How to: Create your own publicity stunt
Publicity stunts are a great way of increasing sales.
Over the years, there have been some great ones, and some not so great ones.
We're going to go through 10 types of publicity stunts, unpacking their different styles, as well as tell you how you can create your own.
At the end we'll reveal our all time top 3 publicity stunts.
Coach Buzz says:
It’s important that you have the rest of your business set up to handle the significant increase in attention that a successful publicity stunt can bring. For example:
- Your website must be able to handle more visitors
- You or your employees must be able to handle the increase in social media interactions
- Your payment provider is able to handle more transactions
- Your logistics provider can handle more deliveries etc
You don't want to end up like Uber Eats.
10 Types of Publicity Stunts
#1 Embarrass your competitors.
Two great examples of this are the Mac vs PC ads (saying what everyone else is thinking)
And Richard Branson's blimp (humour) stunt where Virgin made fun of BA having trouble erecting (pardon the pun) the London Eye. (see both videos video below)
This is probably the most difficult type of publicity stunt you can do. As you don't want to come across too arrogant, or too aggressive.
You have to know where "the line" is in your industry/with your audience and not to cross it, (but you can get pretty close)
A good sense of humour is vital here, as well as saying what everybody else is thinking about your competitor.
It's important to know your audience well - because they will be the ones to defend you against people who dislike your publicity stunt.
For example, Virgin's sexual innuendo will have put off those with a more conservative sense of humour. But those who love the brand, defended it and enjoyed it.
Coach Buzz says:
If you're being talked about offline, trending on Twitter, featured on the news. Then your publicity stunt has succeeded!
#2 Be (very) different.
Here you want to take being different to a whole new level. These publicity stunts are probably the most controversial.
For example, Dove is in the beauty industry: a sector infamous for its unattainable standards. Dove went full 180 degrees and focused on "real beauty", causing an industry stir by using models that millions of women can relate to.
This was in addition to a viral video (show below) depicting how easy it is for a woman to look “perfect”
Dove attacked an entire industry, but it turned out to be lucrative - they boosted their sales from $2.5 billion to $4billion between 2004 - 2014.
#3 Create a viral event and film it.
People love story/drama. Don't believe us? Check the number of dramatic shows on TV nowadays.
Here you want to get people asking "who did that?" after being put through a rollercoaster of emotions.
Coach Buzz says:
The overriding feeling you want people who comes across your stunt to feel is "I need to share this"
#4 Put your business where your mouth is.
Be the biggest user of your product/service. It's even better if there is something for you to lose/at stake by using it. This type of stunt can be particularly effective if you’re in an industry with high stakes e.g. security, healthcare etc.
Here at BuzzRamp, we're implementing this technique by using BuzzReports.
# 5 Break a World Record.
The phrase "world record" tends to attract a lot of curiosity. It's easier than you think to break a world record, they don’t all involve running at 25 mph.
Here are some of the weirdest world records in existence. Find a record one that you think you can break (that’s relevant to your business). Or you can create one for the first time. It might not be recognised by the Guinness Book of Records, but it will still get you loads of publicity.
#6 Use an event or holiday.
You’re probably already thinking about doing some Christmas, Thanksgiving or Black Friday marketing. Great.
Now what if you could amplify what you were/are going to do? Don’t just do a “safe” bit of marketing; go huge, all out, to your capabilities.
For example, Google created a “Santa tracker” which allows people to check up on Lapland as well as the big man’s progress getting the presents out in the run up to Christmas.
This is a great example because it’s on brand. Google is a tech company so it's relevant and even grown-ups get excited about the possibility of “seeing” Santa Claus.
#7 Celebrity Endorsements.
This can be a tricky type of publicity stunt simply because celebrities (particularly the higher profile ones) are inundated with requests to promote other people’s businesses.
So even if yours is a great match, the likelihood of it being seen is slim. Sometimes it’s a case of celebs coming across your marketing organically and wanting to get involved.
If you're lucky enough to get a (relevant) celebrity on board ensure you make the most of their time and profile (get them to post about what they did for you all over their social media channels etc.).
A great example of a celebrity endorsement done well is Tiger Woods teeing off on top of the world's tallest free standing hotel Dubai's Burj Al Arab to open to annual Dubai Desert classic competition.
#8 Make a famous landmark your second home.
The Tower of London, Hadrian’s Wall, Stonehenge, The Eiffel Tower, Golden Gate Bridge.
These types of landmarks always have a lot of eyes on them. If you manage to pull off a publicity stunt at a famous landmark then you won't need a news crew, the tourists will do the work for you!
A massive issue in your way here is getting permission to pull of this kind of stunt legally.
Due to the high profile status of these types of buildings/sites. You’ll have to get permission from some very powerful people if you wanted to pull off a large scale stunt.
A great example of this is what Maryland did at Trafalgar Square.
#9 Piggyback onto someone else’s publicity stunt.
Thousands of New Yorkers take part in it. Brave people those New Yorkers.
The hair removal company Shobha capitalised on this by sending a pair of hair-free people around New York City in Shobha branded underwear.
So people are already looking at other people’s pants and now they’ll see Shobha too. It's now spread to London and other cities around the world.
#10 Go Huge.
In marketing and publicity, a lot of the time bigger is better.
It's also even better to increase the size of things that people don't expect.
For example, for the release of Michael Jackson's HIStory album in 1995, Sony created giant statues of him and placed them in major cities around the world.
This gathered worldwide attention at a time where there was no Social Media and the Internet was in its infancy.
Our top 3 publicity stunts (in no particular order)
Why? One of the most profitable movies ever made (a budget of $60,000 and worldwide box office figures were over $245 million) Also one of the most creative and elaborate publicity stunts that we know of.
Originally intended to be a fake documentary, the movie used innovative marketing techniques such as:
• Handing out fake missing person leaflets to universities, helping to convince the public that the actors were MIA.
• Limiting the release to 27 screens
• Gradually adding information to the website about the actors, giving off the impression of a real life story unfolding.
• Keeping the actors out of the media’s eye to further fuel the rumours that some of them were either missing or dead.
The marketing team at The Blair Witch Project showed that it's not the size of the budget, it's what you do with it. (which is what we're all about here at BuzzRamp)
Why? Powerful, Effective, Brave. Dove exposed an entire industry and said what millions of people thought was wrong about the beauty industry on a global platform.
Why? Simple, effective, relevant.
Carlsberg sell beer. The poster claims to be the best in the world. The poster gives away free beer. So it has a strong case.
Ensure your business is ready to handle the increase in attention
Timing is everything, responding too quickly or too slowly to an event can ruin a publicity stunt.
Be sure you get the tone right, the last thing you want to do is upset your audience.
Overstretch yourself trying to do it. Remember that the Blair Witch Project had only $60,000 for their entire movie. But they did it right and ended up making $248 million.
Do anything without checking if it is relevant to your business and business objectives first.
You've got the information on how to create your own publicity stunt. Now it's time to go and do it.
Let us know how it goes!
Until next time
Asher & The BuzzRamp team