Marketing stunts can garner a lot of attention in the media and among consumers, but if they’re not planned and executed properly, it might not be the kind of attention companies are seeking.
A “stunt” is, by definition, a daring move. Any brand that wants to pull off a successful one as part of a broader marketing campaign must make sure the event is surprising and compelling enough to capture interest without alienating consumers or rubbing them the wrong way.
The members of Forbes Agency Council possess expert insights into what makes a stunt work and, perhaps even more importantly, what can make them tank. To learn what not to do, see their advice below regarding the biggest don’ts to be aware of when planning a marketing stunt.
1. Not Having A Contingency Plan
Not having a Plan B in place is the biggest faux pas when planning a marketing stunt. For example, if you’re doing an event outdoors, you need to factor in potential bad weather and definitely have a backup plan for the day. There’s nothing worse than canceling an event due to a poorly executed strategy and plan. Make sure that you have access to power, too, if you are doing an outdoor event. – Adrian Falk, Believe Advertising & PR
2. Misrepresenting Sustainability Initiatives
Do not overpromise or underdeliver when it comes to sustainability announcements claiming to be aimed at stopping global warming. Consumers are informed enough to recognize greenwashing: PR spin attempting to convince the public an organization is environmentally friendly when it really is not. Consumers care about these issues and judge brands harshly if they’re found to misrepresent sustainability initiatives. – Jim Caruso, M1PR, Inc. d/b/a MediaFirst PR – Atlanta
3. Putting Your Brand Front And Center
The sheer intention of putting your brand front and center is the biggest “don’t” right now. In a world that feels fragile to many, consumers are demanding authenticity and purposeful campaigns. Slow initiatives are winning the game now. One example is the conscious beauty movement, which is making big waves through constant initiatives striving for healthy beauty. – Melanie Marten, The Coup
4. Launching A Stunt Around A Social Issue
Think twice before using a social issue in a marketing stunt. Time and again, companies have made big blunders while trying to craft stunts around various movements. For example, Burger King created an insensitive ad during Mental Health Awareness Month with its #feelyourway campaign, singling out its competition rather than being receptive to customer needs. Often, it’s better to opt for less risk in these scenarios. – Evan Nison, NisonCo
5. Not Having A Defined End Channel In Mind
One big “don’t” when it comes to pulling off a marketing stunt is launching one without a defined end channel in mind. When it comes to digital marketing, a campaign for TikTok should look entirely different than one for YouTube. The more your stunt aligns with current trends or formats that perform well on your desired channel, the better position you’ll be in to get the most out of your campaign. – Cam Wilkie, func.media
6. Expecting To See An Immediate Impact
Don’t assume your “stunt” will see an immediate impact. Be prepared to spend weeks or months after your stunt promoting reactions on social media. Don’t be surprised if you start seeing your return down the road. Payless Shoes’ Palessi stunt may have gotten early influencer traction, but the real payoff came much later when the story went viral—showing how fashion influencers were fooled. – Bernard May, National Positions
7. Failing To Ensure You Have The Final Say In Contests
When running stunts using votes, make sure you have a way to select a winner from the entries. Online communities can brigade polls and votes to be funny. For example, Taylor Swift once held a contest to do a concert at a school, and the winning entry was a school for deaf children. Make sure you have a way to have the final say on the winner if things get out of hand. – Brian Meert, AdvertiseMint
8. Not Accurately Portraying The Brand Or Its Product Or Service
A big “don’t” in marketing is creating an advertising campaign that doesn’t accurately portray the brand or that inaccurately represents the results of the product or service. Stick to the tried-and-true attributes of your product that can be tested and validated by a number of sources, and then creatively market them with a jingle or dance that will keep your customers coming back. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC
9. Failing To Confirm That The Stunt Won’t Violate Any Laws
Ten-plus years ago, we had just launched our marketing company, and we were located on a busy highway in Loveland, Colorado. To draw attention to our sign, we dressed up mannequins as superheroes. The payoff was huge, as we were branded “the superheroes of marketing.” We eventually had to take the mannequins down though, as it violated city ordinances. Rule of thumb: Check with your local government before your next stunt. – Jerry Kelly, Marketing 360®