Public Relations, Sales and marketing

Seven PR stunts or media campaigns that catapulted businesses into the news

Dominic Powell /

Gorman

Source: Instagram

When it comes to media and publicity, at one end of the spectrum sits a quiet, considered story about a business landing some funding, growing rapidly, or just being plain interesting.

But at the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find stories about businesses doing inventive and sometimes crazy things, or engaging in whacky hijinks — all for just a snippet of national media coverage.

Wherever on the spectrum you like to place your business’ stories is up to you, but there’s something to be said for doing something so far off the wall broadcasters and newspapers can’t help but sit up and take notice.

We’ve pulled together a list of seven great PR stunts and media campaigns to give you a bit of inspiration, entertainment, or maybe even consternation.

1. No mango no problems

In a move that likely left Australians questioning why they couldn’t have taken the ‘Big Potato’ (turd) instead, national chicken and burgers chain Nando’s caused a stir in 2014 when it claimed responsibility for stealing North Queensland town Bowen’s treasure: the Big Mango.

While residents initially thought the mango theft was a serious crime, it was later revealed Nando’s and the Bowen Visitor Information Centre were in cahoots.

“People will see through it for what it is — a blatant attempt to get publicity,” marketing expert Michelle Gamble said at the time.

2. Throw the book at ’em

In 2016, local social enterprise the Thankyou Group managed to successfully raise $1.4 million by asking users to pay what they want for a book about the company’s history and overall ethos.

To fuel a desire for the book, co-founder Daniel Flynn locked himself in a warehouse in Melbourne for 28 days, frantically packing and shipping people’s orders himself.

“You’ve got to be willing to push the boundaries and commit to that if you’re going for that bold result,” Flynn said at the time.

“People back boldness.”

3. …or just line up

Next in our crazy list of stunts is one about a company in Sydney that did the wildest thing possible to help sell their products: they queued up!

The year was 2012, and the iPhone 5 had just been released. To take advantage of the hype, MobilePhoneFinder (which you might now know as finder.com.au) nabbed the first eight spots in the line days in advance.

“We have different divisions in our company, and they’re at the beginning in start-up mode. We needed something to kick off the company, a stunt to get things started,” founder Fred Schebesta said at the time.

4. Flipping burgers

“Imagine if we told people to eat burgers, upside down.

That’s what I imagine was the pitch to McDonald’s marketing executives back in 2017, when a national campaign called #downunderbigmac was unveiled as a total flop, with just 15 users at the time engaging with the hashtag on Twitter.

Predictably, the fact the stunt flopped then became the news, and McDonald’s probably did just fine from it anyway.

“A typical ‘Big Mac’ consumer is hardly the type to turn their burger upside down, take out their phone, snap a shot and enter a 16 character hashtag on top of their post,” InsideOutPR director Nicole Reaney said at the time.

“On the plus side, it is a simple and fun notion — just could have been applied more effectively.”

5. Love is shirt

In a move that attracted a dose of controversy, but also plenty of support, colourful fashion brand Gorman got on board with the campaign for yes in last year’s gay marriage vote, handing out free ‘Love is Love’ shirts to customers who got in quick.

Though questions were raised at the time, professionals said it was a “really clever” piece of newsjacking.

6. Bombs away

No really, get those bombs away. That’s advice that should have been heeded by video game company Ubisoft back in 2014 after a police bomb squad was called on the ninemsn offices after a journalist received a beeping black safe with a ransom note telling her to “check her voicemail”.

Once police cracked open the box, it was revealed to contain a copy of newly released videogame Watch Dogs.

“This publicity stunt was completely inappropriate and resulted in unnecessary stress for the employee the item was sent to and was a complete waste of time for the NSW police force and bomb squad who had to deal with this event,” Sean Walsh, spokesperson for ninemsn, told SmartCompany at the time.

7. You’ll float too

Finally, a guerilla marketing campaign for last year’s movie adaptation of Stephen King’s IT novel was hailed as “awesomely creepy“, after a number of red balloons were seen floating above drains across Sydney — a reference to the movie.

NOW READ: Luxbet under fire over Twitter marketing stunt: Why businesses should tread carefully

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Dominic Powell

Dominic is the features and profiles editor at SmartCompany.

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