Stunts don’t always go to plan

When I was school age, one of our big heroes was Evil Knievel. For those younger than me, in the 1970s he was probably the best known stunt man on the planet, famed as much for his crashes and near-death experiences as his successes.
His speciality was ‘ramp to ramp’ motorbike jumps, but such high risk ventures had an inevitable consequence. At the time of his death in 2007 (not stunt-related), he was acknowledged by the Guiness Book of World Records as the survivor of most broken bones in a lifetime – for the statistically minded he broke a total of 433!
Whilst a career in marketing, advertising or PR is unlikely to expose us to such physical threats, the opportunities to participate in stunts does still exist and so do the risks.
Today’s BBC News website has a story about how BMW’s advertising agency in Germany took the opportunity to ‘brand’ a weather front ‘Cooper’ to help promote the Mini car brand. At a price of less than £200 with all the references there were likely to be on weather forecasts, this must have seemed like a bargain.
Unfortunately, the weather front in question has been responsible for freezing conditions that have led to dozens of deaths – not the association that BMW or any brand owner would have chosen.
What can we learn from this experience? Firstly, like my blog about the McDonald’s twitter problem a few days ago it shows that the big brands with all their resources can still make mistakes. Also, I think it teaches us to think through all the possible outcomes of innovative marketing activity, not just the results we hope for.
But I do hope this doesn’t end the desire of marketers and their agencies to be creative, try something different and take some calculated risks – that would be very dull indeed.