Marijane Funess September 12, 2017 | 08:00:04

5 Brilliant PR Stunts And Why They Worked


Every so often a public relations team comes up with a PR stunt that earns stellar media coverage. But no stunt is worth the effort and resources if it doesn’t advance brand messages in a positive way. Even seemingly stale “World’s Largest [insert brand name]” can pack a strategic punch — if well executed.

Here are a handful of masterful PR stunts that pass muster in our eyes, and each offers learnings for any brand that wishes to create their own.

Creating an inspired PR stunt

Window Company Shatters PR Expectations with Baseball Promotion

It’s quirky, but effective. The CEO of Cleveland window supplier Universal Windows Direct is shelling out $1.7 million to local customers. Why? It was part of a summer 15th anniversary promotion to challenge the local baseball team into winning 15 straight games. If the Cleveland Indians managed a 15-game streak, the company promised to refund window purchases from throughout the year. Against all expectations, the Indians did just that, and Universal Windows Direct refunded thousands to approximately 220 customers, with a smile. The campaign generated enormous good will, with many customers vowing to spend at least some of the money on more windows. The ball club was also on board as they now march toward the play-offs. The PR outcomes won’t be known until the season’s over, but outlets from NPR to CNBC and USA Today have covered the company in glowing terms, and even the $75,000 insurance policy it purchased for the promotion seems worth it. What separates this sports challenge from others is the company’s attitude – it adopted a “go big or go home” mindset and embraced the payout instead of finding a loophole out of it. Winners all around.

Local Author Stages Book-Signing at Favorite Retailer… 7-Eleven?

We love the story of Orlando, Florida author Kristen Arnett, who will celebrate the publication of her short story collection, Felt in the Jaw, at her local 7-Eleven later this month. The author feels at home at 7-Eleven, calling it her “convenience store second home” and she knows her readers will, too. This story, already picked up by the New York Times, resonates as a PR win for its smart take on the unexpected. Book and author events at bookstores or trendy restaurants are a dime a dozen. But, Arnett’s clever juxtaposition of Slurpees and beef jerky with literary fiction adds spice to the typical book event. We also appreciate the authentic connection between author and venue. Interestingly, this is the second time in recent weeks that 7-Eleven has found itself in fairly erudite journalistic circles. Last month’s need for eclipse eyewear earned the retailer a spot in Food & Wine magazine as a prime purveyor of the coveted specs.

Hotel Chain Drinks From the Fountain of Youth

European hotel chain Warner Leisure has a core audience of older, even elderly, travelers with healthy incomes. Recently the chain sought to retain that audience while expanding to a somewhat younger group, namely 55+ Boomers.  Together with Bompas & Parr, a customized food experience company, the chain created the world’s first “anti-aging gin.” According to the packaging, “Anti-aGin” touts ingredients like collagen, antioxidants and ‘skin-healing’ botanicals to help ‘reduce cellulite and sun damage’. Does the gin work? Well, does it matter? The campaign is on-brand, and according to the agency that created the initiative, it earned over a thousand pieces of coverage, with highlights including The Daily TelegraphMarie Claire, and Mashable.

Netflix Pops Up with a Gilmore Girls Diner

Celebrating the 16th anniversary of the first episode of the cult favorite “Gilmore Girls,” Netflix smartly brought to life one of the show’s cultural touchstones.
It transformed 250 cozy local U.S. and Canadian coffee shops into one of the fans’ favorite settings for the show’s Luke’s Diner. The shops promised free coffee and a comfy nostalgic return to the original series. Not every brand has the budget for a promotion this big, but it’s the thinking behind the tie-in that really hits, because it’s so true to the brand. Like the best PR-driven ideas, it is creatively designed yet simply executed.

Irish Independent Coffee “Davids” Protest Starbucks’ “Goliath”

This “protest” may not have achieved the desired effect – preventing Dublin’s 51st Starbucks from opening – but coverage resulting from the stunt served as a reminder for the citizenry to appreciate their local vendors. Here’s how it worked: independent coffee shops in Dublin banded together to offer free coffee to all for an entire day. The group was reacting to what they see as “corporate coffee creep” and its impact on their business. According to local media, the protests won’t keep Starbucks away – can anything? But local caffeine providers claimed victory for raising the visibility of indie options and reminding consumers that they have a choice. An interesting footnote is the protest’s apparent “life imitating art” quality. A famous episode of South Park presaged the entire event in 1998.

Cautionary note – for every PR stunt that is a well-executed success, there are many flops. We recently wrote about KFC’s ill-fated experiment in chicken-scented sunscreen products. It seems that isn’t the brand’s only foray into branded beauty. Who can forget KFC flavored nail colors, including Original Recipe and Hot & Spicy? Apparently many! But we give them props for trying.

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