Successful PR campaigns have a clear objective, a specific message, target a particular audience, and have a simple call to action. We look at five wildly successful PR campaigns that went above, beyond and outside the box, shaping and informing public opinions with their brand messages.
Wrapped in plastic, it’s fantastic: our social feeds and city centres were awash with pink in the lead-up to Barbie’s film premiere, immersing us in Barbie’s world wherever we looked. Airbnb transformed a mansion into Barbie’s Malibu DreamHouse; lead actress Margot Robbie premiers and launch parties dressed in some of Barbie’s iconic look; London’s Barbican station temporarily renamed themselves Barbiecan; as well as 100s of selective brand deals with the kind of fashion items Barbie herself would wear. All this combined to give Barbie a record-breaking opening weekend and has currently surpassed $1 billion at the box office.
In a world of plastic and Photoshop, Dove was an early adopter of showing real bodies in the media. Dove positioned itself in the market as kind and gentle, both with their moisturising toiletries and company values. After finding only 2% of women surveyed thought of themselves as beautiful, they marketed themselves as something different: embracing normality. More recently they’ve used the hashtag #TheSelfieTalk along with kits for parents and teachers, giving them information on how to talk to children about selfies and embracing how they look.
Barbie isn’t the only thing Airbnb has been involved in, last year it was the war in Ukraine. In 2022, Airbnb encouraged hosts on their site to open their doors to as many refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine as they could, offering free or low-cost stays while Airbnb provided high-level insurance. They have now totalled around 100,000 housed refugees. The publicity from their efforts sparked a social media movement, bringing the global community together to pay for immediate stays in Airbnb properties in Ukraine that they don’t intend to use, getting money directly to the local people. Nearly $2 million was donated in this way, with Airbnb temporarily waiving fees for bookings in Ukraine.
De Beers Diamonds
In the late 1800’s, huge diamond mines were found in South Africa: De Beers bought all of them, successfully controlling the world’s supply of diamonds. Their market research established that most consumers thought diamonds were too expensive and they weren’t buying them. Understanding their audience, De Beers created a specific message that diamonds were still luxury but intrinsically linked to love and marriage. They persuaded consumers that every engaged couple requires one; engagement rings existed previously but were not commonplace. De Beers marketed a diamond’s values and capitalised on emotions, rather than the product itself. They also embedded the idea that they should not be sold on either, allowing them to keep control of the cost. In four years from 1938, diamond sales increased 55% and “A diamond is forever” was voted the #1 slogan of the century by AdAge.
President Calvin Coolidge
Edward Bernays, nephew of Sigmund Freud, is often seen as the forefather of PR. One of his early campaigns changed the image of a stern Calvin Coolidge by arranging for entertainers at the Whitehouse, followed by the media portraying his fun side. Weeks later he became President, Bernays was convinced it was his efforts that swayed the people. Bernays also successfully marketed cigarettes to women as an alternative to sweets and desserts and a way to lose weight.