2018’s PR Winners and Losers

In the age of instant news and trial by Twitter, PR campaigns can go viral quickly, but not always for the right reasons.

Whether you’re looking for inspiration for your 2019 campaigns or want to ensure your brand doesn’t make a PR faux par, it’s worth taking a look at our winners and losers of 2018.


Losers – Women Far From ‘Tickled Pink’ by BrewDog Campaign

Many found a campaign from BrewDog hard to swallow after the craft brewers rebranded their Punk IPA as ‘Pink IPA’ for International Women’s Day, complete with vibrant pink labelling. Although the company claimed to be tackling inequality and sexist ads with one brightly labelled bottle, with 20% of sales going to women’s charities and a 20% discount for customers identifying as women, their ‘beer for women’ fell flat. The stunt was dubbed a fail on social media and a lazy marketing effort targeting women – exactly what BrewDog claimed to be rallying against.

Key Takeaway

There are many morals to the BrewDog story: steer clear of gender stereotypes, don’t make light of sensitive political issues and sense check any campaign with team members who aren’t close to it.

Not only was the campaign a reminder of Bic’s ‘for her’ pink pens, which was a 2016 write-off largely ridiculed on social media, but its message was also confusing.


Losers – Build-A-Bear Accidentally Builds a Frenzy

Build a Bear’s pay your age promotion came apart at the seams when demand not only surpassed supply, but saw the police called in and shops shut in order to manage the crowds looking for cut-price bears. The promotion, which offered customers teddy bears priced up to £52 for the price of a child’s age, was promptly pulled and customers were left angry at the lack of organisation in stores. The story was widely reported in the national news, creating a PR crisis for a brand unaccustomed to negative press.


Key Takeaway

Plan and predict the response you will receive. Ask yourself what could go wrong with the campaign and what impact a negative response could have on your brand. Is the promotion too good to be true? Then tread very carefully.

Build-a-Bear’s epic fail was largely foreseeable. Hoover’s 1992 free flights promotion is a cautionary tale every marketer should be aware of, with customers offered two free return flights when they spent £100 on any product. Demand was so high that Hoover couldn’t keep up – it cost them £50m and their good name.


Winners – Gregg’s Cheeky Approach Makes Its Mark

Greggs held onto its crown as king of ‘banter marketing’ in 2018 with its ‘Gregory and Gregory’ campaign, which saw the brand troll artisan foodies with its summer range of salads, wraps and more. It shared a video across social media showing food festival attendees responding positively to the various dishes they were testing before it was revealed that the food was actually from Greggs.

The campaign was widely praised and shared across social channels and was even picked up by the national press. However, the biggest win for Greggs was in the immediate aftermath of the campaign when sales of its summer product range increased by 200%.


Key Takeaway

Classic concepts can be reused in new ways. The taste test and big reveal isn’t a new idea, budget supermarket Lidl used a similar concept for its TV ads back in 2014. However, Greggs maximised its campaign by hosting the big reveal on its social media, which encouraged comments and shares across its channels.


Winners – Nike Leads With Positive Inclusion

Justin Gallegos became the first professional Nike athlete with cerebral palsy in 2018 when the brand surprised him with a three-year contract following a race. The sports brand timed the release of its video announcement to coincide with World Cerebral Palsy Day, increasing its impact and helping it to go viral on social media.

Nike gained further headlines when it revealed American football quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who protests police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem ahead of games, as the face of its new ad campaign. The video announcement provoked criticism from President Trump, but gained 80 million views across YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.

Key Takeaway

Nike shows how to effectively use storytelling. Instead of a standard new contract announcement, the brand used the medium of video to add emotion and the element of surprise to its campaign. The timing was also well planned, ensuring maximum exposure, comment and sharing, demonstrating how brands can use national days and events to their advantage.


For help with your PR campaigns in 2019, find out more about our PR and Influencer Marketing services.


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