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Is “Prankvertising” For You?

We’ve seen plenty of pranks and hoaxes in promotional advertising lately, and it isn’t even April Fools Day yet! This trend is called “prankvertising” and it seems to be catching on:

So “prankvertising” is hot, but does it get results?

It’s hard to say. How does one go about finding sales data for nonexistent hoverboards, anyway?

Fortunately, we’ve got Carrie (the 2013 horror film reboot) which has box office data we can study and was promoted with “prankvertising.” Remember the video where stunt people, special effects wizards and actors pranked coffee shop customers, convincing them a young woman was manifesting her anger in telekinetic outbursts?  The original video currently has over 54 million views, not including views for second and third generation copies. It’s safe to say lots of people watched it.

But Carrie had a weak opening weekend of 16 million. It cost 30 million to make, but earned only 35 million domestically.  So the high quantity of viral video views did not translate into high box office sales.

Now, we could contrast this with Gravity. No prankvertising, #1 spot opening weekend with $55 million, domestic grosses of $272 million so far, cost $100 million to make, plus tons of Oscar buzz. But I think a more compelling, insightful comparison would be . . .

Beyonce’s fifth album, called simply “Beyonce.”

It was released in December 2013, on a Friday night, with no prior promotion whatsoever.  And once people learned it was available, the purchase & download demand was so great it brought iTunes down temporarily.

How did Beyonce accomplish that?  It’s called branding, and it’s more powerful and substantial than “prankvertising” can ever hope to be.

So if you want people to remember you as clever, go win big on Jeopardy. But if you want people to remember you, put away the Snake Nut Can and focus on creating a consistent message that matches the values of your core customer.

Patrick King

Patrick is the Founder of Imagine and advisor to places on brand strategy and creative. His insights have been published in Inc. Magazine, SmartCEO, Washington Business Journal, The Washington Post, and Chief Marketer, among other publications, and shared at conferences throughout the US. He also has an amazing sock collection.

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