November 15, 2012 / by Frank Strong

Cyber Monday itself may have originally been a PR stunt.  Wikipedia says the term debuted in November 2005 in this press release issued by the National Retail Federation.

The first Monday following Thanksgiving, Cyber Monday now rivals Black Friday, the first shopping day after Thanksgiving.  While the latter favors brick and mortar shopping and drives foot traffic, Cyber Monday was invented to drive clicks:  shopping clicks.

Need Cyber Monday marketing help? PRWeb has a free Cyber Monday Marketer’s Guide for you: download it here!

Critics have called Cyber Monday a myth.  In the course researching this post, I noticed that the critics were louder in 2006, 2007 and 2008, and then those voices grew quieter.  Why?  Because invention or not, Cyber Monday has driven a staggering amount of online sales. In fact, last year Cyber Monday marked the single largest online shopping day (to date) ever – to the tune of $1 billion.

Cyber Monday has clearly come of age – and in many aspects, grown.  Search Engine Land Editor Danny Sullivan opined last year, “Given that I’m still getting emails on offers, Cyber Monday’s not just becoming Cyber Week but Cyber Month, it seems.”

Whether it’s a day, a week or a month, it’s an opportunity for retailers.  Here’s a look at five effective PR stunts that have capitalized on Cyber Monday and that might inspire your business this year:

1. Fly anywhere and name a plane.  In 2011, Virgin Air partnered with Gilt City to offer a chartered flight to any destination of choice for you and 146 friends.   Yes, there were travel restrictions – there always are on those miles programs – but the deal came with something unique:  you got to name the plane.  The offer earned a lot of buzz from the likes of Fox and USA Today, but Ogilvy’s Rohit Bhargava saw another opportunity for the $60,000 price tag:  “Seems like the perfect ready made publicity stunt for a small or medium sized business that could afford the fee to go after it.”

2. No stranger to fiction.  Dunder Mifflin was a fictional paper company that competed with Staples, invented for jokes on the TV series “The Office.” Last November, – owned by Staples – augmented that fictional company into Cyber Monday reality, introducing a real world product:  Dunder Mifflin paper.   The company scored an exclusive in the Wall Street Journal on Cyber Monday, which according to a PRWeek case study the following spring, “led to a surge of additional high-profile coverage.”

3. Birthday drink. 

Download your Cyber Monday guide here!

December 1, 2008 was a Cyber Monday.  It was also the 75th birthday of the Bloody Mary, which the New York Post reported was invented in Paris in the 1920s, but “perfected” in the St. Regis in the 1930s.  TGI Friday’s in Times Square saw an opportunity and offered a drink special at a 1933 price of just .99 cents.  I found the story digging through the archives PRNewser, which notes that the Associated Press also covered the story. Former PRNewser founding editor Joe Ciarallo was kind enough to include the recipe for a Bloody Mary, just in case the post makes you thirsty.

4. Advertising for PR. Patagonia is a clothing retailer with deep roots in outdoor activities like climbing and skiing.  Given its affinity for the outdoors, the company naturally prides itself in being environmentally conscious.  The company really turned heads last with this full-page ad in the New York Times entitled  “Don’t buy this jacket.”  The message is aimed at overconsumption and waste that contributes to the degradation of the environment. “It’s a bold move and can only be executed by a company that isn’t directly tracking ROI on every marketing dollar spent,” says the blog SpinSucks,  “It would be fairly hypocritical of them to be tracking sales from a full-page ad in New York Times with the headline Don’t Buy This Jacket.”  True, but it sure earned buzz.

5. Go grassroots.  If we’re going to shop online on Cyber Monday, The Nature Conservatory (TNC) hopes we’ll do with the environment in mind.  In 2010 and 2011, TNC launched Green Gift Monday which offers eco-friendly gift ideas, including DIY gifts, and place for people to submit green gift ideas so other can share.  In 2010, the program was ad-hoc, but the next year, TNC doubled down on its efforts and secured support from more than 65 bloggers, eco-friendly retailers and nonprofits, according to Geoff Livingston’s case study on the event.

Cyber Monday itself may have been a PR stunt in and of itself, but one thing is clear:  it worked. Know of an outstanding Cyber Monday PR stunt that worked well but isn’t listed here?  Let us know in the comments.

Photo credit:  Flickr

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