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A Brief History of Public Relations.

A Brief History of Public Relations and some Great Campaigns in Recent Years


At Swerve, a PR agency in Toronto, we understand that to stand out in our noisy and complicated world, brands want unique, strategic PR plans that speak specifically to their audience and about their unique selling points. That's why we create unique creative and strategic plans for each brand we work with. Here are some recent creative and innovative ways brands have used consumer PR to break through the clutter and used creative marketing strategy to stand out in a noisy world. The success and recognition of these campaigns should be credited to the brilliant PR and marketing professionals that created them, but ultimately, and as always, are given to the brands that benefited from them.


A Brief History of PR


The first known and widely recognized public relations department was created by the inventor and industrialist George Westinghouse in 1889 when he hired two men to publicize a pet project he was working on, alternating current (AC) electricity. The first appearance of the term "public relations" was in the 1897 Year Book of Railway Literature. Ivy Lee is credited as having used the first press release while he was working with the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, addressing an accident, and getting ahead of the news in a local paper. Since the formal introduction and acceptance of PR as a marketing strategy, thousands, maybe millions, of PR campaigns have been launched and have been successful in different ways and have had different impacts on various audiences.


KFC “It’s finger-licking good”


In an instant, KFC’s finger ‘licking good’ slogan turned from a household phrase associated with anything tasty, into a phrase considered a ‘no-no’ and even insensitive and dangerous, as the COVID-19 pandemic bore down on the world.


Instead of ignoring the voices asking for a change in messaging, the PR team at KFC did what they do best and had fun with the situation, blurring out the slogan to read “It’s ****** ******* good”. Having global recognition and brand alignment with your slogan gives you the flexibility to experiment with your message, in new and interesting ways while maintaining your marketing goals.


Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty


A survey conducted by Unilever in 2004 brought to light the heartbreaking story that only 2% of women would describe themselves as ‘beautiful’.


A key belief that these pervasive feelings of low esteem exist among women was how they compared themselves to cultural standards and expectations of ‘beauty’ as driven by media and marketers.


Dove responded with a campaign that caught the world’s attention and that has continued to be successful in changing society’s definition of ‘beauty’ and helped create a movement to put a greater emphasis on self-worth and realistic standards using everyday, normal, women to expand society’s appreciation and expectations about the concept of beauty among women.


The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty was a game-changer in beauty marketing, changing the way brands globally approach, discuss and portray expectations of physical ‘beauty’. Business-wise, the campaign was a massive success with Dove annual sales growing from $2.5 billion to over $4 billion over the first 10 years of the campaign.


Sphero BB-8. The App-enabled droid


The global launch of the app-enabled Sphero BB-8 droid in 2015 is considered by many in the children’s toy and consumer electronics industry to be one of the best product launch/character introduction programs in recent history.


Swerve had the privilege of being the Canada public relations and influencer marketing AOR for this launch, having already worked with Sphero leading marketing in Canada for more than 3 years and because we represent a strong portfolio of brands in toy PR, tech PR, and lifestyle PR.


What set this launch apart was Sphero’s decision to bring all agencies globally together, for a 1-week strategic marketing summit and planning session, in London, England, 5 months before the launch of the product. Together we learned everything there was to know about the product and the character. At the time anything related to the Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie was under extreme embargo, so information on the plot, characters, and personalities was very limited.


Using the limited info. we were privy to, the Sphero marketing and AOR team created a cohesive and seamless strategic global marketing plan to launch the product and introduce the BB-8 character in line with the launch of the most anticipated movie in world history, all on the same day, at the same time regardless of time zones, with the same messaging, story, approach and a mix of tactics, strategies, and execution specific to each global region.


In just a few short months during the 2015 holiday season, Sphero sold more than 1,000,000 BB-8's worldwide and it was crowned the season’s undisputed global ‘must-have’ toy. Swerve continued to work with Sphero long past this launch, creating and executing strategic marketing plans for all its new app-enabled gyro toys as well as new versions of BB-8, R2D2, and other Marvel and LucasFilm licensed products.



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