Why A Diamond is Forever
DeBeers & the Engagement Ring
After discovering huge amounts of diamonds in South Africa, DeBeers was faced
with a dilemma: how to create demand by changing the public's view of diamonds
as jewels only for aristocrats not the masses.
The company's brilliant strategy involved a well-orchestrated public relations
campaign designed to strengthen the association in the public's mind of diamonds
with romance. Since "young men buy over 90% of all engagement rings" it was
crucial to reach them with a message: diamonds were a gift of love -- the larger
and finer the diamond, the greater the expression of love. Similarly, young
women had to be encouraged to view diamonds as an integral part of any romantic
To implement this plan, DeBeers decided to give movie idols, the paragons of
romance for the mass audience, diamonds to use as their symbols of
indestructible love. DeBeers placed stories in key magazines and newspapers
stressing the size of diamonds that celebrities presented to their loved ones,
and photographs reinforcing the link between diamonds and romance. They even
incorporated Queen Elizabeth, who went on a well-publicized trip to several
South African diamond mines, and accepted a diamond from DeBeers.
DeBeers also established a "Diamond Information Center" that placed a stamp of
quasi-authority on the flood of "historical" data and "news" it released to the
The results? Within 3 years, the sale of diamonds had
increased by 55 percent. More importantly, public relations established that the
engagement diamond ring is truly forever.
Go to top
She Comes, a Publicity Event That Became an American Tradition
The Miss America Pageant (1921-present)
The Miss America Pageant began in 1921 as an East Coast business proposition
featuring local women to attract commerce and tourists to Atlantic City. The
public relations event was a way to extend the slow summer season after Labor Day, growing
quickly in popularity as thousands of revelers attended the spectacular weeklong
series of annual parties, parades, fireworks shows, dances, and the
all-important competition. It also grew as an institution that reflected some of
the nation's most powerfully held attitudes towards what it meant to be an
From its humble beginning as a glorified public relations stunt, The Miss America
Pageant has become an eagerly awaited yearly landmark on the American landscape.
Its initial purpose still stands true as thousands descend upon Atlantic City,
and millions watch the pageant on television.
Go to top
Cooking Up Media Coverage
Pillsbury Bake-Off (1949-present)
The Pillsbury Bake-Off was launched in 1949 as a public relations event designed
to encourage homemakers to come up with new original recipes using Pillsbury
products. The inaugural contest began as the "Grand National Recipe and
Baking Contest," and utilized the drawing power of Eleanor Roosevelt as one
of the judges. Planned as a one-time public relations event, the Pillsbury Bake-Off
struck such a positive homespun chord that it has become an American
institution. The phrase "bake-off" has become so popular that it is part of
the American vernacular.
Millions of dollars of free publicity are generated each year through food
and lifestyle columnists as the program announces: a call for nominated new
recipes, the naming of the 100 finalists, recipes of the finalists, coverage
of the actual event, and the crowning of the grand prize winner and their
recipe. The Bake-Off also has a popular website, where recipes (using
Pillsbury products) are traded. The contest has spawned a successful book
highlighting Bake-Off history and winning recipes from the last half century.
To ensure the next generation of Pillsbury buyers and Bake-Off contestants,
the company has recently launched its first ever Kidsí Bake-Off Contest. In
addition, men have slowly been added to the Bake-Off tradition -- in 1996 the
winner of the $1 million grand prize was a man.
What recipe is the current champ? Cream Cheese Brownie Pie.
Go to top
Quiero Tons of Free Publicity
Taco Bell Mir Space Station Promotion
March 23, 2001
With the eyes of the world (media and civilian) focused on the crash landing of
the Soviet Mir space station, the Taco Bell company had an inspired public
relations idea designed to "piggy-back" on the attention of the splashdown.
Taco Bell set up a 40-by-40 foot vinyl target -- emblazoned with the
company's logo and the words ''Free Taco Here!'' -- 10 miles off the coast of
Australia. In the extremely unlikely event that Mir hit the target, the company
promised free tacos to all 281 million Americans.
Space-travel experts said the prospects of the debris hitting the mark were
slim to none. Taco Bell added relevance to the public relations stunt by
claiming to have taken out an insurance policy.
A minute-by-minute countdown of Mir's descent and a photo of the floating
target were anxiously seen by millions of hungry websurfers on the Taco Bell
The result? Millions of dollars of free publicity on major news programs and
media outlets around the world. Their website could hardly handle the traffic.
Go to top
Viral Public Relations to Quack About
National Discount Broker's Duck Quack
Nearly half a million people a day called National Discount Brokers' voice
mail just to hear the sound of a duck quacking.
Callers dialed into the toll-free number and heard an automated reception
that began with typical corporate prompts such as: "To request a new account
kit, press two." But the seventh option piqued the interest of people around the
world. "If you would like to hear a duck quack, press seven," the automated
At its peak, nearly 500,000 people called the line to hear the sound of the
duck, tying up the company's phone system in the process.
NDB has used a mallard as its mascot for more than 60 years, but it never
thought option seven would garner so much attention.
Word spread quickly, passed along by the more than 270,000 customers who
regularly called the company's toll-free line, reaching across North America
through e-mail. According to NDB, "We didn't do anything - we just left it on
our voice mail. The Internet took care of the rest."
The number of calls to the 800 number cost the company about $8,000 a day,
but the money well spent. "The exposure is the equivalent of 100 television
commercials," NDB said. "And that would cost us millions." NDB saw a 75%
increase in new customers during the duck quack's heyday and the feedback has
been almost entirely positive.
"We've got e-mails from all over," said NDB, adding that the number works in
North America only. "People just love it. We're supposed to be a stiff, Wall
Street company, but we've gotten calls telling us that every company should have
an option seven."
Go to top
Always Gets Its Man
FBI - 10 Most Wanted
1950 - present
Back in 1949, a reporter from the International News Service (now United Press
International) asked the FBI to name the toughest of their most-wanted
fugitives. After the story generated a ton of positive publicity, former
Director J. Edgar Hoover decided to use the power of public relations to capture
America's toughest outlaws and drumbeat the successful efforts of the FBI. Thus,
the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" Program was born.
How successful has the program been? Of the 458 names that have appeared on
the list since its inception, 429 have been apprehended, including 137 nabbed as
a direct result of tips from the public. The "List" has been immortalized in
numerous movies, the popular Dick Tracy comic strip, the ABC radio
network program, F.B.I., This Week; and the Fox network TV show,
America's Most Wanted: America Fights Back.
Go to top
Right Up, Folks, and Learn Some
Lessons from the Public Relations Master
Phineas Taylor (P.T.) Barnum (1810-1891)
"I am indebted to the press of the United States for almost every dollar
which I possess..."
Named by Life Magazine as one of the top 100 most important people of the
millennium, the "the patron saint of promoters" understanding and creative use
of the power of publicity earned his place in the Public Relations Hall of Fame.
Entrepreneur, master showman, million-selling book author, and politician,
Barnum has indelibly left his mark. He is credited with coining the phrases,
"throw your hat in the ring", "let's get the show on the road," "rain or shine,"
and "the greatest show on earth". Ironically, the phrase he's most associated
with, "there's a sucker born every minute" was actually said by a rival.
In an age when there were no radios, motion pictures, or Disney, and few
other means of entertainment, P.T. Barnum filled the void with his colorful
museum and circus. Utilizing a combination of striking, provocative ads and
creative public relations, Barnum realized the value of working with the press --
"there was only one liquid a man could use in excessive quantities without being
swallowed up by it, and that was printers ink."
Here are some examples of Barnum's public relations efforts that a more
innocent America ate up:
- He had an elephant plow the fields on his property. Why? His land faced
a busy rail line that carried bored travelers into New York City. Barnum
knew an elephant would grab their attention and provide an unforgettable
publicity stunt. "Newspaper reporters came from far and near, and wrote
glowing accounts of the elephantine performances," Barnum wrote.
- To gather crowds outside his museum, he publicized "Free Music for the
Millions," a band that played music on the balcony. However, Barnum
confessed to his ulterior motives, "I took pains to select and maintain the
poorest band I could find -- one whose discordant notes would drive the
crowd into the Museum, out of the earshot of my orchestra."
- He made sure to honor and celebrate special holidays. On St. Patrick's
Day, Barnum featured Irish performers, a model of Dublin and other Irish
- When a man walked into Barnum's office looking for work, he gave the man
minimal wages and asked him to take a few bricks out to the corner. The man
was instructed to place the bricks down . . . then exchange them
continuously. Naturally, a large crowd of curious onlookers gathered. Every
hour, the "brick man" would enter Barnum's Museum, along with several
curious patrons. Barnum claimed this stunt had the pure elements of his
promotional philosophy: "it employed novelty, demonstrated ingenuity, and
achieved free publicity".
He practically invented the idea of advance public relations. Weeks before his show
entered a new town, Barnum would send a special train coach designed to attract
crowds and build anticipation of his upcoming show's arrival. He employed three
public relations agents who would plant stories in local papers and provide a
behind-the-scenes preview for local journalists. Barnum created and circulated
the Advance Courier, a bogus illustrated newspaper designed to intrigue
the public. The "articles" were written almost entirely by Barnum himself. The
highlight of the newspaper was a two-page spread of a 33-point list of why
"every man, woman and child" in America had to come see the "Greatest Show on
Earth." When his show arrived in town, he'd attract attention with a huge
parade, featuring his star attraction, Jumbo the Elephant.
Go to top
A Floating PR Machine That's Not Full of Hot Air
The Goodyear Blimp (1925-present)
The Blimp tradition began in 1925 when Goodyear built its first helium-filled
public relations airship, the Pilgrim. The tire company painted its name on the
side and began barnstorming the United States. Today, these graceful giants log
over 400,000 air miles per year traveling across the United States, Europe, and
South America as Goodyear's Global "Aerial Ambassadors."
The Goodyear Blimp has become one of the most instantly recognizable symbols
of any company. The formula? According to Goodyear, when they cover a sporting
event, "We don't charge for anything we do. We have our own camera gear and
camera people. If we cover your event, in exchange, you mention us and show a
shot of the blimp."
In every town the blimp visits, young and old look up in the sky and smile in
The blimp staff makes sure to maximize exposure by giving televised rides to
the media. Other rides are given to local Goodyear dealership owners, large
corporate customers, investors, contest winners, celebrities and political
Goodyear estimates that more than 60 million people see its three U.S.-based
blimps every year.
Go to top
the Relish, Keep the Publicity
Oscar Mayer Weinermobile
The Oscar Mayer Weinermobile was designed in 1936 as a rolling good-will
ambassador for the company and its most famous product. The world's most
recognized productmobile is "55 hot dogs long, 18 hot dogs wide and 25 hot dogs
high," and travels 365 days a year to large cities and small towns alike.
Attending everything from the Super Bowl and Kentucky Derby to parades and
grocery store grand openings, the Weinermobile public relations juggernaut attracts kids and their parents
to the vehicle where they're invited to spin the "WeinerWheel" for giveaways.
All visitors are given instant photos of themselves with the car.
Prior to entering a new town, the Weinermobile staff, called "Hotdoggers"
alert the local media about their impending arrival and arrange interviews and
Over the years, the Weinermobile public relations tour has generated millions of media mentions
including appearances on
The Tonight Show, Oprah Winfrey, and coverage in Newsweek, The
Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Oscar Mayer estimates that 90% of
America has seen the Weinermobile.
Scale models of the Weinermobile, have taken a place along with the Batmobile
as collectors' favorites.
Go to top