The Best PR Stunts of All Time

A deep dive into the most effective PR stunts

May 29, 2024
The Best PR Stunts of All Time

A publicity stunt is a planned event designed to attract public attention and generate media coverage. These stunts are usually bold, creative, and sometimes controversial, aiming to create a buzz and get people talking about a brand or issue.

By capturing the imagination of the public and media, a PR stunt can significantly boost a brand's visibility and reputation.  

Why are PR stunts effective?

PR stunts are effective because they break through the noise of everyday marketing. A well-executed stunt stands out and captures attention in a world saturated with advertisements and promotions.

PR stunts work well because they have viral potential. Memorable stunts can go viral, particularly on social media, reaching a global audience quickly.

Journalists and media outlets also love covering unusual and exciting events, so PR stunts can generate lots of coverage if successful.

Creative stunts also leave a lasting impression, making the brand more memorable so stunts are great for brand recall. They’re also great for engagement as they often encourage public participation, promoting a connection with the audience.

From the famous publicity stunts of Houdini in the early 20th century to modern viral sensations, PR stunts have always been a way to captivate the public’s attention and drive media coverage. While PR stunts have been around for decades, they have certainly evolved with the times.

What types of PR stunts are there?

There are various types of PR stunts, each suited to different goals and audiences. For example:

Guerrilla Marketing: These tend to be low-cost, high-impact stunts that involve unconventional and surprise elements in public places. E.g. putting temporary artwork on pavements, statues, or buildings.

Flash Mobs: These involve coordinated groups of people performing a choreographed routine in public to attract attention.

Publicity Stunts: These are larger-scale events designed to be newsworthy and attract widespread media coverage. E.g. floating something down the Thames or sending something into space.

Celebrity Endorsements: Leveraging the influence of celebrities, celebrity endorsements are a great way to create buzz and credibility.

Product Launch Events: These are the grand unveilings of new products to generate excitement and media interest.

The challenges of PR stunts

PR stunts can be extremely effective when properly and professionally organised and executed. However, they come with multiple risks and a high degree of unpredictability, which can be off-putting for some companies.

If executed well, a PR stunt can work wonders for a brand. However, not all PR stunts hit the mark as intended. This can prove highly damaging to a company’s image, possibly leading to negative press and creating harm to the brand's reputation.      

For a PR stunt to be successful, it should:  

Align with brand values: Ensure the stunt reflects the core values and message of the brand, as well as having a clear objective.

Be well-researched: Understand the target audience and anticipate potential reactions. Ensure that its original, creative, relevant, timely and newsworthy.

Include a contingency plan: Ensure every detail is planned and executed flawlessly. Prepare for unexpected outcomes and have a backup plan in place.

Focus on quality execution: Pay attention to detail and ensure the stunt is shared far and wide to reach as many key people as possible. Use social media to amplify the stunt's reach and impact.

Monitor and measure impact: Track the stunt’s performance through media coverage, social media engagement, and sales metrics and be ready to adapt if necessary.

Examples of the best PR stunts

Now, let's look at five of the most successful PR stunts, examining why they were effective and the results they achieved.

Red Bull Stratos - In 2012, Red Bull orchestrated one of the most daring PR stunts of all time by sponsoring Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner's jump from the edge of space. Baumgartner ascended to an altitude of 128,000 feet in a helium balloon and then free-fell back to Earth, breaking the sound barrier in the process.  

The stunt perfectly embodied Red Bull’s brand slogan, "Red Bull gives you wings." It captured the imagination of millions worldwide, set multiple world records, and was a scientific achievement.  

The live stream of the event attracted over 8 million viewers on YouTube, and the stunt generated millions of dollars in media coverage value, significantly boosting Red Bull's brand awareness and sales.  

Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches - Dove's 2013 campaign aimed to challenge women's perceptions of their own beauty. The brand hired a forensic artist to draw women based on their own descriptions and then based on descriptions from strangers. The differences were striking and highlighted how critical women can be of their own appearance.

It was effective because it tapped into a powerful emotional insight and aligned perfectly with Dove's ongoing Real Beauty campaign. It was highly shareable and sparked conversations about self-esteem and beauty standards.  

The video became one of the most viewed video ads of all time, with over 180 million views. It significantly enhanced Dove’s brand image and credibility, boosting consumer loyalty and sales.  

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge - The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014 involved people dumping buckets of ice water over their heads to raise awareness and funds for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Participants nominated others to take the challenge and donate to ALS research.  

It was simple, fun, and encouraged participation through social media nominations. The challenge spread like wildfire, with celebrities, politicians, and millions of people worldwide taking part.  

The campaign raised over $115 million for the ALS Association, significantly increasing awareness of the disease and funding critical research efforts.  

IKEA’s Sleepover in a Store - In 2011, IKEA hosted a sleepover event in one of its UK stores after a fan group on Facebook called "I wanna have a sleepover in IKEA" gained significant traction. The event included activities like massages, manicures, and bedtime stories.  

This was a great stunt because it engaged with fans in a fun and memorable way, showcasing IKEA's products in a real-life setting and generating extensive media coverage.  

The event received widespread media attention and positive coverage, reinforcing IKEA's brand as fun and customer friendly. It also strengthened customer loyalty and increased foot traffic to stores.  

Greggs' Vegan Sausage Roll - In January 2019, Greggs launched a vegan sausage roll. The stunt included a witty marketing campaign that played off the hype and controversy surrounding veganism. They even used a parody of an Apple product launch video to introduce the new product.  

The stunt cleverly tapped into the growing trend of plant-based diets while poking fun at the seriousness of tech product launches. The playful and bold approach generated significant media coverage and social media buzz.  

The vegan sausage rolls quickly became a best-seller, contributing to a significant increase in Greggs' sales and share price. The campaign also won several marketing awards and solidified Greggs' reputation for innovation.  

PR stunts, when executed well, can create a massive impact, and leave a lasting legacy. The examples above demonstrate the power of creativity and boldness in capturing public attention and achieving remarkable results. Whether it's jumping from the edge of space or simply challenging beauty standards, the best PR stunts always find a way to resonate with audiences and make a memorable impression.

How Hendrix Rose PR Can Help

At Hendrix Rose PR, we specialise in creating and executing unforgettable PR stunts that capture public imagination and drive significant media coverage. Our team of creative experts understands the intricacies of planning and delivering impactful stunts tailored to your brand's unique identity and goals.

Whether you're looking to launch a new product, enhance brand visibility, or engage with your audience in an innovative way, Hendrix Rose PR has the expertise and G

Get in touch if you’re interested in finding out more about how we can create buzzworthy moments that deliver measurable results and elevate your brand to new heights.