PR Triumphs and Disasters 2016



In a war of words that saw ‘complex truth’ take on ‘simple lies’, the leave campaign honoured a sales and marketing golden rule – ‘keep it simple, stupid.’ Coining slogans like ‘take back control’ and ‘project fear’, they did indeed keep it simple, convincing more that 17 million people to vote to leave the EU.



When Unilever announced it would be pushing up the price of Marmite to compensate for the steep drop in the value of the post-Brexit pound, Tesco transformed itself into the people’s champion, refusing to pay and removing Marmite and other affected products from its website. As a result, YouGov’s brand reputation score for Tesco jumped 5.2 points.


Leicester City wins the Premier League

With 92 clubs in the Premier and English football leagues, it’s unlikely for any club to win the title, yet football fans usually don’t cheer any team winning the title but their own. Leicester City changed all that.

Starting the 2015-16 season well, nobody, including hometown boy and English football legend Gary Linekar, saw them continuing that form to the end of the season but as the months ticked on, the results kept coming.

Plucky little Leicester, who let’s not forget were almost relegated the previous season, tapped into that great British psyche of cheering the underdog. And when they overturned the odds to secure the title in May, a whole new generation of fans (and second club followers) was born.

Leicester managed the media well throughout, going on to win BBC Sports Personality of the Year’s Team of the Year.



The #StopFundingHate campaign started after the Daily Mail’s ‘Enemies of the People’ front page. It quickly demonstrated the clout of social media, amassing more than 200,000 Facebook likes and almost 70,000 Twitter followers, all willing to throw their weight behind its mission to end divisive editorial in the British media.

Furthermore, it convinced big brands such as Co-op and Lego to stop advertising in the publication.



Putting its core brand values before sales, Lego ended its promotional partnership with the Daily Mail in response to an open letter from a customer and the #StopFundingHate campaign.

In return, Lego garnered extensive media coverage across the board and retained the good favour of its customers who embrace the brand’s ethos of inclusiveness.




While leave campaigners remembered to KISS, the remain camp trumpeted so many robust reasons to stay in the EU that voters lost interest. Furthermore, most of the convoluted remain arguments wound their way back to the economy, something that the disillusioned majority no longer cared about. The leave campaign’s vociferous confidence was met with dull, complicated opposition that lacked the vision and power required to persuade voters it was worth remaining in the EU.



Toblerone fans took to social media last month to slam the brand’s decision to change the shape and quantity of chocolate in its iconic bars. Mondelez International widened the gaps between the much-loved chunks of triangular chocolate in a bid to reduce costs, underestimating its customers’ passion for the original bar.



This is as much a PR disaster as it is a customer services catastrophe. Whirlpool, the manufacturer which supplies tumble dryers to a number of top brands including Indesit and Hotpoint, announced a safety issue with the machines, warning that the tumble dryers may burst into flames.

It did not, however, issue a product recall, insisting on repairing or replacing an estimated 5.3m potentially faulty machines.

But folks were reassured by the good news that they could continue to use their tumble dryers during this lengthy process, as long as they didn’t leave them unattended…

Would you buy a Whirlpool tumble dryer now?



Cadbury’s unhappy brand journey has become something of tragicomedy since Kraft seized the once-loved British chocolate maker.

Misunderstanding the brand’s values, or perhaps wilfully ignoring them, Mondelez has angered Cadbury’s lovers up and down the country.

From shoehorning Mondelez products into Cadbury’s chocolate (Dairy Milk with Ritz, anyone?), making some of the British brand’s chocolates in Poland and removing the iconic Bournville bar from the Heroes tub (and replacing it with Mondelez’ own Toblerone bars – see above), to changing the Crème Egg recipe, quietly pulling out of the Fairtrade scheme and mutilating the shape of Dairy Milk bars – Mondelez is quite literally cutting corners.

They’ve even axed the Christmas chocolate gift for retired Cadbury’s workers, making the brand look more like Scrooge than Santa Claus.



It was matter of taste, or lack of, when the cereal manufacturer tweeted a ‘Rest in peace’ sign just hours after Prince’s death. The issue? They replaced the dot over the ‘i’ with an image of a Cheerio…

Fans of the singer hit back on social media and Cheerios had to release a statement explaining the company had intended to ‘acknowledge the loss of a musical legend in its hometown.’



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