Win A Divorce, and other Outlandish Stunts

Gone are the days when the highlight of competition prizes included toasters and cuddly toys. Social media came along and suddenly marketers went wild with their give-aways. It seems that we’ve reached an impasse however, and those pulling the social media marketing strings may have finally found the consumers’ limits.

The question is: are these outlandish stunts doing more harm than good for the brands behind them? 

One company caused quite a stir in the headlines of various sources last week (HuffPost, The Drum, Daily Mail) by launching an unconventional give-away on Facebook. An extra-marital dating site is offering one lucky winner £1,800 towards a divorce.

That’s right, you read it correctly, they want to ease the burden of those pesky legal fees and make the transition into divorcee-dom that little bit smoother for one lucky individual.

And if divorce isn’t your thing, how would you like the opportunity to fire an employee from a digital agency? Lean Mean Fighting Machine offered this privilege to their 5000th follower. After pithy appeals from all employees, winner @welshmike decided to let @jimbo_84 go. It was a sad occasion for all.

According to @jimbo_84’s Twitter bio, he still works at Lean Mean, so the whole thing was clearly an elaborate PR stunt (I’m fairy certain it would be illegal to actually fire someone via Twitter contest). But it raises interesting questions about how far is too far?

Are outlandish stunts brand damaging?

In both instances, I’d have to argue that they aren’t in the least bit damaging. The divorce competition is being held by an extra-marital dating website, so they already operate in controversial waters. It would be difficult to further damage this brand, so instead they opted for the shock and awe approach to put them in front of a wider audience. It’s a case of “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”.

Likewise for Lean Mean Fighting Machine, they were simply pushing the boundaries. Their campaign was clearly targeted at those Twitter users with a playful sense of humour, and their campaign worked! They surpassed their 5000 follower mark. They’re no strangers to controversy either; back in 2010 they ran a Facebook campaign for Dr Pepper in which they offered teens the chance to win £1000 if they let Dr Pepper take over their status updates for 24 hours. The stunt backfired, but still, no damage was done.

Dr Pepper Status Takeover from Lean Mean Fighting Machine on Vimeo.

Campaigns of this calibre are not without risk, and agencies should have a full contingency plan in place before launching. But there’s no harm in having a little fun with your social media marketing.

Would you attempt a campaign as controversial as these?