Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

How 10 Companies Generated Word-Of-Mouth By Creating News

We previously mentioned that the holy grail of word-of-mouth is to make the news.

It’s something that’s often perceived as a stroke of good luck or semi-divine intervention, but marketers have learnt that making the news is no longer an organic process.

If you want to make the news… you’ve got to *make* the news. Here are 10 examples of companies (and individuals!) successfully turning stunts into news, enjoy!

1: Tucker Max Gets Banned from Leveraging Star Power (Mildly NSFW)

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To promote a new book, blogger Tucker Max, who describes himself as “an asshole”, took to buying sponsored tweets from celebrities in the spotlight.

Sponsored tweets are 140 character ads tweeted from high profile twitter users. The more followers a user has, the more expensive their sponsored tweets are.

Before he was permanently banned from ever purchasing another sponsored tweet, Max crafted the most offensive tweets he conceivably could. We’ve included 4 of his best/worst below.

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Audrina

Snooki

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To say the least, the promotion worked – Max’s Twitter antics were featured on Forbes.

THE MESSAGE:

“Jamie look at what this guy wanted Kim K to tweet!
Oh my GOD Tucker Max is such a horrible person!”

2: D.C Comics Kills Superman

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Members of today’s comic book fandom know deaths in comics don’t mean much anymore (Spoiler Alert: they always come back to life). But in 1993, before killing off characters was a plot device, D.C Comics announced the a new comic series titled “The Death Of Superman”.

Shocked that the publisher would kill off it’s greatest character, the event was widely covered by national and international news media.

D.C Comics, who was suffering from a slump in sales, shot back into the black with the new Superman series, topping comic sales charts and selling out overnight.

THE MESSAGE:

“Bruce! Did you hear? They’re killing off Superman!”

3: Taco Bell Buys The Liberty Bell

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Back in 1996, Americans were stunned to find an ad in the New York Times that read “Taco Bell Buys The Liberty Bell”… and they were going to rename it into the Taco Liberty Bell.

Taco Bell received thousands of complaint calls and had to admit that it was all just an April Fool’s joke. Over a thousand media outlets covered this stunt and Taco Bell enjoyed an additional million dollars in sales over the next two days.

The idea of a national historic monument belonging to a fast food franchise was preposterous. Granted this happened in a time where people were a little more gullible, it would take a lot more today to ruffle feathers (refer to example 1’s Tucker Max).

THE MESSAGE:

“What is happening to this country?! Taco Bell just bought the Liberty Bell!”

4: The Blair Witch Project Is Totally Real

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The mother of the found-footage horror genre began as a brilliant stunt.

The makers of the Blair Witch Project distributed tapes of movie on college campuses and presented them as real video diary footage. Clips of the movie were aired on independent film channels categorized as documentary instead of fictional. Missing persons ads with the faces of the movie’s leads were also used as promotional material.

The film makers chose an ideal environment to distribute their “found footage”, the characters in the movie were college students too. This made the story relatable and emotionally riveting.

As the fledgling internet went abuzz with theories and discussions about the truth behind the film, it was revealed to be a movie and made 258 million dollars.

THE MESSAGE:

“Did you see that video about the kids who got lost in Black Hills?”

“Yeah! What the heck was that?! Do you think it’s real?”

5: KFC Invades Area 51

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To unveil it’s new logo, KFC built an enormous 87,500 square-foot logo in Area 51. KFC touted the giant logo as “the first logo visible from space”.

KFC captured an image with the Google Earth satellite and unleashed it on the internet, resulting in over 600 million views.

THE MESSAGE:

“Dude did you know you can see the KFC logo on Google maps? Check this out…”

6: Shreddies Turns Squares Into Diamonds

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By rotating their square cereal piece 45°, 70 year old cereal Shreddies captured the attention of consumers once more.

Dubbing these slightly shifted squares “Diamond Shreddies”, the company released a series of ads depicting clueless executives at Shreddies mesmerised by the new shape. Sales immediately gained an 18% bottom line boost.

Interestingly, consumers surveyed felt the diamonds tasted better than the squares.

THE MESSAGE:

“Hey Arnold check out these diamond Shreddies!”

“Aren’t they… the same?”

“Exactly!”

7: 50 Cent Will Retire if Kanye Outsells Him

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In 2007, rappers 50 Cent and Kanye West were embroiled in a feud unlike the violent hip-hop feuds of the 90s.

With 50 Cent’s album “Curtis” and Kanye’s “Graduation” releasing seven days apart, 50 Cent declared he would stop releasing solo albums if he was outsold by Kanye.

Both artists came out victorious – the LPs marked the first time since 1992 that the No.1 and No.2 albums on the albums charts crossed 600,000 sales in their debut weeks.

Kanye sold 957,000 albums while 50 Cent sold 691,000… but still releases music to this day.

THE MESSAGE:

“Yo did you hear? 50’s gonna stop releasing albums if “Graduation” beats “Curtis”!”

“Huh. Guess I’m buying 10 copies of “Graduation.””

8: The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

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A little different from the other entries on the list, this example involves a stunt that was epic because it was simple.

Originating in 2012 from a Boston College student, the challenge hit the mainstream when TV anchor Matt Lauer completed the challenge in July 2014 on The Today Show.

The challenge was designed for word-of-mouth from the get go. Challengers either make a donation to an ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) charity or have a bucket of ice dumped on their heads (many did both). They would then challenge others to take the challenge.

As high profile personalities such as politicians and celebrities participated in the challenge, regular folk took the challenge to social media and made it viral. It was a winning combination of competition, social media narcissism and ease of participation.

The challenge made the news daily as more celebrities doused themselves in ice.

It was a great success, raising 220 million dollars globally and spreading awareness of ALS.

THE MESSAGE:

“I nominate Jake, Finn and Marcelline for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge!”

9: Red Bull Drops A Man From The Edge Of Space

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Red Bull Stratos was a truly epic stunt that involved dropping Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner from beyond the stratosphere back to Earth.

Baumgartner shattered multiple world records including being the first person to exceed the sound barrier without mechanical aid.

Red Bull had a record of their own – the event was the most watched live streamed event EVER, beating even President Obama’s inauguration. It was a rare moment where people were commenting on a branded event with awe and admiration, generating millions of mentions on social media.

THE MESSAGE:

“Nah bro I can’t grab drinks tonight, I’m gonna watch a man fall from space.”

Read next: 8 reasons why Red Bull is awesome

10: Nathan Fielder’s “Dumb Starbucks” Is Technically Legal.

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Nathan Fielder is a comedian and creator/host of Comedy Central’s “Nathan for You.”

The premise of the show involves real small businesses coming to Fielder for help. In return, he gives terrible advice and hatches hilarious often inappropriate schemes that somehow generate results.

To help a small coffee shop gain more customers, Nathan suggested that the owner steal the Starbucks brand, using technicalities in parody laws to get away with it.

The owner eventually realized Nathan was crazy and backed out of the deal, so Nathan went ahead with the idea himself, opening a “Dumb Starbucks” in Los Feliz.

The parody was named “Dumb Starbucks”, a name that was “obviously a parody” and sold the likes of “Dumb Lattes” and “Dumb Norah Jones” CDs.

The Health Department eventually shut down the store after it was found to be operating without a health permit, instead operating as an art gallery with coffee being sold as art pieces.

The stunt gained heavy press coverage, bringing many new viewers to “Nathan for You” and considerably boosting Nathan’s public profile.

THE MESSAGE:

“There’s this dude who LEGALLY opened a store called Dumb Starbucks.”

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Read Next:How 13 Of The Best Kickstarter Projects Achieved Success With Word-of-Mouth

Jon Tan

My coffee expenses and my office rental are one and the same.

Terrified of mathematics and carbohydrates.

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