Just two weeks prior to the time of this article, on 26th July of 2019, Huawei decided to hold a promotion sales to Singaporeans or permanent residents above the age of 50, the product on sales was the Huawei Y6 Pro, which was slashed from $198 to $54. As expected by apparently everyone other than Huawei, more than 1000 people showed up outside each concept store, only to be greeted that the phone has been sold out even before the store opens. To make the matter worse, it has been known that Huawei only carries roughly 27 sets of Y6 Pro in each store, clearly showed that Huawei was ill-prepared for such promotion and most certainly they did not anticipate the huge turnout. It is not a surprise that soon commotion broke out and police were involved to maintain order.
Many have criticized Huawei to be ill-prepared for such promotion, some also deemed that it was a publicity stunt to garner some attention to the brand, which is our topic for today. There is a saying amongst the professionals, “There is no such thing as bad publicity”, but is it really the case? Let us take a look at some of these publicity stunts that went wrong.
In 2005, Snapple attempted to erect the biggest popsicle to promote their new line of frozen treats. Snapple decided to bring in a seven-metre tall, weighing 17.5 ton Snapple juice popsicle and place it in the middle of New York City. However, Snapple did not expect the hot summer in June was so hot that the popsicle melted way faster than it was supposed to be. The melted popsicle then turned into sugary sticky juice and flooded the union square, causing the fire department to be called in and closed off several streets to do a thorough cleaning. Snapple may be able to attract enough attention to their brand, but they most certainly did not attract positive attention, caused more trouble than anything that they expected.
Circles.life cash giving machine
Let us pull back to our home ground, Singapore. What other publicity stunts caused more negative feedback, if not more? One such case is the “cash giving” publicity done by Circles.Life.
In February of 2018, Circles.Life placed a huge cardboard vending machine in the CBD (Central Business District) at Raffles Place. The event was easy to understand, people only need to insert $3 into the machine and a $50 note will be dispensed. Many people walked away with $47 extra in their pocket, but a large number of people trying to get a little richer caused quite a commotion. There were people falling and pushing, attempting to get their hands on free money. The stunts were cut short when police were involved and Circles.Life ran out of $50 to dispense.
It was a publicity stunt to promote Circles.Life’s new Unlimited Data on Demand plan, which allows the user to enjoy 4G+ mobile data by paying $3 on a daily basis. Public outcry is loud on the publicity stunt deployed, many voiced out that the number of people crowding around the vending machine caused disruption to the businesses around the area, the physical pushing and falling may also cause danger to the individual participating in the stunt.
Fake terrorist attack by CoD
In 2015, the official tweeter account of a famous video game franchise, “Call of Duty” tweeted a series of “News Report”. The so-called “News Report” reported that Singapore is under terrorist’s attack, follow up with more tweets that the Singapore government has established martial law and more photos of the destruction of the lion city.
Anyone that lives on the island, like me, did not see any attack nor any martial law. This was a series of publicity stunts deployed by Activision to promote their new game, “Call of Duty: Blac Ops 2”, which features the destruction of Singapore by the terrorists in the fictional year of 2065.
Netizens and citizens alike were enraged at such an irresponsible publicity stunt, for it may send the wrong message to the people living in Singapore or may even cause a snowball of the false event in response to the “terrorist attack”.
Rebecca Lim’s retirement stunt
In 2016, local actress Rebecca Lim announced on her Instagram that she will be retiring. This news came out of nowhere as Rebecca was at her prime and a rising star in local entertainment, many of her fans were shocked but still offers their blessing to Rebecca’s decision.
Over the weekend, fans realised it was a publicity stunt deployed by NTUC Income along with Rebecca Lim to promote the idea of planning early for retirement. On Rebecca’s Instagram page, there are no lines or any form of hints that it is a collaboration between the star and NTUC Income. Fans were enraged that they were fooled into the idea that their idol was retiring, calling it a bad marketing gimmick and slammed both Rebecca and NTUC Income on the publicity stunt.
Philip’s shaver launch
October of 2010, there was a video that went viral online that a bear ravaged through at a bus stop near Ulu Pandan. It caused a lot of safety concerns over the alpha predator lurking around the residential area, police were involved and multiple zoo personnel deployed to ensure the capture of a bear. To many people’s surprise, the bear was a man in a bear costume.
This viral video was a publicity stunt deployed by electronic group, Philips, promoting their new line of a shaver. Needlessly said, the public was angered by such publicity stunt, slamming them for wasting public resources for their promotion. Philips issued a statement and apologise for the publicity stunt.
There are several reasons why many people were tricked into such publicity stunts, but looking at the incidents stated above and the most recent Huawei incident, we can generally identify two reasons. One, we are emotionally connected to the subject matter. Two, we are greedy for the cheap and easy way for us to take advantage. Emotional connection is easy to understand, we as a human being are always concern about things or people that we care about. It is the same reason why Rebecca Lim’s fake retirement and the fake bear raised that many eyebrows, because we are concern about them, about the safety of everyone involved.
The second reason is, in my own opinion, the main reason why publicity stunt tends to work and still causes an uproar. We cannot deny the fact that humans are greedy, we yearn for things that are free or cheap, despite the fact that the items mentioned are not even that good, to begin with. In this case, we may not know that the Huawei Y6 Pro is a fantastic phone, but the fact that it costs $54 dollar for anyone above the age of 50 to purchase, is a good enough reason for thousands of people to line up and hope to get a cheap smartphone on their hands.
Although there is no bad publicity, not all can agree that it is ethical to fool and cheat the feeling of their patrons or fans. These are the group of people that offers their support to their favourite brand or celebrity, publicity stunts mentioned above not only toyed with their feelings but trust as well. So big companies should take such amount of trust into consideration whenever they attempt to execute publicity stunts again, it is to avoid the most recent Huawei Y6 Pro promotion incident.