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Daredevils Not Required for Stunt Marketing

We could all learn a marketing lesson from the Miss America pageant, which debuted back in 1921 as a stunt to draw tourists to Atlantic City after the high season. It’s proof that no daredevil is required for stunt marketing, which is anything unusual or spectacular done to gain publicity or generate buzz. One of the most common forms of guerrilla marketing, stunts, can make your brand stand out, breaking through the messaging clutter. A good stunt’s buzz can long outlive your campaign.

In Sydney, Australia, the Aussie Coffee Festival created a replica of the Mona Lisa out of coffee. “Artists” used varying shades of light and dark coffee (3,600 cups) to make a 20 foot by 13 foot marketing masterpiece. The obscure coffee festival created a whirlwind of international buzz by using good old-fashioned ingenuity with little financial investment – that’s the idea behind guerrilla marketing.

Why was it so effective? The stunt aligned with what festival organizers understood about prospective participants – upscale with an appreciation for fine art. It’s easier to create an effective stunt if awareness is the only goal. With a complex message, more skill and creativity are required.

Writer, director and Tennessee native Quentin Tarantino is known for his edgy films. So, movie promoters used equally controversial guerrilla marketing techniques to generate buzz around Tarantino’s Death Proof. Passers-by on a busy street corner in the Netherlands were startled to see a severed arm lying on the sidewalk. Upon closer scrutiny, they noticed the gory movie prop was holding a copy of the Death Proof DVD. The buzz was global.

Either one of these stunts could have just as easily been executed by a small business here in Memphis. That’s the beauty of guerrilla marketing. It’s the great equalizer, allowing small businesses to compete with the big dogs, because it relies more on creativity than cash.

The danger with stunt marketing is that failure can be very public and costly.

Adult Swim, an adult-oriented cable TV network featuring animated shows, learned that lesson with a stunt back in 2007. To promote animated program “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” the network placed 40 lighted electronic boards (looking similar to the Lite Bright I played with as a child) across the city of Boston projecting images of the show’s lead characters. For its targeted consumer niche, it clearly resonated. For the rest of the city, in a post 9-11 environment, mysterious electronic gadgets placed near bridges and high-traffic areas caused alarm. Bomb squads were called, and major traffic arteries were shut down. The cost to the city, and ultimately to the network, was huge.

In hindsight, Adult Swim would have gotten feedback from a variety of stakeholders before launching a stunt. They might have also considered testing their stunt somewhere low profile before launching it full scale.

While we should learn from Adult Swim’s mistakes, don’t let them deter you from stunt marketing as a way to stretch a limited marketing budget.

Lori Turner-Wilson, RedRover Company
Posted: 9/25/2012 9:06:27 AM | with 0 comments
Filed under: blog, blogs, chamber, daredevil, display, guerilla, marketing, memphis, promotion, stunt

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Your business may be small, but that doesn't mean that your impact can't be huge! The Greater Memphis Chamber's Small Business Council serves to encourage, support, recognize and be a resource to small- and medium-sized businesses in the Memphis area. Here, our talented panel of contributors will present big ideas that could make a huge difference to your small business. And don't be afraid to ask questions ... no matter how small.

Sales & Small Business Ownership
Voss W. Graham is CEO and Senior Business Advisor for InnerActive Consulting Group Inc. He is known by his clients as "a knowledgeable partner who helps our team achieve business growth." He provides practical experience as a small business owner for over 29 years, yet is often engaged with Fortune 500 companies in the development of their people and business strategies.

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Several professionals and strategists from the local Obsidian Public Relations firm provide excellent advice on everything from research to media relations to event planning. They believe that all companies, no matter how big or small the company or its budget, should have a public relations plan driving how they manage their relationships with key stakeholders. Public relations is an integral part of doing business the right way.

Human Resources
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Marketing & Public Relations
Lori Turner-Wilson is CEO and Founder of RedRover Company, a sales development, marketing and PR consulting firm. Lori works with companies large and small, from start-ups to mature organizations, to help them improve the productivity of their sales force and the return on their marketing investment. Lori writes a weekly syndicated column for the Daily News, Memphis News, Nashville Ledger, and Desoto Times, among others, titled “Guerrilla Sales & Marketing,” for which she won a 2011 Summit International Award and 2012 International Communicator Award.

Design and Digital Strategy
Founded in 1999, inferno provides brand development, advertising, public relations, design and digital marketing services to clients across a broad spectrum of industries. Headquartered in Memphis with a satellite office in Kalamazoo, Michigan, the award-winning firm produces results-driven work by passionately combining strategic thinking, creativity and culture to ensure the success of its clients. For more information, visit

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Fisher Phillips attorneys are ready to help you take a stand: in court, with employees and unions, or with competitors. Fisher Phillips has the experience and resolve to back you up. That's why some of the savviest employers come to the firm to handle their toughest labor and employment cases. The firm has 350 attorneys in 32 offices, including Memphis. For more information, visit

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