PR Campaigns That Really Worked

Here's a roundup of some of our favourite PR campaigns from the last few years - and exactly what made them so successful!
Mariah Young

Want to get some brand awareness, social engagement, and news coverage going? Then you need a good PR campaign!

Thinking up PR stunts can be challenging, and you have to bear in mind that they don’t always take off the way you want them too. We’ve put together this list of some recent PR campaigns that really worked, and explained what made them so effective. 

Gregory & Gregory

You may remember back in May when the God of pasties Greggs fooled unsuspecting foodies at a gourmet food festival.

Under the false identity of “Gregory and Gregory”, the much-loved bakery pitched up at Foodies Festival – a three-day event attended by some of the biggest names in the food industry.

They served up samples of their new summer menu, including salads, pasta, rice dishes and wraps. Turns out, the people who would never normally consider popping into Greggs for a sausage roll, loved the new range and were amazed when Gregory’s true identity was revealed.

The video went viral, generating masses of press attention for Greggs, and demonstrated their new products as well as boosting brand awareness. A win all round!

Why it works

The brilliance of this campaign is that it’s just so self-aware. Greggs know exactly how the public perceives them, who their customers are, and the new market that they want to tap into. They’re confident that they’re offering is good quality, and if people could move past their prior conception of the brand, they probably will enjoy the food.

By highlighting how prior conceptions of a brand can influence customer’s opinions, Greggs managed to tap into a new customer base without alienating their current customers, while simultaneously showcasing their products, gathering press coverage, and giving us all a laugh at the same time. Thumbs up!

Yorkshire Tea Biscuit Brew

Of course, Xpand is a Yorkshire agency and we love tea, so we couldn’t possibly leave this one off the list! Yorkshire Tea introduced a new tea, which tasted like – you guessed it – tea & biscuits. Now, whether this was simply product innovation or a bit of creative PR, the results were fantastic, with coverage in national news and an absolute storm on Twitter.

Yorkshire Tea Biscuit Brew


People had questions, and they had opinions – and where better to air them than on Twitter? Yorkshire Tea played it brilliantly, replying to comments in a tongue in cheek, chatty way that was totally on-brand.

Why it works

Would people actually swap the builders brew they know and love for this new mash-up of flavours? Well, we don’t have access to the sales figures of Yorkshire Tea, so we don’t know the answer to that. But what this stunt did do was brilliantly raise brand awareness, in a way that really highlighted the brand’s personality and tone of voice.

It’s also stood the test of time; even now, if you search the hashtag #BiscuitBrew on Twitter, there’s a steady stream of Tweets from people enjoying the tea. Oh, and of course it’s tea, so we automatically love it.

Poundland Elf Behaving Badly

Probably one of the stand out Christmas campaigns of last year was Poundland’s highly controversial Elf Behaving Badly. Before Christmas, Poundland posted social media pictures of an Elf On The Shelf in a series of risqué scenes featuring lots of innuendo.

Although the ads were eventually banned by the ASA after numerous complaints, it didn’t matter – Poundland reported a “marked increase in pre-Christmas trading.” They also generated massive social media buzz, and got coverage in the national news.

Poundland Elf Behaving Badly

Why it works

There are a few reasons why this campaign was so successful – firstly, controversy always creates good PR. Controversial marketing campaigns can build brand awareness, attract extensive media coverage, and drive conversions to your business like no other method.

Secondly – well it was just funny, wasn’t it? The images were massively shareable, which is the key to creating viral content, and viral content is perfect PR.

Thirdly – It encouraged masses of user-generated content. UGC is one of the big marketing trends of the last couple of years. It’s an incredibly effective, low-cost way of advertising your business, while also gathering social proof. The Elf Behaving Badly campaign encouraged countless posts from followers, joining in and posting pictures of their naughty elves.

We’re not sure that Elfie will be back this year, but it was certainly a memorable campaign.

The-Not-So-Beautiful Game

June, of course, was dominated by the World Cup, and for a while, we really believed football was coming home. World Cup fever hit the country and we saw dozens of clever PR campaigns off the back of it, from British Airways handing out waistcoats to passengers to IKEAs £1 fish & chips following England’s win over Sweden.

The one we want to highlight, though, took a more serious tone. The National Centre for Domestic Violence released a poster addressing the link between England football games and domestic violence.

Titled “If England Get Beaten, So Will She”, the poster shows a woman with blood from her nose and mouth, forming the St George’s flag. The copy addresses the fact that when England win, instances of domestic violence increase by 26%, and 38% if the team loses.

The Not-So-Beautiful Game

Why It Works

In a sea of excitement, positivity, and light-hearted PR campaigns, this stood out. It’s a poignant message accompanied by a powerful image that triggers an emotional response. It’s certainly one that sticks in the mind, and for a campaign that aims to raise awareness of a social issue, that really is key.

The jarring juxtaposition of the image of the England flag drawn out in blood, among all of the other images of the red cross that swamped social media, really made this campaign one of the most memorable from that month of football mania.

Kodak Moments Mobile Wiping

 In this stunt promoting the Kodak Moments app, Kodak took to the streets with a special charger, which when used would “wipe” the mobile phone. They asked passersby to test the charger and then showed the data being wiped from a phone.

People were understandably upset – until it was revealed as a stunt of course. The purpose of the campaign was to show people how easily precious photos can be lost and to promote the app which allows you to print your photos directly from your phone. We think they did this pretty well, and the stunt was featured in blogs and publications nationwide

Why it works

Well, because it’s just so relatable isn’t it? Kodak has highlighted a problem that we all face, and one that a lot of people have probably never considered. We carry around all of our vital information and precious memories on a small device, but it would only take one tiny technical glitch for it all to disappear.

It definitely makes you think, and at the same time as showing the problem, Kodak has provided a solution. It’s definitely enough to make you think seriously about backing up your device!

Walkers: Choose Me Or Lose Me

This campaign from Walkers promoted a choice between classic flavours of crisps and new flavours from around the globe – putting the decision entirely in the hands of the consumer.

Walkers actually run this style of competition fairly frequently, and there’s a good reason for that. Not only do they generate huge amounts of social media conversation, they allow Walkers to test the popularity of new products before launching them fully. They’re able to bring out new flavours of crisps to test the waters and find out whether or not they’ll be popular.

Walkers Choose Me Or Lose Me

The competitions also have a direct impact on sales, and website visitors – the only way to save your favourite flavour is to either buy a pack or go online to the website and vote there. It’s so simple, yet it does exactly what Walkers want it to do.

Why It Works

The idea that the losing flavour of crisp will supposedly be gone forever creates a sense of urgency, prompting people to take action. By putting it entirely in the hands of the consumers, Walkers creates a feeling of responsibility amongst it’s customers, who feel that they must take action in order to save their favourite.

Walkers are in fact very good at creating an emotional response in their customers. They’ve run a similar campaign to this in the past where they promised to bring back an old flavour of crisps that had been discontinued. This triggered feelings of nostalgia amongst customers, and again, prompted them to take action.

These campaigns create a huge amount of buzz on social media and are even turned into memes. This, of course, increases awareness of the campaign, and increases the emotional reaction, pushing people towards making purchases or voting online.

Burger King: Beaten Burgers

Like the Not-so-Beautiful Game campaign, this stunt was carried out to raise awareness of a social issue, although in an admittedly less jarring way. Burger King served customers burgers that were beaten up – as in; the employee literally punched the burgers. At the same time, a group of actors in the restaurant played out bullying a child.

To no one’s surprise, 95% of customers got up to complain about their battered burger. Shockingly, though, only 12% of customers got up to help the bullied child.

The campaign was done in partnership with the group No Bully in support of National Bullying Prevention Month.

Why it works 

It’s got the shock factor. The statistics from this experiment are really quite disturbing; they demonstrate that people are not willing to intervene if a problem doesn’t directly affect them.

It’s also got that viral effect. Shocking content is very shareable, and people are naturally more inclined to share content when it’s relevant to a social issue, particularly one they can relate to.

Would this campaign lead to more direct sales? Probably not. The main takeaway from this video wouldn’t be a craving for a Big Whopper. But what it does do is position Burger King as a brand that cares about problems that affect it’s customers. This creates a sense of trust between the customer and the brand – in fact, studies have shown that younger generations are more likely to buy from a brand that cares about social issues.

Deliveroo Trolling UberEats

Back in 2017, UberEats promised to give away free Krispy Kreme doughnuts through their app. All you had to do was download the app and place an order. Seems like an easy way to get more app downloads right?

Unfortunately for them, the public was a bit too eager (of course!) and the app crashed, meaning people couldn’t get their doughnuts.

Enter Deliveroo.

Deliveroo clearly has a great PR team who spotted what UberEats were up to because the following day they were stationed outside train stations across London, armed with over 1000 free doughnuts to hand out in person – with no chance of technical problems standing in their way.

Deliveroo Free Donuts

Why it works

The key takeaway from this is how on the ball Deliveroo were in keeping on top of their competition. There was an opportunity to capitalise on their main competitor’s mistakes, and they grabbed it with both hands. Plus, it showed personality from the brand, which really resonates with customers and is bound to result in social media engagement.

We see a lot of this kind of friendly banter between competitors on social media – a great example is McDonalds and Burger King. It does a great job of generating social engagement, building brand awareness, and showing off the brand personality.

Keep an eye on your competitors and what they’re doing – there might be something you can piggyback on. And don’t be afraid of engaging with them on social media! A lot of companies try to ignore their competitors, but you could build some great PR by actually interacting with them.

IKEA: Game Of Thrones Costume Suppliers

Game of Thrones is without a doubt one of the biggest TV series to grace our screens. So when it was revealed that the cast’s huge fur coats we actually made from IKEA rugs, everyone’s favourite home furnishings store had a PR dream thrown at them.

They responded by decking out some of their staff in the rugs in Game of Thrones style, jumping on the bandwagon in an organic way. According to IKEA, they saw an increase of 775%(!) in online searches for the SKOLD rug after the story broke.

IKEA Game Of Thrones Costumes

Why it works

Okay, this one was kind of handed to them on a plate. A mention of your brand in the news when you haven’t even looked for it is a bit of a dream, but you do have to react quickly; and that’s exactly what IKEA did. By the end of the same day that the story appeared, IKEAs images had been sent off to the media and were up on social media. News stories tend to die down quickly, and if you’re not quick off the mark, your reaction won’t matter – it’s already old news.

Like the naughty Poundland elf, this story also generated a nice amount of UGC – with IKEA customers across the country posting pictures of themselves wrapped up in fur rugs in-store.

It’s important to keep watch for mentions of your brand name in the news or on social media. If you’re not monitoring your mentions, you could miss out on a golden opportunity like this. You can use a tool as simple as Google Alerts to keep up to date on who’s talking about your brand, and then plan to capitalise on that.

Nike: Colin Kaepernick

You’re probably fully aware of the story, seeing as it was very recently national news. Just a bit of background for if you’re not: Colin Kaepernick is the athlete who was the first to kneel down during the national anthem before an NFL game. He did so to raise awareness and to protest against police brutality towards African-Americans, and it sparked a large movement that saw dozens of other athletes following his lead. President Trump condemned the protest, and Kaepernick no longer plays in the NFL.

When Nike released its 30th anniversary campaign, they made Kaepernick the face of the campaign. Cue an absolute Twitter storm.

Colin Kaepernick campaign

Some Trump supporters even burnt their Nike products, and have sworn never to buy the brand again. On the other hand though, there are plenty of people who applauded Nike. Nike and various Nike-related hashtags trended on Twitter for days and the story was covered internationally. In fact, it was recently reported that Nike’s sales are up by a huge 31%.

Why it works  

Nike isn’t just making adverts to show off their products; they’re starting conversations.

The social media buzz that this campaign caused was astronomical, and for every ex-customer who’s burnt their shoes, there’s a customer that now wants to wear Nike, because they’re supporting a cause that their customers believe in.

As a population, we’re savvier about advertising than ever before. We’re less likely to be influenced by the traditional showcasing of products, but what people really do get behind is a brand that supports the causes they care about.

Nike are positioning themselves not just as a sports brand, but as a brand that creates social and cultural movement.

Gino Fisanotti, Nike’s Vice President of Brand for North America said: “We believe Colin is one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation, who has leveraged the power of sport to help move the world forward”.

We’d guess that the huge amounts of coverage, social media buzz, and custom they’re receiving from people that support the campaign are a lot more valuable than the loss of a few customers who don’t want to buy trainers any more.


Want some help developing your next big PR campaign? Get in touch, we’d love to help.