Public relations professionals can glean ideas and learn how to improve their own campaigns by examining other brands’ successful promotions. With that in mind, here are five superb PR campaigns of 2019. Most included a large dose of social media.
Popeyes Chicken Sandwich
Popeyes social media promotion for its chicken sandwich cooked up an earned media feast. After Popeyes introduced its chicken sandwich, some customers on Twitter compared it Chick-fil-A, well-known for chicken meals. Chick-fil-A tweeted: “Bun + Chicken + Pickles = all the ❤️for the original.”
In response, Popeyes quoted the tweet and shared it, adding “y’all good?”
That response prompted what’s now called the Chicken Sandwich Wars. Popeyes and other fast food restaurants, including Wendy’s, Church’s Chicken and Shake Shack, disputed who makes the tastiest sandwich. Customers took sides and media outlets covered the fast-food food fight, with some reviewing the new Popeyes sandwich.
Basking in media attention, Popeyes doubled store traffic and went through its three-month supply in two weeks. It restocked the sandwich in November, again to frenzied demand.
Observers credited Popeyes visual-based promotions and succinct Twitter comments. They also lauded its style: cheerful and lighthearted yet ready to respond to competitors. Certainly, Popeyes was not chicken. Rather than investing in paid promotions or influencer marketing, Popeye’s relied on media coverage and user-generated content from customers.
“We got really fortunate to have a great marketing team interacting on social media and creating buzz that then drove people to the restaurants to test the hype and to validate whether the hype was true,” said Restaurant Brands CEO José Cil, according to Business Insider. “They saw and they experienced it for themselves. And that drove additional visitation.”
Carlsberg Pours its Heart Out
In a product relaunch, Danish beer-maker Carlsberg rebrewed its product “from head to hop.” It also rebrewed its PR and marketing: It changed its long-time tagline “Probably the best beer in the world” to “Probably not the best beer in the world.” The company says it had become preoccupied with quantity rather than quality and had become one of the cheapest, not the best. So it changed its recipe to make a beer that lives up to its claim.
Carlsberg posted videos and promoted tweets of people criticizing the beer in creative and sometimes vulgar terms. Viewers must have wondered if its marketing team was consuming too much of their own product.
But the promotions are part of a calculated strategy to raise awareness of its new beer. The videos conclude by announcing the relaunch, and the company responds to the critical tweets by urging people to try the new beer.
“What we wanted to do was try to be quite disruptive… to be honest, bold, direct and witty in our tone of voice. You have to be disruptive to stand out in a world of wallpaper advertising and where people are cynical about brand relaunches,” Liam Newton, vice-president of marketing at Carlsberg UK, told Marketing Week.
ASOS Transforms a Negative into a Positive
Fashion brand ASOS gained positive reactions by transforming a negative comment posted about a customer’s photo into a publically-applauded positive.
Thea Chippendale, a 20-year-old student, received a message from a man on Tinder, an app used as a dating service, who called the outfit ‘charity shop job.’ She received a flood of supportive comments after sharing the comment and the photo of herself in the dress on Twitter. ASOS picked up of the conversation and posted the image of her in the dress on its website, pleasing both Chippendale and her Twitter audience.
“I can’t believe something so negative has turned into something so positive,” she told Newsbeat.
Airbnb got into bed with other brands to achieve outstanding PR results.
Posting short-rentals of exotic, outlandish, even bizarre locations produced positive PR results for both Airbnb and the property owners. In one recent partnership, Airbnb listed Barbie’s Malibu Dreamhouse. In a one-time reservation, the toy company Mattel rented out the life-size mansion for three nights in October.
In another partnership, Airbnb gave visitors a chance to “relish a stay” in the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile.
Instead of simply posting the listing, Airbnb typically publicized the listings through news announcements and owned media, including its website, YouTube and Instagram, usually with outstanding photography. For instance, its Airbnb’s news announcement detailed the mansion’s luxurious amenities and included plenty of images.
Airbnb has a history of finding and promoting attention-grabbing rental listings. Previously, it listed a night in the Paris Catacombs over Halloween in a partnership with the French government and ran a publicity stunt involving a floating house on the Thames River in London.
Nike’s Mannequin Gets Big Results
Nike’s introduction a plus-size mannequin in its London flagship store drew both criticism and praise. Ultimately, the promotion substantially increased awareness and sales for Nike’s plus-size apparel.
A journalist at The Telegraph blasted the mannequin for encouraging obesity and “selling women a dangerous lie.” “The facts are obvious,” wrote Tanya Gold. “Stay that weight and you will be an old woman in your 50s. The obese Nike athlete is just another lie.”
The article kicked off sharp responses, including defenses of plus-size women and the Nike mannequin. It also stimulated debate over weight and marketing practices in general. Online searches of “Nike” and “plus size” on British fashion retailer Love the Sales spiked after the controversy. Meanwhile, searches for competing brands dropped.
“There aren’t too many sportswear brands pushing plus-size clothing, so Nike is really taking advantage of this and the increased awareness around the subject of plus-size clothing will only bode well for them in terms of sales,” Love the Sales representative Liam Solomon told Business Insider.
Nike responded correctly to the controversy, Beck Bamberger, founder of Bam Communications, told PR Daily. “The approach that they took was gracious and one that stuck to their guns,” Bamberger said. “They didn’t retract. They didn’t react.”
The company was wise not to pursue a headline-grabbing PR stunt, which could have been perceived as inauthentic, Bamberger said.
Bottom Line: These PR campaigns may be the best, or some of the best, of 2019. PR pros can examine the promotions for insights to improve their own PR programs.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.