core audience with mirror image women in their underwear, of all shapes and sizes.
The campaign boosted Dove’s sales by a massive 700 per cent, showing that sometimes, if you are willing to shake up convention and challenge industry norms, you can be rewarded tenfold in credibility and company ethos.
While PR stunts will always be a gamble, there is a fairly coherent pattern to their risk/reward formula: be authentic, question your audience’s reality and finally, always be self-effacing.
Interrogate the idea thoroughly and if it holds up, you could just have the next best PR stunt on your hands.
If you're interested in running your own PR campaign, get in touch with our team of in-house experts today.