It’s not a new technique to commission surveys in order to publish the results in the pursuit of news coverage or better yet to increase sales for a product. Edward L. Bernays, the father of modern public relations mastered the art in the 1930s.
Consider what he did for bacon. When Beech-Nut Packaging sought to pump up pork consumption, Bernays eschewed traditional promotions. Instead he found one physician who proclaimed that the body loses energy during the night and with that fact in hand then polled doctors nationwide on the significance of breakfast. The answer may have been obvious, but the results went on to inspire the line that doctors endorsed and mothers conveyed to their families for generations to come, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” And guess what you’re supposed to eat? Suffice it to say that bacon (and egg) sales went through the roof.
Even more effective was a project for America’s book publishers. Bernays’s approach was to encourage builders and architects to include built-in bookcases in every new home. Since man hates a void, Bernays figured those shelves would get filled up. How’d he do it? Simple. He asked captains of industry and leaders of government to name the books that had inspired them most. He then produced a report that declared “successful people are influenced by books.” If you want to sell your newly constructed homes to the “right people” don’t forget the bookshelves. The shelves got built and the books got sold.
But even Bernays may not have come up with something as clever as Rocky Biscuits’s recent findings regarding cookie-induced castastrophes. The British baker noted an obscure story about people who’d been injured eating biscuits and wasted no time turning it into full blown PR campaign. They commissioned a poll discovering how many Brits had suffered biscuit induced injuries (50 percent) and how they happened. Respondents had burned their mouths from dunking, fallen off of chairs reaching, poked themselves in the eye, been attacked by animals, and gotten stuck in wet cement. Don’t even ask.
Is it even possible for a newspaper or magazine not to publish the results? The campaign could have stopped there, but it continued with new government agency (the British Biscuit Advisory Board) and a biscuit safety campaign featuring the Biscuit Injury Threat Evaluation tool. (BITE) All designed to position Rocky’s as “the chocolate biscuit with attitude.”
Combined, the effort, which allegedly cost less than 50,000 pounds, increased Rocky’s annual sales by 55 percent.
Who knew so much creativity could come out of a little research. So, what’s your next poll gonna be?