November is traditionally the time of the year when many of that poor breed we call marketers have to start thinking about next years budgets. In these troubled times, even those fortunate enough to have 7 and even 8 figure marketing budgets are being forced to think of new, innovative and lets face it, cheaper ways to make their brands stand out.
As I have said many times before and in many different forums, this is no bad thing. It is very easy for marketers to rely on the same plans year after year and not really think about what they could do that is new and would create a real buzz and noise in their target marketplaces for their brands. One proven way of doing this is the PR stunt but the problem with such stunts is that they can go spectacularly right and just as easily go spectacularly wrong.
Let’s take one that went right. This year saw the best ever example of the PR stunt from our cousins down under. Tourism Queensland created the “best job in the world”. This was in effect a global tourism campaign disguised as a recruitment drive. The buzz that followed this piece of genius meant that hundreds of media organisations from around the world covered the story generating more than £40m worth of worldwide media coverage. In the end 34,000 people applied and one lucky chap from Hampshire got the job.
Now lets remember one that went wrong, or right depending how mean you are feeling. Richard Branson has spent a lifetime practising the art of the PR stunt and most have been very successful. Admittedly him waterskiing or standing on plane wings have become a little tired in recent years. So I was mildly amused when his attempts in 2007 to promote Virgin America by bungee jumping cum abseiling down a Las Vegas Casino from the roof. Unfortunately for Branson half way down he slammed into the side of the building, ripped his trousers and was gently let down the rest of the way where he quickly removed himself to the hotel without speaking to the press. Of course all of this was in the full glare of press and TV and created lots of the intended coverage but arguably of the wrong kind.
So if you get it right you can get massive amounts of positive brand coverage for little outlay. However if you get it wrong it can go very wrong. This problem has been exacerbated by the rise of social media online with thousands of passionate people happy to tear your brand reputation to shreds via Twitter, Blogs, Facebook et al.
There are few rules for PR stunts but If you are thinking try to think whether what you are planning will entertain and make people talk both online and offline. Most importantly be honest and make sure the brand is remembered as much as the stunt. Oh and try not loose your trousers in the process.