Vox pop: Brand marketing stunts to remember (Part 1)

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Clockwise from top left: BWP, Selesti, RocketMill, The Clearing, Cuckoo, The Future Factory, Pretty Green, JA & Associates

Beer giants Budweiser have just launched their new campaign at SXSW which involves them pushing to be the first human product to be consumed when man eventually steps foot on Mars. As scientists search for life on Mars and plot a way for people to live there in the future, Budweiser is hard at work figuring out how to make life in space a little more fun by developing a beer made just for the Red Planet.

We asked our Drum Network members what their favourite brand marketing stunts have been in the past few years and why?

Adam Wilson, business director, BWP Group

At the core of Paddy Power’s brand sits a value that the majority would go nowhere near – mischief. Forever close to the bone and yet oozing authenticity in a way that is virtually impossible not to love (or appreciate at the very least). One of their finest pieces of work was the ‘Sky tweets’ stunt during the 2012 Ryder Cup – five planes writing cheeky messages in the sky from supportive European fans, mocking and taunting the US Team. Provocative, harmless humour gaining admiration from players and fans alike – yet a stunt that inescapably cemented the brand into people’s minds. Great craic!

Chris Gedge, paid search manager, Selesti

Red Bull Stratos was a space diving project involving Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner. On 14 October 2012, Baumgartner flew approximately 39 kilometres (24 miles) into the stratosphere over New Mexico, United States, in a helium balloon before free falling in a pressure suit and then parachuting to Earth. The total jump, from leaving the capsule to landing on the ground, lasted approximately 10 minutes. Reaching 1,357.64 km/h (843.6 mph), Baumgartner broke the sound barrier on his descent, thus becoming the first human to do so without any form of engine power. Measurements show Baumgartner also broke two other world records.

Chris Philpot, head of technical SEO, RocketMill

Did you know the NHS needs the equivalent of 6,000 blood donations every single day? To raise awareness, they teamed up with Engine Group for the campaign #MissingType. Together they persuaded global brands to drop the As, Bs and Os from their logos, websites and shopfronts. Across a week in late 2016, consumers shopped at Tesco, read the Mirror, searched on Google, ate Marmite and drank Coca Cola. #MissingType enjoyed global press, TV and online coverage. As a result, 30,000 people registered as blood donors during the week of this eye-catching, award-winning campaign.

Rosalind Bull, consultant, The Clearing

I love Dove. Their original ‘Real Beauty’ sketches and recent ‘Choose Beautiful’ campaign, where women were asked to enter a shopping centre through a door marked ‘Average’ or one marked ‘Beautiful’, had a real impact on me. Why? Because it was a PR stunt that did more than simply benefit the brand – it had a positive effect on society, pointing out how the portrayal of women is making so many feel inadequate. And this told women they’re not alone in having these thoughts. Other brands have copied Dove – just look at This Girl Can, Nike’s #BetterForIt campaign, Always #LikeAGirl – but Dove were one of the first to put female identity on the agenda. Wonderful Dove? Pretty close.

Richard Temple, board director, John Ayling & Associates

My favourite brand stunt ran quite a few years ago for Heinz Salad Cream. The creative strapline was “Any food tastes supreme with Heinz Salad Cream” and in many ways settles the age old debate about who gets briefed first – the creative or media department? In this case, the media agency Starcom took the strapline to its logical media conclusion. They bought a 96-sheet on one of the busiest arterial roads into London with just the strapline on a white background. They then hired Mr Mange-Tout from the Jim Rose Freak Circus to eat it over the two week in-charge period until just the logo was showing.

Emma Grace, managing partner, PrettyGreen

A good brand-marketing stunt should unleash the green-eyed monster amongst us all. A feeling of envy driven by an overwhelming desire “I bloody wish I had thought of that”…quickly followed by “so simple!” ...Because the best brand marketing stunts are just that. Simple. Easily described in a sentence. Like the recent "Pass the Heinz" stunt in the US. Heinz brings Mad Men’s Don Draper's campaign idea to life in the real world. Genius.

Priyanka Patel, senior account manager, The Future Factory

A stunt that captured my imagination in recent years has to be the launch of a pseudo-brand (though we didn’t know it at the time) Persona Synthetics. With realistic adverts alongside branded social media, live eBay auctions and a storefront with interactive display on Regent Street, many believed this multi-channel campaign about AI technology and synthetic humans was the real deal! Instead it turned out to be the perfect way for Channel 4 to announce the second series of their hit TV programme Humans whilst bringing us closer to facing the unsettling possibilities of our increasingly technology-led existence.

Phil Rainey, board & creative director, Cuckoo

Keeping in with the music theme I think some of the best marketing stunts are within this sector. My favourite and most recent would be the Radiohead ‘Crop Circle' on the Glastonbury festival site. It allowed both the band and the festival to announce their headline slot jointly, with a striking visual and supporting video that was perfect for going viral. It helps when you’re the biggest band and biggest festival in the world, but whilst the scale of this was literally massive, it was also so simple.

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Andy Black

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