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Morton's Steakhouse and Other Great Public Relations Moves

By (view all posts by Allegra.Ringo)
at 6:55AM Wednesday August 24, 2011
under Newsworthy

Image courtesy of Bob B. Brown via Flickr
Last week, like so many of us have done, angel investor Peter Shankman tweeted a joke request at a large corporation: before flying into New Jersey, he asked Morton's Steakhouse to meet him at his destination airport with a steak. Unlike most of us, Shankman's request was fulfilled when Morton's actually greeted him at Newark Airport with a steak.

Whoever decided to put this plan in action acted fast: Shankman's flight was only two and a half hours long and the closest Morton's location is 24 miles away from Newark Airport. Kudos to that PR whiz because Morton's is now reaping the benefits as dozens of blogs re-post the story.

We've had a lot of laughs about PR flubs here on the blog, most recently at Abercrombie & Fitch's long history of bad PR moves. This time, I wanted to look at the other side of that tricky coin known as public relations: the quirky PR stunt that totally worked.
JetBlue Offers $4 Flights from Long Beach to Burbank

Last month, Los Angeles went crazy with fear prior to "Carmageddon," a weekend during which a large portion of a major freeway was shut down. Just a few days prior to the terrifying event, JetBlue Airways announced that it would offer flights from Long Beach to Burbank for $4 each way, on "Carmageddon Saturday" only. The flight, dubbed the Carmageddon Flyover, would take 20 minutes to span the roughly 38-mile route. Not only did tickets sell out the same day of the announcement, local news and blogs jumped on the story and had everyone talking about it within what seemed like a matter of hours. Renames a Town ""

In 1999, then-unknown discount media website persuaded the town of Halfway, Oregon to change its name to paid the small town $100,000 and donated twenty new computers to the town's school in exchange for its new namesake. This weird stunt made lots of headlines, and's popularity skyrocketed almost overnight. In 2000, eBay bought for roughly $350 million. These days, nearly everyone's heard the name People aren't as familiar with Halfway, Oregon, which changed its name back after a year.

Blendtec's "Will it Blend?"

Blendtec makes powerful, expensive blenders and other appliances. In 2006, the company launched a series of short videos called "Will it Blend?" on YouTube. The premise of the series is that Blendtec CEO Tom Dickson takes various non-food items and puts them in a Blendtec blender to see, well, if they'll blend. Each video, which lasts less than two minutes, features a different item. The many Will it Blend? items have ranged from golf balls to glow sticks to an iPad 2.

These super-simple videos have been consistently popular for the last several years.  Each video has several millions of YouTube views and fans constantly suggest new things to blend. Though sort of horrifying in their wastefulness, the videos are fun to watch if you enjoy wanton destruction which, if the series' popularity is any indicator, everyone does. The campaign has been a huge hit, and now most everyone has heard of Blendtec, an otherwise nondescript appliance company. In 2007, Will it Blend? had already boosted their sales by 500%.

Taco Bell Prank: Buys the Liberty Bell

On April 1st, 1996, way back before Google had the April Fool's Day market cornered, Taco Bell announced that they planned to buy the Liberty Bell and rename it the Taco Liberty Bell. The prank article ran in the New York Times and five other major newspapers and prompted thousands of people to call the National Historic Park to complain.

By noon that day, Taco Bell had admitted that the stunt was an April Fool's Joke. By that time, over 650 print media outlets, as well as 400 broadcast outlets, had already reported on the Taco Liberty Bell story. Taco Bell's marketing department reported that sales increased by $500,000 that day and $600,000 on April 2nd in comparison to the prior week's sales.

What are some other quirky PR campaigns or stunts you've heard of?