Get in touch with our team
Feature image for 27.05.2016


4 min read

Why PR firms are winning with their big marketing campaigns

This article was updated on: 07.02.2022

When a brand new £90,000 white Range Rover was spotted outside Harrods – spray painted with the words ‘cheater’ and ‘hope she was worth it’ – you’d have been forgiven for thinking it was the work of a vengeful ex.

Days later and it was back in the news again when it was revealed to be an elaborate (and very expensive) PR stunt to promote the latest Revere Range Rover Vogue Knightsbridge edition.

But while my friends rolled their eyes at yet ANOTHER hoax, I couldn’t help but think about the clever marketing bods behind it, and how much they must be revelling in its success. They’d planted a seed and watched it grow; crowds gathered, they talked, they took pictures, they shared it on social media sites and as a result it grabbed the attention of local and national media.

It’s hard to say how many sales this will translate into (the car isn’t even out yet) but Google Trends shows a huge spike in search traffic for ‘Revere Range Rover Vogue’ this month. If only I had a spare £90,000….

Krispy Kreme launches a new donut – and the internet goes nuts

In the same month, Krispy Kreme launched its slightly-more-obvious-but-no-less-clever marketing campaign as it revealed its new Nutella doughnut flavour. ‘Accidently’ revealed, I should say, when a ‘confidential’ memo from Krispy Kreme to store managers was leaked. Customers could even get their hands on the latest doughnut from ‘a hole in the wall’ in Holborn, London (that part was true). This all came, very conveniently, at the same time as newspapers reported the $1.35 bn sale of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts to investment firm JAB Holdings.

Cast your mind back to February last year and you may remember B&Q doing a similar thing. A memo advising staff to prepare for Fifty Shades of Grey enquiries from customers was ‘leaked’ – resulting in 75 pieces of coverage in just 48 hours, according to PR Week.

The brand later admitted the memo was fake.

The list of examples could go on and on, and I’m sure we’ll see many more splashed across the headlines this year.

Playing the game of ‘is it, isn’t it?’

Interest is generated when something is shrouded in mystery.

Take the Range Rover example, some people thought it was the genuine act of revenge, while others had their suspicions right from the start. The Metro certainly did – but that didn’t stop it from joining in the debate, publishing an article with pictures of similar stunts played out over the years (see ‘Hope she was worth it’: Scorned lover sprays graffiti over Range Rover worth £90,000).

Why does the media give PRs the publicity they want?

Because they know their customers are talking about it. Through word of mouth, text, email, social media. They are discussing whether it’s real, whether it’s fake, and where are they going to turn to for answers?

The brand then gets another bite at the cherry when the whole thing does eventually turn out to be an elaborate stunt (See Truth behind the Range Rover that had ‘cheater’ sprayed on it).

So what’s the recipe for success?

It’s probably not the news you want to hear, but I’m afraid there isn’t one.

However, there is a combination of things you can do to maximise your chances of pulling off a good campaign.

Firstly, you’re going to have to get creative. Daring? Yes. Quirky? Yes. Controversial even? Perhaps – but make sure to stick on the right side of the law!

And it doesn’t have to be expensive either, there are many examples of successful publicity stunts that have done by small businesses (on tight budgets), that have caught the media’s attention.

Once you’ve got your idea, think of the where and when. Many PR stunts are successful because they’ve got their timing right. The clever thing about the B&Q hoax was that it was created to coincide with the launch of a highly anticipated and much talked about film (Google Trends shows a huge rise in search traffic for ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ last February).

Then there’s all the usual key events on the calendar, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween, Christmas, New Year’s. I always look forward to the April Fool’s Day hoaxes but this can become a crowded market.

Lastly, how are you going to generate the interest?

People are the key to this (they’re the target rather than going directly to the media).

Create something they’re going to be intrigued/shocked/impressed by, that they’re going to want to share on Facebook, tweet about on Twitter.

And then sit back and wait.

(Image credit – Flickr – Arcadio)