Razor-thin line between buzz and bust

Using celebrities for publicity stunts to promote a product is a creative and innovative idea, if successful, but it may also backfire ("Actress draws flak for 'retirement' stunt"; Sunday).

Perhaps, companies should learn from this incident by not underestimating the power of consumers' response towards bad publicity stunts.

In a country like Singapore, which has a minuscule domestic market base, people may be more conservative and critical than what celebrities and companies think.

One of the exciting, but also dangerous, things about a publicity stunt is that in order to get any attention, you really have to stand out. This often means taking calculated risks.

Usually, the biggest problem is not getting enough attention, but when a product or brand makes a miscalculation, it may mean getting the wrong kind of attention.

When publicity stunts work, they can be very successful, often resulting in free advertising on social media.

But when marketers misjudge the razor-thin line between buzz and bust, especially with offbeat marketing campaigns, they can cause spectacular embarrassment, cause jobs to be lost and even attract lawsuits.

It is also difficult to restore the loss of public confidence, especially with iconic and heritage brands that have taken decades to build up.

Publicity stunts often fail because the concepts behind them are ambiguous, or when there is a gap between concept and execution, leading to miscommunication and misleading proclamations.

Companies that think they have a good idea for a publicity stunt should make sure they run it by some of their trusted associates or friends before going public.

Francis Cheng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2016, with the headline 'Razor-thin line between buzz and bust'. Print Edition | Subscribe