Success Stories & Publicity Stunts

by Mark Baker
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The use of publicity stunts by companies may be risky but when used correctly they can be very rewarding. While looking at cases of publicity stunts being performed in the past, there are many occasions where the outcomes of the stunts help the company tremendously and other’s that were not so lucky. When pursuing a publicity stunt it is important for companies to remember that the success of the company often determines the likelihood of a company with wanting to engage in a stunt. Publicity stunts can be great for companies who have a good reputation with public relations or companies who are declining in sales.

Looking at cases of previous publicity stunts, we are able to see different situations and techniques where the use of a publicity stunt is successful.


  • IHOP to IHOB

It can often be risky when companies perform publicity stunts, however, in the recent change in company name of “IHOP” to “IHOB”, subsequently brought new spotlight to the company. After experiencing a recent decline, 1.9 percent of sales in the most recent fiscal year, IHOP has chosen to take a cost effective form on advertising and re-marketing their brand to include new lunch options. By temporarily switching the P in IHOP to IHOB will allow the company to create free publicity as well as shed new light to the recent changes that are upcoming. Through the use of this stunt IHOP has successfully been able to generate thousands of people who are currently discussing the topic on social media. Finally, getting your message out through the use of a publicity stunt may sometimes not only be easier, but a lot less expensive too.



  • KFC’s Edible Nail Polish

While it may sound like an April Fool’s joke, last year KFC created a range of edible nail polishes that were, quite honestly, finger-lickin’ good. In an attempt for Hong Kong’s KFC, pushing to promote the brand in Asia, it launched two limited edition polishes in the flavors ‘Original Recipe’ and ‘Hot ‘n’ Spicy, which were beige and burnt orange. With the wait for the product release, KFC teased the concept on social media and even threw a launch party that was attended by a number of other influential beauty bloggers.



  • Warner Leisure Hotel’s Anti-age Gin

Warner Leisure Hotel’s gin dubbed ‘Anti-aGin’s’, ingredients include collagen, a variety of antioxidants, and a skin healing botanicals to help reduce cellulite and sun damage.  While there’s no real evidence that the gin actually has any real benefits, the stunt certainly seemed to have attracted some attention to the company as well as an increase in the sales of this product in other UK hotel bars.



  • Taco Bell Corp. Purchases The Liberty Bell

In the morning of April 1. 1996 Taco Bell placed an ad in The New York Times with a headline that read: “Taco Bell Buys the Liberty Bell.” A copy of the ad explained the Taco Bell was pleased to announce that they have agreed to purchase the Liberty Bell. In another press release, Taco Bell helpfully explained that people have been “adopting” highways for years and that purchasing a national treasure was just a way of furthering that idea. After thousands of calls and complaints were being made surrounding the topic, Taco Bell, by noon, admitted that it was an April fool’s joke. That day Taco Bell’s revenue increased by $500,000 and by $600,000 the next day.



  • Identity Theft Protection LifeLock

LifeLock is a personal identity theft protection company who’s CEO posted his personal social security number on the side of a van and invited people to try and steal his identity. It is confirmed that at least twenty-five people set out to cause harm with his SSN, however only one person succeeded in getting a $500 loan. LifeLock has managed to keep their good reputation in identity protection because of only having one small minor successful theft for a nationwide ad which is pretty impressive.


When creating a publicity stunt it is very important to remember the overall stunt is not more important than the function of the stunt itself. You should try to avoid any actions that may get out of hand to easily or are irreversible. For example, in an attempt to get people to buy train tickets to Texas, marketer William Crush decided to build a temporary city that would host a train crash. Even though the crowds were seated at a safe distance from the crash, things didn’t go according to plan when the trains, traveling at 45 mph, crashed in an explosion causing multiple fatalities. The benefits of crafting a successful publicity stunt can be rewarding, but, it is important to learn from the unsuccessful publicity stunts of the past such as the Texas train crash. Companies looking to pursue a publicity stunt need to ensure that the benefits always outrank any possible negative risks that may coincide.
Mark Baker

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