It wouldn't be a publicity stunt if it wasn't at least somewhat shocking. However, these pearls from 2018 are real stunners. From singing taxicabs to live-streaming cats purring, here are the year's 10 weirdest marketing stunts.
1. The b in blockchain is for bacon
In May, Oscar Mayer hitched a two-week ride on the cryptocurrency bandwagon with its very own crypto coin, dubbed Bacoin. Users could exchange the token for coupons to buy the brand's bacon packs. The more people shared the campaign with friends via email or social media, the more Bacoin's price increased and so did the amount of bacon you could get for free. If you were spammed with the campaign, know that your sacrifice earned someone some sizzling breakfast goodies.
2. It's not scratch and sniff
Not a lot of companies would encourage customers to pee on their ads, but Ikea isn't afraid to change the rules. In January, the company released a magazine ad featuring a crib that asked women to, yes, urinate on it. If they were pregnant, the ad supposedly revealed a discounted price, as part of a promotion for its Ikea Family program. Understandably, the gimmick caused a stir--and not just among expecting moms. The Swedish home-goods company picked up a Clio Award, one of the highest accolades in advertising.
3. Mark my words
In July, a new taxi service in Finland offered to chauffeur people around for a song, literally. People could catch a ride to the Ruisrock music festival in the city of Turku aboard the Singalong Shuttle, a self-driving car powered by singing. If the singing stopped, so did the engine. Finally, a reason to sing the entire "99 Bottles of Beer" song.
4. Impressing the girl next door
Last May, a Burger King in Lynn, Massachusetts, changed its storefront marquee to ask next-door neighbor Wendy's to the prom. The sign was shared on Twitter, where it quickly went viral and even received a response from Wendy's social media team: "Ok, but don't get handsy and we have to be home by 10." The stunt was not promoting any products. In fact, in response to users' comments, Burger King tweeted: "just trying to impress the girl next door."
5. These shoes are made for ... ordering pizza
For the second year in a row, Pizza Hut released a limited number of "Pie Tops," high-top basketball sneakers that it claims let users order pizza with the touch of a button. Technically, you have to download a companion app to your phone to input your address and select which pizzas you want delivered. The shoes come with the pizza delivery button on the right tongue and a pause button for your TV on the left, which works automatically with compatible devices. Novelty aside, it sounds like too much of a hassle to order a simple pizza.
6. Flipping the P
For the whole month of June, the world believed IHOP had really changed its name to IHOb, switching its focus from pancakes to burgers. In addition to changing all its social media handles, one store in Hollywood even swapped the old "IHOP" sign for the new logo design. The marketing stunt was used to promote IHOP's new line of burgers, but it left many consumers confused, and apparently didn't really help boost sales.
7. What's in a baby's name?
It was Shakespeare who first wrote: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Of course, he probably didn't envision a future in which a fast-food chain would offer $11,000 to whoever named their newborn baby after its founder and mascot, Colonel Harland Sanders. Lucky baby Harland Rose, born on September 9--Colonel Sanders's birthday--got the booty from KFC, which will be used to help pay for college, when maybe she'll get a job at KFC, or become a vegetarian. It's too early to tell.
8. Lipstick on a ... chicken?
Cult makeup brand Glossier partnered with Rhea's Cafe, a sandwich shop based in San Francisco, for a pop-up store in March. For a month, the restaurant décor featured pastel colors, flowers, mirrors, and Glossier's best-selling products throughout. Consumers could eat buttermilk fried chicken or Korean steak sandwiches and buy a new lip gloss or eyeliner all at once. Unfortunately, though, the restaurant closed up shop shortly thereafter.
9. A real (kitten) head scratcher
In more KFC news: The fast-food chain mystified audiences with yet another irreverent stunt. The brand live streamed aww-inducing kitties playing with a creepy Colonel Sanders robotic cat tree. About 700,000 people tuned in to watch the four-hour show.
10. Hijacking Halloween
"Fanta is to Halloween what Coca-Cola is to Christmas," says the Coca-Cola Company. If this is news to you, you are not alone. The soda company launched a Fanta-themed escape room in October to promote its "Halloween beverage"--because it's orange?