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Examples of Brands Leveraging Current Events for Timely Marketing Stunts

Brad. Peter and Angelina. Jolie announced her divorce on October 19, 2016, which was major news that shocked the world. Seventy-two hours later, Norwegian Air Shuttle announced a marketing campaign for a special flight from London to Los Angeles, with this message:

Actor, Los Angeles, newly single, great sense of humor, looking for a partner with similar interests.
They then ran a print ad with the fare to Los Angeles next to the headline “Brad Single.” The cheeky marketing campaign immediately became an internet sensation, drawing widespread coverage from all quarters. The company’s vice president of marketing said in “Marketing Activities” magazine: “Instant marketing gave us an opportunity to express our brand personality quickly, so we did a funny print ad with a simple title, “Brad Single”. The public picked up on the humor the ad was trying to deliver, and it’s gone viral.”

In the European Football Championship in 2004, England faced Portugal in the quarter-finals. England’s Saul. Campbell scored a wonderful goal, but the Swiss referee Urs. Maier ruled that the goal was invalid. England then missed a penalty and lost the game, and English fans were outraged. The morning after the race, Asda Opticians issued a press release announcing that it was offering free vision screenings for Swiss citizens in the UK. It was a bold, topical campaign from some quick-witted smart person noticing the opportunity, plus some senior marketing executive immediately approving the brash statement.

Few companies are nimble enough to launch a bold topical campaign in just a few hours. Typically, such a decision has to go through a lengthy approval process starting with the risk control department.

Burger King announced the launch of a new left-handed burger on April 1, 1998, and they placed a full-page ad in USA Today announcing the new meal option. Left-handed Whopper is specially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans, all Whopper ingredients and condiments are rotated 180 degrees. Thousands of customers flocked to order the product, while others insisted they wanted the traditional right-handed burger. Burger King issued a press release the next day stating that the Lefty Burger was a hoax. The company earned a lot of goodwill and publicity from this stunt.

As mentioned in the previous chapter, Paddy Bauer seized on the opportunity of the horsemeat scandal in 2013 to publish a horsemeat cookbook. It was a very funny move and got a lot of coverage.

Both topical marketing and thick-skinned marketing don’t cost a fortune, but they take courage, creativity and speed. It could result in big headlines and a message of your nimbleness and boldness.

But doesn’t this marketing run the risk of offending some customers? Yes, it is. Of course, you wouldn’t intentionally offend a customer – unless you’re Ryanair. Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said in an interview with “Marketing Activities” magazine: “Negative publicity sells more seats than positive publicity.” Don’t worry about your brand being damaged by some prank marketing activities. Instead, worry about it being overloaded with information forgotten in the world.

If you’re on a tight marketing budget, try trending topical topics, a horizontal approach that can create real impact.

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