The Power of A Publicity Stunt in a Marketing Plan

Phineas Taylor Barnum (July 5, 1810 – April 7, 1891), American showman who is best remembered for his entertaining hoaxes and for founding the circus that eventually became Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

P.T. Barnum was a master of marketing and a genius of free publicity. I recently read his book, “The Art of Money Getting or Golden Rules for Making Money.” It truly amazed me what common sense this man had for being over 100 years ago.

And what a great entrepreneur he was…He fell on his face several times and was able to pick himself up and get back into the game. His life and his writings are very inspirational.

His great successes came from his constant promoting, advertising and publicity stunts. Sure he would do some bizarre things to attract attention, but it worked. And although he promoted some strange stuff, like Fiji the Mermaid, his integrity was always intact.

One of the most effective and practical things he would do to promote the circus…When they came to town, they would have a free parade right down Main Street. This would let everyone know that they were in town and it would get the residents excited to come see the show.

Is It Time For You To Pull Off A Publicity Stunt?

You probably remember that famous Super Bowl when Janet Jackson exposed her breast. Or more recently when Paris Hilton got arrested for drinking and driving at the same time her new movie was being released.

And how about the celebrity sex tape, featuring former “Saved by the Bell” star Dustin Diamond, who played Screech. Apparently he was about to lose his house because of his lack of work. He claimed he has no idea how the X rated tape was released.

Yeah right.

Now he’s being paid for all kinds of interviews. And now that he’s in the spot light, I’m sure he will have a flood of job offers.

It’s worth noting, it’s best if the stunt is designed so it doesn’t backfire. But even the Janet wardrobe malfunction was probably well calculated to a reasonable estimate of how many people it would offend and how much in fines they would have to pay vs. how much did it make in selling CD’s, creating ratings for her next appearance, and so on. It certainly did dominate the news for a few weeks didn’t it?

Example of a Life Insurance Agent Publicity Stunt

A sluggish career, can get a boost from a stunt. Now I’m not suggesting that you run around naked…but you may very well want to consider what you might want to do, as a publicity stunt or “big” marketing gimmick, to grab a lot of attention and create a lot of conversation with you or your business as the subject.

You might even try to figure out something to do within your own client base that never “goes public”, but whips up a lot of excitement amongst the base.

An agent in Phoenix rents out a popular bar every St. Pat’s Day, and adds a huge tent covering the whole parking lot, invites all his clients and everyone they want to bring to his party…he ties up traffic and makes the local news.

This is clearly a stunt that serves this purpose.