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Gini Dietrich

Old PR Stunts Don’t Drive Sales

By: Gini Dietrich | September 14, 2011 | 
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If you regularly read Spin Sucks, it won’t come as a surprise to you that I’m a really big believer in using PR and marketing to build income (and, in some cases, profits and higher margins).

Measuring results has become even easier during the past five years and, because of that, we have to stop doing things that grab media attention, but don’t make sense for the brand nor drive sales.

It’s our responsibility to measure results; it’s not the responsibility of our clients or our executives.

Our responsibility.

That’s why, when I see things like the following news segment with the Guinness Book of World Records-seeking World’s Finest Chocolate, I go a little nuts.

In fact, when Patti Knight brought it up in our staff meeting, I said, “Hello World’s Finest Chocolate? 1980 called and wants their PR stunt back.”

Before we talk about why this stunt won’t work, go ahead and watch the video. Don’t worry. I’ll wait for you.

(Click here to watch if you can’t view in your RSS feed.)

I’ll give them that the stats are pretty impressive: 12,000 pounds of chocolate that is 21 feet long. And they’ll win the record (or have won it). Pretty cool.

But answer me this:

  • Why is a “Think Big, Eat Smart” campaign coming from a chocolate bar company?
  • Why is a chocolate bar company talking to kids about portion control?
  • Why is a chocolate bar company that has nothing healthy in it talking to kids about eating smart?
  • How is this going to help them sell more chocolate? As Patti said, “I love chocolate, but this makes me sick to my stomach.”
  • How does this kind of media attention help them?
  • Is it disturbing to anyone else that they said, “Once we have their attention, we’ll talk to them about healthy eating and portion control.”? Um, Mr. CMO? Spin Sucks.

Maybe you’re saying, “But Gini. There is no such thing as bad PR. I mean, you’re talking about this stunt.”

Baloney. My talking about it isn’t going to make you find your nearest Cub Scout so you can order their chocolate, is it?

Why do we still insist on using old tactics that don’t drive sales?

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

128 comments
ArthurAnswers
ArthurAnswers

I have to say, I'm actually hungering for chocolate now... Haha, joking aside, I think that targeting is very important. But often I find that it's beneficial not to get tunnel vision. Somtimes it helps to think outside of the "target community". For example, if you're marketing towards influencers who bring about awareness of iPad cases (people at gizmodo, engadget or tech crunch, etc), you might not necessarily connect to fashion conscious buyers. You'd have to look in the fashionista bloggers, analyze the community for those who also happen to be geeks and mention fashionable iPad cases and reach out to them as well.The idea is that you aren't focusing on a specific community, but on the tribes (from any community) that are relevant for you. It's sometimes difficult to find them, but they exist and there are tools to help you find them.

Shelley Pringle
Shelley Pringle

Just had to share this. It's a Hot Wheels stunt at the Indy 500 called Fearless at the 500. I didn't watch the video, but I did check out the slides to get the top-line on it. There are great results (12,000 Facebook fans 5 minutes after the ABC show aired!). Here's the link: http://goo.gl/oBVyV. Now that is a great example of a stunt done right (of course, they must have spent a gazillion dollars on it).

Dunn4
Dunn4

Okay, I’ll be the contrarian here. Let’s assume for a minute that this marketing professional is not a fool. His company sells candy bars through kids trying to raise funds for their schools. Kids are their sales force. Successful sales organizations consistently rev up their sales force through events and incentives that result in immediate, measurable sales bumps. He explained that they are touring this World Record candy bar, and interactive experience to kids all over the country. It may be an old idea, but big stuff and World Records still get kids excited... They aren't as jaded as adults yet. They are going to give their sales force an exciting brand experience, something to talk about and an education on how their product isn’t so bad in moderation…. Now go sell!

In terms of the news piece, it could be more elegant, but the message got to parents that a local business called “World’s Finest Chocolate” is getting recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records and is trying to teach kids about healthy eating. Most adults know that chocolate can be healthy in moderation… I don’t see how that is spin. Maybe those parents won’t even mind selling some of that chocolate around the office to help their child’s school fundraiser.

WordsDoneWrite
WordsDoneWrite

Thanks for being the voice of reason on this. Sure, you're talking about it, but as you say, "Show me the money"! Unless you're in school, or have a kid in school, WFC isn't a part of your world. It's not in stores so the average consumer can't even buy it if they wanted to!

ewittke
ewittke

1980s PR Method: Big chocolate bar awes audiences and makes them aware of [chocolate brand].

2011 PR Method: [Chocolate brand] triggers a viral chocolate fanatic revolution, and perhaps even establishes a new cultural meme. As Bob Dylan would say, the times have a'changed.

And why put on a mask of healthiness when people are fanatic about chocolate already? Go with the flow! Never understood the desire to try and spin this kind of stuff.

EdieGalley
EdieGalley

Here is a great idea how about making the worlds biggest cigarette to "get kids attention" and then teach them about the healthy habits of not smoking.

I mean come on, isn't it ok because we are just doing it to get their attention?

Nikki Little
Nikki Little

If any PR person seriously believes there is "no such thing as bad PR," then we need to boot them out of this industry. That is all. :)

JGoldsborough
JGoldsborough

My favorite part of the video is the end. Because at that point the CMO has unveiled his world-record bar. He smiled for the camera. And then the story is over. The camera is off. And I imagined to myself that his next meeting after filming that clip might be with the CEO. He shows him the bar. The CEO says "Wow!" He talks to him about the months of employees' time it took to make the bar and the CEO says "Wow!."He tells him the bar was just unveiled on live TV and the CEO says "Wow!"

Then the CEO asks the CMO one simple question: "So has this campaign gone well?" And you know what the CMO says? Nothing. Because he never thought about strategy. Never considered setting objectives. Never thought about -- perish the thought -- driving sales. Never thought about laying the groundwork for developing sustainable brand affinity.

Campaigns like this might get peoples' attention. But they're not the kind of attention getting we as communicators want to be doing. If you think a stunt like this makes any executive take PR and marketing seriously or helps them see us as worthwhile strategic counselors, please pass me what you're smoking. And then maybe I'll eat some chocolate.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

Chocolate is chock full of anti-oxidants and it gives kind of a euphoria one gets from prozac. Plus it help you work on your chewing skills. And has just enough caffeine to juice up your day. And wait that is not all! The lovely brown color helps kids learn their colors. Is it Sepia? Burnt Umber? Who knows. Oh and btw THAT'S NOT ALL! We also give everyone who gets a piece a free carton of Pall Mall Unfiltereds!

I must say streaming video still sucks after all these years. Or maybe it's the high speed cable? You would think after all these years video would be seamless.

Anyway stupid dumb ridiculous. If they wanted to do this, do it for charity. Give it to the homeless.

John_Trader1
John_Trader1

Land sakes alive, I go away for three days unplugged and come back with a post about the brand of chocolate that I used to sell door to door as a wee lad to raise money for my school.

There is nothing that I can say here in my comment section that hasn't already been touched on other that what do you think Michelle Obama's reaction to this was if she saw it? As a staunch advocate to battle childhood obesity (this is an absent minded campaign btw -- it's the equivalent of big tobacco telling you to stop smoking) wouldn't it have been a smarter PR campaign to involve her "Let's Move!" campaign (http://www.letsmove.gov/) with this and somehow portrayed it in a better light? Let the world know that we are The World's Finest Chocolate and even though we sell food that kids shouldn't be eating in volume, we support Mrs. Obama's campaign and we hope you do too. Simple, no gimmicks, no stunts. Perhaps this would have garnered more positive attention for their brand.

CharPennyAnn
CharPennyAnn

Oh geeze! Totally with you on this one Gini. Why, Why, Why? I don't get the slogan "Think Big, Eat Smart" If I'm thinking about eating smart then "big" is not in my vocabulary. I better stop here.

RAntonette
RAntonette

First, just to ask the obvious question, are the news anchors talking in slow motion because the video is sped up? The L.A. morning anchors talk MUCH faster!

Anyway, the visual (and stunt) and message are so incongruent, it makes no sense. Someone decided that idea one + idea two worked hand in hand, but they simply don't.

Also, the concept strikes me that WFC is about to give me a smaller buy for the price ... portion control!

Tinu
Tinu

Okay so first, this sentence alone make me want to turn your blog into my religion: "we have to stop doing things that grab media attention, but don’t make sense for the brand nor drive sales."Second - OMG you are so 100% correct about this. WHY?????????Why. Why? !I can't even.... I can't.

CarlThress
CarlThress

Kinda reminds me of a Taco Johns/Pepsi promo I saw where you were supposed to text the word PEPSI to some number for a free combo upgrade and "healthy living tips." I posted a photo of it to Twitpic with the caption: "Healthy living tips: 1. Don't upgrade your combo meal. 2. Eat less Taco Johns. 3. Drink less Pepsi."

Shelley Pringle
Shelley Pringle

I don't have a problem with a chocolate bar company promoting healthier eating. But instead of creating the worlds' biggest chocolate bar, they should have made the world's smallest chocolate bar. I'm kidding (sort of) but the message would have been consistent with the stunt. A few years ago Kinder Surprise included messages about portion control as part of a larger program on encouraging kids to play (see www.haveyouplayedtoday.ca). As I recall, the website was linked to the launch of a new format, a smaller chocolate surprise that was about the same size as the perfect treat for kids (based on dietitians and other experts recommendations).

KenMueller
KenMueller

World's Finest Chocolate? Why do I get the feeling that it's a lot like the World's Best Cup of Coffee in Elf.

And if I were the head of the Bacon Marketing Board, I'd fire my marketing director for not thinking of this first!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@nebpr1 I've been on the road and just saw this comment. Thank you for stopping by! I think the coverage is fantastic, but my point was not that it wouldn't get coverage. I absolutely believe the media, and kids, are interested in this. What I don't understand is how this coverage will lead to sales for WFC, which should be the basis for everything we do in our profession.

I like to tell the story of working with Ocean Spray. We killed it, in terms of media coverage for them in 1999. They were EVERYWHERE, including all the morning shows, the dailies in the target markets, and more. But when we sat down to do a final recap of our success, they dropped a bomb...their sales were down and they were cutting our budget significantly. Since then, I've been on a quest to measure everything we do to the client's business goals.

If this coverage increases their sales, I'm going to be really, really impressed.

PattiRoseKnight
PattiRoseKnight

@Dunn4 I have to say as a parent I have never been "asked" to sell the candy - it has always been mandatory and now that my kids are older I am grateful that I don't need to push WFC on friends and guilt them into buying it. And most times we would get stuck buying what we couldn't sell. As you can tell I'm not a big fan of WFC - I feel like was forced into selling and no one likes to be forced to do anything. That's my two cents on WFC. The good news - since seeing the large chocolate bar i haven't had a desire for choclate and that is definately a good thing.

glenn_ferrell
glenn_ferrell

@Anthony_Rodriguez Ha ! I don't think it's in the same category. This is clearly humor. Calling candy "healthy" is obviously (judging by the comments to this post) not humor. (However, I can imagine half a dozen really funny advertising sketches coming out of this NFL/condom idea though... maybe YouTube is the place for those)

RAntonette
RAntonette

Indeed I'd forgotten how "proud" the CMO was of all his employees' hard work for this. That was pretty funny as a lead message point.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@RAntonette I think they were still asleep because it was 6 a.m.!

It's odd, isn't it? I'm glad you think so, too.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Tinu It makes me nuts, Tinu. On one hand, I get reprimanded in a PR LinkedIn group because I keep talking about proving our worth and demonstrating value and on the other hand, PR stunts like this still exist. It's a big vision to want to change the industry, but let's just keep forging forward.

P.S. Keep happy hour on Nov.8 open.

Tinu
Tinu

Tell me they gave you a prize for winning Twitter, cuz that's hilarious. @CarlThress

Tinu
Tinu

I'll take "things that would have made a lot more sense" for $100, Alex. @Shelley Pringle - I would totally get "World's smallest chocolate bar". Or even a story about why they were making smaller bars for the next time the school sold their chocolates.

PattiRoseKnight
PattiRoseKnight

@Shelley Pringle That would be a much more appropriate idea and it wouldn't cost a fortune to take it across the country - a country in a financial crisis by the way.

Dunn4
Dunn4

@PattiRoseKnight Well, I agree that no one likes to be guilted into doing things. I remember selling candy bars as a kid and not being very excited about it. I can't speak to WFC's business practices ... I'm not associated with them. I was just looking at the possible strategy and success metrics WFC might of had for this campaign. From your comment it sounds like they have some other perception problems to address.

Anthony_Rodriguez
Anthony_Rodriguez

@glenn_ferrell I thought so too. But I put it out there anyway. I would love to see the look on the bruised and battered quarterback that gets a box of condoms in the mail on Monday.

John_Trader1
John_Trader1

@PattiRoseKnight Regardless of your party affiliation, why wouldn't a company want to hitch their wagon to a campaign like Michelle Obama's? Seems like it would have a smarter way to associate your brand with good will and raise sentiment.

John_Trader1
John_Trader1

Spend a few days in the mountains with the kin folk and you start adapting their vernacular. I may need therapy.

Tinu
Tinu

I will keep the whole DAY open. Just the thought is making my day. :) @ginidietrich And it's probably not every enlightened, but when peers say that type of thing to me, I say "oh, well. More for me!" Eventually logic will prevail - you're right, keep doing your thing.

KenMueller
KenMueller

@ginidietrich@Tinu i wonder if we'll ever put that "there's no such thing as bad PR" to rest. and "any press is good press". I still hear people saying that. it. just. isn't. true.

CarlThress
CarlThress

@Tinu Thanks. I don't think they would have appreciated the humor quite as much. Though some free potato oles might have been nice. In case anyone's curious, here's the Twitpic I posted: http://twitpic.com/4zqu0n

JGoldsborough
JGoldsborough

@ginidietrich@shellypringle@Tinu See the problem is you all are making suggestions that involve creative thinking, research, insights and strategy. These people just want to set a world record. Wonder how much money they give you at the bank when you cash a world record. What's that? None? Oh.

KenMueller
KenMueller

@JGoldsborough@tinu@ginidietrich agreed. that's because Good PR is hard to do while bad PR is easy. It's kind of like comedy. I think too many comedians rely on foul language to be funny. It's easy. But how many really funny "clean" comedians do you hear? Very few, because it's hard. They actually have to be funny and not rely on cussing, etc. for laughs.

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