This year will be remembered as the year that Felix Baumgartner jumped out of a balloon at the upper level of the Earth's atmosphere and plummeted 127,000 feet to the surface below. It was the biggest publicity stunt of the year, perhaps of all time. Millions of people tuned in world-wide to see if he would go splat or survive in an event that had the trappings of a NASA milestone but that was plastered with Red Bull logos.
So what other marketing stunts did we see this year? What worked and what didn't? Did we see any new twists on well-worn ideas to break through an audience's defenses to keep a brand at the top-of-mind?
Here's a quick list of the best marketing stunts of 2012 not involving space-diving or Red Bull.
Adidas Presents Ebenezer Snoop
With 175,000+ views in less than a week of this Merry holiday-day video of Ebenezer Snoop, Adidas has succeeded in bringing its brand of sports wear to Internet cruisers and holiday shoppers with this half-baked re-make of the Christmas Carol. It's not the best parody of all time, but as for a brand-focused gimmick during a critical sales period, it seems to be well on its way to being one of the more effective of the year.
Halo's Fake UFO
Here's an idea from the department of "War of the Worlds," if you really want people's attention, then freak them out. That's what happened in London this year when Halo announced the launch of the latest incarnation of the popular sci-fi first-person shooter game by projecting the Halo logo onto the sky over London.
How effective was the campaign? The product moved $22 million in sales on its first day.
The Taco Cannon
Even better than a fake UFO is a real cannon that shoots real tacos. Naturally, it's in Texas, the land where tacos and cannons first met. Yes, at Torchy's Tacos in Austin, Texas, you too can hang out in the parking lot and have tacos fired at you from an air cannon. Click for the video of the taco cannon, but watch for the chubby guy in the Texas Longhorns cap who scrambles for flying tacos, and gets nothing.
Bavid Blaine Doing Nothing
No one is sure how David Blaine managed to turn magic into a series of publicity stunts, but this year Intel wanted a piece of whatever it is that Blaine is selling.
For better or worse, 2012 will be forever known as the year that Blaine didn't get electrocuted in a publicity stunt involving an Intel Ultrabook and 1,000,000 volts of electricity.
Intel's PR team estimated that 100,000 people came to see Blaine not get electrocuted on a pier in NYC - that's 10 volts per person. Is that how we calculate ROI these days?
Sony's Waterproof Phone
Using the release of a new James Bond picture as a backdrop for introducing a new tech gadget is always a good idea. Hiding new Sony Xperia waterproof cell phones inside soft-drink cups - and then calling them inside the theater? - *AND* filming it to release on YouTube? - is a brilliant new take on that idea.
Why do all the good marketing stunts happen in Sweden?
Magic Mike DVD Release
When the DVD of Magic Mike - the Matthew McConaughey male stripper movie - hit store shelves, shoppers in London were treated to a "flesh mob," a creepy new variant of the traditional flash mob. Judging from the crowds gathered on the upper levels, it seems that all these rock-hard abs were effectively raising brand awareness.
Google Glass Skydive
It doesn't have the historic patina of the Red Bull space jump, but this skydiving demo of Google's eyeglass platform is potentially a much, much bigger deal. Very few people will ever need to jump to earth from outer space, but there's all kinds of humans who are going to want Google Glass. And with pre-orders shipping in early 2013 for $1,500 a pop, people are going to go bleeping crazy.
What was your favorite stunt of 2012?