Heinz turns #BlueMonday bright red

I’ve written before about how celebration days, awareness days and national holidays can be used to build a Content Calendar that will help you plan your communications activity for the year ahead. They’re a great tool for identifying opportunities for a PR stunt, a bit of thought leadership or a timely social media campaign.

I spotted a great example of this being put into action by a big brand today when the team at Heinz delivered an effective PR stunt on what has become known as “Blue Monday”.

According to mathematicians, a combination of grey skies and failed New Year’s resolutions means Monday 16th January is officially #BlueMonday – the most depressing day of the year (source: Cheapflights.com)

The stunt was simple:

  1. Place cans of Heinz’s famous tomato soup in bright red, ‘In case of emergency – break glass’ boxes in highly photographic locations around London
  2. Send strong images – like the one featured by Secret London below – to the media with a compelling caption or two
  3. Encourage the spread of user-generated #BlueMonday content across social media
  4. Revel in the thanks of grateful soup eaters (and maybe a picture desk editor or two)


It’s a good case study for seizing an opportunity that provides a strong platform to communication your brand message. In this case, Heinz was keen for its tomato soup to be associated with warmth and comfort – everything that Blue Monday is not – so they presented their product as the solution to the most depressing day of the year.

Time for a nice warming bowl of soup, I think…


Do big PR stunts still equal big results?

I’m a big fan of PR stunts and always keep an eye out for the best new ideas.

Even in this highly digital day and age, the impact and talkability of big stunts means they’re still, in my opinion, one of the most effective ways of generating lots of coverage.

It seems Blinkbox and the BBC agree…

Blinkbox’s Game of Thrones PR stunt

Last summer, Blinkbox placed a giant (bus-sized!) dragon skull on a beach in Dorset to promote the release of Game of Thrones season 3.

Source: econsultancy.com

Source: econsultancy.com

Most of the press photos were unbranded, increasing the chance of them being published in mainstream media, and approximately 250 pieces of press coverage were generated.

It was a huge success in anyone’s book.

BBC’s Doctor Who PR stunt

Earlier this week, the BBC unveiled a very similar stunt by ‘crash landing’ a replica Tardis in central London to promote the new series of Doctor Who.

Source: econsultancy.com

Source: econsultancy.com

Not only was the PR stunt incredibly visual and perfect for generating shareable photos (like the one above), the stars of the show were on hand to ramp up the excitement even further and provide even more PR opportunities.

Well done, BBC. I certainly would have wanted to share this photo.

Have you seen any other recent examples that help prove the PR stunt is still a serious contender for raising awareness?

Can you spot a PR stunt a mile off?

PR stunts are a great tool for very quickly raising awareness of your brand – but how savvy are people becoming about them? Do you think you could spot a PR stunt a mile off or are you easily duped into believing everything you read?

A PR stunt involving a lot of wine! (Source: taylorherring.com)

A PR stunt involving a lot of wine! (Source: taylorherring.com)

I spotted a couple of contenders in the press last week – what do you think of these two?

1. Mail Online:

An online gift website is – apparently – recruiting to fill the position of ‘Living Luxury Executive’; someone who will enjoy food at fine restaurants, stay at top hotels, wear designer jewels, road test fast cars and more.
The company claims it will definitely employ someone for this role – but how long will it last? Real or stunt – you decide.
2. BBC.co.uk:

Chessington bans ‘baffling’ animal print clothing

According to one wildlife park in Surrey, animals are becoming ‘baffled’ by visitors who wear animal print when they visit so they are banning these items of clothing from now on.

The article admits that other zoos have confirmed this is not the case for them, so could this be a stunt to raise awareness for Chessington’s new African experience (which is given a nice plug in the article)?
Let me know if you’ve seen any other contenders and what you think of these two!

Top 3 2013 April Fool’s Day PR and marketing stunts

Top 3 2013 April Fool's Day PR and marketing stunts

Last year one of this blog’s most popular posts was about PR and marketing stunts designed specifically for April Fool’s Day 2012.

Yet again, this year delivered some great examples of how to make the most of this annual opportunity. In reverse order, my top three for 2013 are:

3: A clever bit of April 1st social media marketing from women’s fashion brand Warehouse. It was a seemingly innocent ‘spot the difference’ competition on their Facebook page – only there were no differences at all. Simple but effective.

2: Pop group The Saturdays changing their name to The Fridays. I spotted this one via a story on Metro.co.uk that one of my friends shared on Facebook – it definitely had shareability! A quick Google search revealed absolutely loads of coverage for this brilliant April Fool’s story.

1: Google launching ‘treasure mode’ on its maps. The internet giant posted a spoof video on YouTube explaining how the hidden treasure could be discovered on the maps. Slick, sophisticated and very well thought through.

April Fool’s Day stunts are a great way of showing the world that your company has a sense of humour and they can get you some seriously good PR coverage. Just make sure you don’t kid too many people for too long and make your fans feel like fools. They may never forgive you!

Bodyform Responds and Coke Zero Unlocks the 007 in You

This week has given us two exceptional examples of great PR stunts. My post from earlier in the week about my top three PR stunts of all time may just have to be revised in the wake of these…

First up was Bodyform with a clever, funny and oh-so-memorable social media response video. Not one to take criticism (however cheeky) lying down, Bodyform proved it’s a brand that’s prepared to be brave with this reply to a post on its Facebook wall:

Next came Coke Zero’s PR stunt to promote its involvement with the new 007 movie, Skyfall. We’ve seen train station PR stunts before (T-Mobile’s flash mob was a great example) but this is a stroke of genius. Well done, Coke Zero, for this YouTube video of some commuters winning themselves 007 tickets (and earning you some big new fans in the process, I’d imagine):

All in all, a great week that’s sure to inspire PR people up and down the country.

PR stunts that really work – my top three

PR stunts can be a valuable tool if you need to make a big impact and have a reasonable budget to work with.

A memorable image created by a PR stunt can result in large pieces of coverage in national newspapers and can even be featured on the national news – but with so many brands competing for attention, how do you make sure yours is a hit?

I’ve compiled a list of my favourite three PR stunts of all time which should hopefully spark some ideas and provide some insight into what can be achieved by a well thought out stunt:

#3 – Lakeside’s Living Christmas Fairy

Source: Lakeside Shopping Centre

This was my first big PR stunt for Lakeside and the results were phenomenal. Coverage was achieved in The Times; The Telegraph; The Sun; The Daily Star; Daily Mail; The Metro; Heat; OK!; ITV1’s Daybreak; Heart FM and more. It was also awarded PR Week’s Campaign of the Year accolade!

#2 – BA’s #HomeAdvantage for London 2012

Source: uk.eurosport.yahoo.com

Finding a way to publicly support Team GB as an Olympic sponsor when your main source of income is transporting people away from the UK was always going to be a challenge. But, British Airways found a brilliant way of declaring their support for our London 2012 athletes with this piece of large-scale ‘art’. It’s originality and audacity make it one of my all-time favourite PR stunts.

#1 – Virgin Atlantic’s Mockery of BA’s Troubled London Eye Launch

Source: successful-entrepreneurs.co.uk

It takes real guts to poke fun at one of your biggest competitors on a national scale. Sir Richard Branson has made a name for himself as one of the UK’s bravest marketers and this PR stunt is my all-time favourite because it was reactive, gutsy and – above all – so memorable that people still talk about it today.

Seizing an opportunity like BA’s London Eye launch difficulties simply has to be applauded. If you’re brave enough, taking a risk like this one may just pay dividends for years to come.

Businesses walking a fine line with social network exploitation

A former colleague of mine at Berkeley PR wrote a thought-provoking blog post this week about Gap’s logo redesign.

In case you haven’t heard; the fashion retailer recently trialled a new logo that was swiftly slated by social media users. I added a comment beneath the post:

It seems to me that the logo fiasco was actually a PR success for Gap. Whether you believe that “all publicity is good publicity” or not, it certainly got everyone talking about the clothes retailer and its strong, well-liked, established brand.

It also showed the world that this company is listening to its audience via social media. That’s a positive, forward-thinking message to be sharing with the market.

Not a bad result for such a naive branding error!

While my comment demonstrates that it initially seemed like Gap had made an honest mistake, people quickly began to wonder whether it was actually a sly move by the retailer designed to simply grab some headlines. The question on everyone’s lips became: is it a publicity stunt or a terribly misguided re-branding exercise? We may never know. It seems highly unlikely that the Gap team will come clean if it was a sham.

It has left me wondering, though, whether PR “stunts” will continue to succeed as people become savvier about how organisations can manipulate users on social networks. Could these kinds of exploit increasingly backfire, with companies being resented for employing such sly tactics?

It’s certainly food for thought.