Marketing Stunts: The Good, the Ehhh… and the What Were You Thinking?

‘Tis the season for some marketers to break through the summer slump. In the month of June we saw at least four brands try to become top of mind with consumers in various ways. From changing the company’s name to creating a new legal department, here are the marketing stunts that were winners and some that may have missed the mark:

1. The Good – Country Time Lemonade

After reading articles about children receiving fines for running lemonade stands without permits or business licenses, Country Time Lemonade stepped up and created a new department called Legal-Ade. This department pays for permits and fines for these children who are just trying to learn how to make a dollar, have fun or fundraise for a good cause. To qualify, parents just have to go online and fill out a simple form.

The brand also took to social media and said it would donate $1 (up to $500,000) for every retweet the announcement tweet received. This money will go toward continuing this initiative in the future.

William Shatner, the Palo Alto Police Department and multiple parents have jumped on the #SaveLemonadeStands hashtag praising the young entrepreneurs and the company for its charity.

This campaign is so successful because it relates directly back to Country Time – more lemonade stands equal more lemonade purchased, but it’s not a direct sales pitch because the company appears focused on helping the kids.

Grade: A+

2. The Potential – IHOP to IHOb

This may be the most talked about stunt this summer, but I’m still not sold on its effectiveness. Prior to June 4, IHOP was just going along like normal and adding pancake into its tweets as many times as possible. On that fateful day, IHOP announced it was changing its name to IHOb and left the country in suspense for a full week. This lit up a firestorm on Twitter with users trying to guess what the ‘b’ meant. Answers ranged from breakfast to breakdancing, but no one was prepared for what the answer ended up being. June 11 arrived, and IHOb announced it was now the International House of Burgers.

While America sat in shock, the chief marketing officer explained after completing market research, the company found no one knew about IHOP’s burger selection, so they came up with this campaign to raise awareness and drive more eaters into the store at all times of the day, instead of just for breakfast.

Other brands such as Burger King, Wendy’s and MoonPie all took to social media to jump in on the conversation and poke fun at the previous pancake provider.

Despite the other brands poking fun, IHOP had more than 500 posts per million on June 11. This stunt stretched so far that even traditional news sites picked it up. We’ll see if this campaign will do its job and sell burgers. However, since the announcement, social influencers and even Food & Wine Magazine have left reviews of the burgers, and, so far, they are receiving glowing remarks.

Grade: (IHO)b (with potential to increase)

3. Mixed Reviews – Domino’s Pizza Paving for Pizza

The same day IHOb announced the secret meaning of its ‘b,’ Domino’s Pizza distributed a press release saying it was now paving roads in order to save pizza from getting ruined on the drive home. The pizza company has only tweeted about this campaign a few times, and it hasn’t brought it up on Facebook at all, so it doesn’t appear to be a strong push for the company. While this sounds like Ron Swanson’s idea of democracy, others aren’t quite sure what to think about it.


Popular Mechanics reported, “This initiative is undeniably good for the towns where Domino’s shows up. But the fact that a private company has to repair roads is a delicious indictment of the country’s infrastructure problems. Unless Domino’s wants to repair all of the nation’s roads and bridges, we need to find a better solution than this.”

And what would it take to repair all of America’s infrastructure? The American Society of Civil Engineers estimate $4.5 trillion. That’s a whole lot of dough – pizza dough. According to the Paving for Pizza website, Domino’s has already repaired more than 200 potholes in California, Delaware, Georgia and Texas.

Grade: C+

4. The Whopping Worst – Burger King Russia

With all the hype going on in Russia this summer for the World Cup, brands are clearly trying to break through and get fans in the door. The Russian chain of Burger King took it one step further than all the rest. The brand – both in America and in Russia – is known for its strange, misogynistic-leaning campaigns, but this one took the Whopper.


On VK, the Russian equivalent of Facebook, Burger King announced it would offer women 3 million Russian roubles (an equivalent of about $47,000 USD) and a lifetime supply of Whoppers if they became impregnated by soccer players competing in the World Cup – thus improving the Russian team’s legacy. The company ended the post with, “Forward! We believe in you!”

There’s nothing quite like a burger chain pimping out its nation’s women to stir up some controversy. The Russian chain has since apologized, but this begs the question, “How did this get through all levels of marketing and management without being nixed?”

Grade: F

From As to Fs and everything in between, this summer is heating up to be an interesting one in the marketing world. While stunts can prove to be extremely valuable for your overall marketing campaign, it is important to remember, “Why?” is the most important question to consider throughout the process. If the stunt doesn’t directly tie back to the company’s message, goals or initiatives, then it’s probably best to leave it alone.

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