The Seattle Times reported today about a recent high flying PR maneuver by the Seattle Police Department. As is well known, Washington State recently passed legislation that allows for recreational marijuana use. To celebrate the new found liberty, bud enthusiasts are going to gather together at Hempfest, a three day long pro-cannabis event. The police department there has decided to take advantage of the opportunity and use it for educating the masses regarding legal aspects of marijuana use, as well as answering FAQs. The medium for their message will be a complimentary bag of Doritos.
And the name of the project is Operation Orange Fingers.
The social media and PR for the PD has been absolutely amazing. Normally I hate reading Tweets as usually they are some dire combination of egocentric, banal, and delivering info that I just don’t care about. However, the Tweets for this project are utterly fantastic. (See below.) Now the only question that remains is if I can swing the same thing in reverse here in NYC: if I bring a whole bunch of Doritos to Times Square will the police respond in kind by handing out free dime bags? Hmmm….
Giving away stuff has always been an old PR standby. Set up shop, announce the handout, and watch people (hopefully) flock to your booth/store/ event. Then (even more hopefully) hope that said handout inspires more purchases, name recognition, and overall profitability. It’s a fairly simple equation, and it makes one wonder why it seems at times so hard to get it right. Here’s two very recent examples that cause the eyebrows to arch ever so slightly.
1. Horror Movie Themed Ice Cream Trucks
The Media: Check it out here.
The Promo: Insidious 2 looks to build awareness by designing themed ice cream trucks promoting the film. Participants get a free ice cream if they share the event on social media.
The Positive: Ice cream is an effective draw and is relatively cheap in terms of a PR budget.
The Eyebrow Lift: There’s nothing interesting about this event, and no reason why media or anybody else would want to share it. Even though social media can push something viral with the right critical mass, that presumes that the content is interesting to begin with. There’s no captivating idea here or stunningly visual eye candy.
2. Free Cell Phones
The Media: Check it out here.
The Promo: LG looks to build excitement in South Korea for its new G2 phone. A ton of helium balloons are released with coupons attached, and whoever snags one gets a free phone.
The Positive: Free smart phones can certainly draw a crowd. Furthermore, the promise of playful elbowing in an attempt to snag the balloons can certainly provide for some humorous YouTube action.
The Eyebrow Lift: Did anybody realize how popular a free smartphone might be? How about spear and BB gun popular with 20 people getting injured. Bad event planning all around. (Although still some decent PR. Who wouldn’t want a phone that somebody was willing to maim for?)
The WSJ recently reported on an old school PR stunt that was taking place in the Big Apple. Broad Financial, a purveyor of self-directed retirement plans, put together a mobile acapella quartet that walked around the city singing about New York and self-directed retirement investing. The hook for the show was the costumes that the singers were wearing. Each one represented an iconic NYC skyscraper, and towered over pedestrians at a height of ten feet. Now singing performers used to be the old (as in decades old) standby for company publicity, but the notion has seemingly met its demise at the hand of a vibrant social media. It will be interesting to see if a classic attempt at entertaining the crowd will convert into greater brand awareness.
John Vassilaros is running for Mayor of New York. Sort of.
Mr. Vassilaros is the president of Vassilaros & Sons, a coffee company that has been based in New York City for longer than most of its inhabitants have been alive. The company wants to expand beyond its mostly commercial base and get a foot in the consumer market. The PR means to do so is a mock mayoral campaign with all the bells and whistles that standard candidates would use. (And with a campaign cost of $1,000,000, this is not a few funny flyers just run off on a copying machine.)
Although fake political campaigns have a rich history as an effective marketing device, this one is unique in the fact that the intended audience is only NYC. Besides the fact that all media is national, (not withstanding the fact that all politics are local,) here we have a case of a local company trying to stay local and competing against the big national companies in order to do so. Can a relatively small time coffee supplier win the war against Starbucks and other prominent brands? Let the voters decide.
Read more about it here.
This is more a clever commercial than a PR outing, especially as the souped up wheels won’t be showing up anywhere besides TV land. That being said, the image being touted is arresting enough that everybody’s going to be sharing it anyway. What Dad can resist the masculization of the final frontier? Good work. The only downside is that connecting it with the product actually being promoted, a new Skoda car, might eventually prove difficult.
Read more about it here.
A recent PR stunt from Douwe Egberts has airport patrons receiving a free coffee when it senses that they are yawning. Obviously that’s a clever trigger, but is it enough to push through a brand? I’d be very surprised if this really got their sales pumping, especially as it seems they have a distribution issue. (I’ve never seen them anywhere before this.) Is the cart being pushed before the horse? (Am I falling into antiquated cliche?) And just on a conceptual note, does it make sense to associate yawning with coffee in the customer’s mind? Wouldn’t a coffee manufacturer want to associate alertness with a specific cup of java? If I’m sleepy, a yawning trigger would make me think of Douwe Egberts but not neccesarily as a wake-up inducer.