While some may hold the term “PR stunt” with a negative connotation, I don’t see it that way. A PR stunt is designed to attract attention and media to an event or cause. They tend to work and can be a lot of fun. Below I highlight 3 of my favorite PR stunts. While you read, consider ideas that your organization take away from these events. What would you add or do differently?
1. The Bluth Banana Stand on the streets of New York
In honor of Arrested Development being resurrected in 2013, a banana stand was open and operational in New York City on May 13, 2013. The dysfunctional Bluth family business came to life for fans wanting to celebrate the shows 4th season going to Netflix. Why is this brilliant? It brings the show to life. Isn’t that part of the reason Twitter is so successful? Individuals can interact with and personify brands. I love the idea of an actual Bluth Banana Stand; my only complaint is that it was temporary. Why not keep it open? “There’s always money in the banana stand.”
2. The Blair Witch Project
Deemed as the “Best Viral Marketing of All Time” – The plot involves 3 filmmakers going into the woods to investigate the Blair Witch legend. They go missing and the footage is found 1 year later. The film was shot mostly on hand-held cameras and used improvised lines, so the audience wasn’t sure if the documentary was fictitious or real.
(This is the genius part) The production company put together a website that went online in June 1998, one year before the film hit Sundance. The website was updated with “new information” as it was discovered. The team also joined online forums and shared mysterious information to build buzz. Additionally, low budget trailers peaked curiosity.
“The ads were mainly shown in college campuses, with a special feature on the Sci-Fi Channel. By avoiding mainstream cinema ads, they not only saved money, but made audiences believe that they’d stumbled on something special, discovering it for themselves” (Neil Davidson). Missing persons posters were even circulated. Brilliant. Check out the official website for more about the Blair Witch.
3. Red Bull Stratos – 1st human to break the sounds barrier
Setting records or being the first to do something is usually a good way to get attention. In 2012, Red Bull went above and beyond… literally.
By sponsoring the jump and working with Felix Baumagartner, Red Bull earned serious street cred with their extreme sports fan base and received over 8 million views. Red Bull Stratos was trending on Twitter, the BBC made a documentary of the event – as far as publicity stunts go, this was a home run. The risks paid off and the jump was a both a media and record-breaking success.
According to this article, the jump broke three records: highest jump, with an exit altitude of 128,100 feet; longest free fall at 4 minutes and 20 seconds, and maximum highest vertical velocity: Baumgartner fell 119, 846 feet or 36,529 meters reaching a maximum velocity of 373 meters per second or 833.9 miles an hour. Put another way, Mach 1.24–faster than the speed of sound.
With any “PR Stunt” or publicity-seeking project, think outside the box, don’t always rely on the usual tactics. Bring your brand to life and speak to the needs of your audience Do they want frozen bananas? Urban legends? To be impressed and inspired? Which of these is your favorite?