Publicity stunts aren’t exactly new to the marketing scene. Companies big and small, all over the world use them to get attention, new clients, and increased income. They’re becoming more and more common in our world of constant advertisement exposure, which means they’re also becoming more difficult to pull off.
So how are companies still making them work?
The Genres of Marketing Stunts
In order to make a PR stunt work, you need a solid plan. That often means deciding exactly how you’re going to create this stunt. This has led to a sort of formation of genres in the marketing stunt scene. Some of these genres include:
- Social media stunts – think Morton’s Steakhouse delivering to an airport after receiving a tweet
- Shock food – like Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappucino, or Burger King’s Black Whopper
- Gags and fake products – such as Taco Bell “buying the liberty bell” or McDonald’s “Frork”
But just because you have a plan doesn’t mean the risk will give you a reward. Unfortunately, some companies had to learn the hard way that the risk didn’t balance out the reward.
Let’s review some of the marketing stunts that worked, some that fell flat, and what we can take away from them. (You may even find ideas that are right for your marketing strategy.)
Eggos and Stranger Things
If you’re a fan of Netflix, chances are you’ve at least heard of Stranger Things. The Netflix original series, which hit TVs in the Summer of 2016, follows a series of pre-teens trying to solve the mystery of their lost friend (I won’t go through the whole synopsis as it’s a little complicated). One of the staples of the show is Eggos’ frozen waffles, so it’s no wonder that the brand decided to capitalize on that.
Kellogg’s, who makes Eggos, worked with Stranger Things and sent out a series of tweets to them during the season 2 premiere. One such tweet, pictured below, made a play on “The Upside Down,” a big part of the plot of season 1.
The tweet got thousands of likes and retweets and was a great example of cross-promotion.
What Can We Learn?
Use pop culture! While it obviously helps that the Eggos brand was featured on the show, using pop culture can still help your promotions get more reach. It can help you reach parts of a crowd that you might not be seeing engagement from. Plus, it always helps to stay current with our constant access to social media and its many changes.
The Snapple Popsicle
In 2005, drink company Snapple planned a huge (literally) marketing stunt. They decided to make the world’s largest popsicle, out of Snapple of course, in Manhattan. Unfortunately for them, the warm, sunny weather made the popsicle melt before they could even stand it upright. Soon enough, the streets of Union Square were covered in sticky, strawberry kiwi juice.
This stunt was created to promote Snapple’s new line of frozen options but ended up sending spectators running, and closing down streets while they were hosed down.
What Can We Learn?
Well, for one, to check the weather before building a giant popsicle! In all seriousness though, marketing stunts as big as these need planning. A LOT of planning. So while this wasn’t necessarily a bad idea to get attention and traffic to their website, it seems like just a little more planning could’ve saved a lot of money (and the streets of Manhattan too).
Starbucks Car Roof Coffees
During the 2005 holiday season, Starbucks pulled a PR stunt by putting large cups of their coffee on the roof of cars and having these cars drive around busy streets. If anyone stopped the drivers to inform them, they were given a $5 Starbucks gift card. This was a way to reward consumers for showing kindness.