Best Practices in HR
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Candace Huntly
  June 4, 2016


When you think of effective marketing, what do you come up with? Social media? Email marketing? Direct mail out? More often than not, if brands want to make a lasting impression, they think of public stunts, also called brand activations or experiential marketing.

When executed well, a public stunt can put your brand at the top of the market, however, when executed poorly, it generally has the opposite effect. Unfortunately for brands that end up in the latter category, the negative effects last much longer than the positive effects of a great stunt.

Here are 7 things to avoid when you are including a public stunt in your marketing strategy.

#1: Date & time conflicts

When it comes to major events falling on the same day as yours, you have already limited the success of your strategy before you even execute. You might have a lot less people take in what you plan to do because they will all be at this other event. The other issue with planning something on the same day as a major event is that the buzz for your experiential tactic will likely be overshadowed. Unless you have come up with the greatest stunt ever, the media will likely be swayed by the larger, more well-known event.

Save yourself the heart-ache and do the research before you plan your stunt. It also helps to reach out to a few influencers within your audience to find out if they know of anything going on.

Note that sometimes you just can’t get around conflicts. A royal baby being born can only be loosely timed, but sometimes things just happen and you have to find a way to overcome the hurdle.

#2: Lack of brand and messaging connectivity

You should never do anything that is just for the sake of doing it, especially something like a public stunt that will consume all sorts of resources (time and money). Just because it is a cool idea doesn’t mean that it will help you get your brand message to your audience. You want to make sure that whatever you are planning is clearly tied in to your brand story so that it is easy to make the connection. Your audience should be able to experience your brand.

The whole idea of planning a public stunt is so that people will start talking about your brand in a positive way. Make sure they have the whole story!

#3: Lack of audience engagement

You will never be able to please everyone, however, you should be able to engage everyone in some way with your experiential tactic, whether it’s a visual that they can share on social media, a physically interactive activity, a chance to win something, or a chance to share and interact with the brand on social media. Plan your stunt so that people have to and want to get involved.

#4: Poor choice of location

This one is fairly straight forward. If you are planning something that you want a high volume of people to see, don’t plan to do it in a low traffic area. Similarly, if you are targeting a specific audience, make sure you choose a location that has a high concentration of that audience at your chosen time. For example, if your target audience is families, you likely wouldn’t execute during the week at lunchtime in the financial district.

This comes down to knowing your audience’s wants and needs as well as their behaviour.

#5: Logistical gaps

Further to number four, if you haven’t planned everything down to the most minute detail, then you will undoubtedly have unexpected things come up that you either won’t know how to deal with, or they will pull your focus from the task at hand. Take the time to plan out each step of your experiential activity. This could include things like:

  • Timeline on the day of the event (arrival, set up, tear down, etc.)
  • Staff parking/transportation
  • Weather contingencies
  • Assigned tasks on the day of
  • City permits (do your research!)

#6: No follow through

We have said it many times. Your marketing tactics can’t exist in a vacuum (we may give a prize to anyone who can name all of the blogs that mention that…). Once your public stunt is done, if it is successful, you won’t be able to just coast along. Eventually, that success fades and people will forget about you unless you keep reminding them who you are and what you have to offer.

Your strategy should extend past the public stunt. Think about continuing the success via social media and other outreach to your audience.

#7: No measurement/goal-setting

Once you have executed your stunt, how will you know if it’s successful? You have to set measurable goals while you are in the planning phase. For example:

  • You want 50 people to participate.
  • You want 1,000 people to live stream the stunt.
  • You want to get coverage in 5 different media outlets.
  • You want to hand out 400 coupon codes.

Think about what you want to achieve with your public stunt and set your goals accordingly so you know whether you have been successful in your attempt.