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Valentine’s Day: Good, Bad and Ugly Company PR Stunts

By Fraser Gillies 14 February, 2020

love hearts

Get your roses and Belgian chocolates at the ready. It’s that time of year again. 

As scented-candle and Marvin Gaye CD sales go through the roof, you might be rushing around trying to find a gift that demonstrates your love for your nearest and dearest. 

Not me, I’m prepared this year. 

Valentine’s Day means big money for a lot of companies. In fact, 2020 is expected to see $27.4 billion in spending in the US alone. 

Whether a business’ sales are seasonal based or otherwise, February 14th presents a day of opportunity. This means that marketing departments across businesses of all sizes are extremely occupied the days leading up to Valentine’s. If ever there was an ideal moment to gain some healthy exposure for a business, it’s now. 

With this in mind, we wanted to cast an eye towards three outstanding PR efforts made by companies around Valentine’s day. For the right and wrong reasons.

So before you worry about dinner reservations and amorous gifts, take a look at the best and worst of Valentine’s day business PR stunts.

The Good: Virgin Trains’ Love Carriage

Speed dating gets a bit of a bad rap. 

Although interactions can seem rushed and shallow, it’s actually a great way for meeting a variety of different personalities.

Virgin Trains married speed dating’s most popular day of the year with the host of TV program First Dates, Fred Sirieix. 

Maintaining his duties from First Dates, Fred served prosecco and roses to potential suitors at 125mph in first-class fashion. The purpose of this PR stunt was to launch Virgin Trains’ new London-Northeast line back in 2016. 

Virgin’s love carriage PR ploy was simple yet endearing. On point with Virgin’s brand image, the inclusion of one of Britain’s most recognized romance celebrities gave the campaign an extra boost in terms of exposure. 

The Bad: Domino’s Wedding Registry

two people slicing a pizza

There’s an almost symbiotic relationship between Weddings and Valentine’s Day. 

Microsoft’s search engine Bing shows that fifty percent of marriage proposals happen on Valentine’s Day. 

So whilst love is in the air, why not celebrate this with a delicious Domino’s deep pan? 

Well, although some people might find pizza and bridal gowns a natural combination, I don’t. 

Domino’s PR campaign to provide free pizza to wedding parties that registered on Domino’s website was ambitious. 

Nay, it was bold.

Photos of a beautiful bride to be in her wedding frock with a slice of Domino’s pepperoni classic makes you laugh for all the wrong reasons. On your big day, most of us want memories that make the occasion special. Not of a family in their finery tucking-into takeaway food. 

With that in mind, you’d think Domino’s wedding PR stunt was an absolute flop.

Far from it.

The reality was that Domino’s campaign garnered loads of attention. 1 billion media impressions within its first 7 days of launching and over 400,000 website page views caused a massive surge in Domino’s site traffic. 

You’ve got to say that although its PR stunt was terrible, hats off to you Domino’s. Or should that be lids off?

The Ugly: KFC & Moonpig Collaboration

Card inside a box of food

Company collaborations are perfectly normal in the world of business. Taco Bell & Doritos, BMW & Louis Vuitton, even Kanye & Adidas have enjoyed fruitful branding partnerships. 

Unfortunately, KFC & Moonpig was not one of these.

Weird but not wonderful, Moonpig’s KFC inspired Valentine’s day cards leaves a strange taste in your mouth. Referring to your better half as a “Snack” or superimposing your face on top of The Colonel doesn’t exactly say ‘You’re my first, my last, my everything’. 

Barry White would certainly agree.  

Maybe for KFC fanatics, these cards could be entertaining. However, some of the cards just don’t make sense. “Tonight, The Chicken Comes First”. I thought your partner was supposed to come first? 

One of the cards has a scratch and sniff feature allowing your loved one to smell KFC’s spicy aromas wafting out of the card. Is there a greater aphrodisiac in the world than fried chicken?

Well, yes. 

Barry’s smooth singing for one.

Wrapping Up

Valentine’s day can be seen as a time to express true love or a commercial con.

Whether you’re an Antonio Banderas or Ebenezer Scrooge type of romantic, you can’t deny the susceptibility to purchase a little something for your special someone. 

Businesses big or small love any opportunity to make their mark on their target audiences with a brilliant advert or inspired PR stunt. However, it’s important to appreciate the difference between classy, cheesy and just plain awful Valentine’s campaigns. 

If you find yourself dining out with a date, cooking a romantic meal with the TV on, or even on your lonesome scrolling through Youtube videos, watch out for some interesting PR efforts. As well as, of course, receiving a fried-chicken themed Valentine’s card.


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