Tokenistic PR stunts. Why?
At a time when budgets are tight and PR and marketing campaign spend has to work harder than ever, I’ve been struck by the evidence that tokenistic PR is still alive and kicking. Like most experienced PR consultants I have been party to stunts, but ever tighter budgets and more robust measurement have presented a positive challenge and generally resulted in more focused communications. Yet the re-branding of the Norfolk Broads and the fiasco with the Olympic mascot had me wondering…
In case you missed it, the design of the Olympic mascot was flawed (the poor sods inside the costume couldn’t breathe!) so they had to be recalled. I’ve no idea how many were produced but I’ll wager it was quite a few as it wouldn’t have made news if it hadn’t been intended to be a key part of the Olympic marketing effort. My question is why? Yes, children like cuddly characters but is the Olympic mascot really going to be the thing that drives 10 year old Lizzie to pursue her dream to be a hurdler on the world stage? Surely she would be more inspired by watching a video telling the story of a British Olympian, or better still, meeting one. That’s a step too far when you’re trying to reach large numbers but there’s huge scope for piggy backing on the marketing activity of the London2012 sponsors who appeal to children and that wouldn’t have to come out of the coffers. Even better! All I’m asking is where is the strategic thinking in a mascot? I know that reaching out to children is a challenge but in my view the time and money spent on design, testing and manufacture would have been better spent getting more role models out into the community.
Then there was the announcement that the Norfolk Broads are being re-branded as ‘Britain’s magical wonderland’. I’m ashamed to say I have never been to the Broads but the new name would certainly not strengthen the case for doing so. It doesn’t even tell me where in Britain they are! Re-branding can be an expensive business. And it takes time and more money for the new brand to establish itself. I may not have experienced the Broads but I do know they’re a great place to visit. I just hope the Broads Authority are investing in some really good PR to make sense of the re-brand. A well run media relations campaign, combined with good use of the social web (my money would be on fun, engaging video content) could be extremely effective in boosting tourism in the region, whilst leaving the new brand to bed in (if indeed it stands the test of time).
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