How to get free publicity

I love taking on big established brands and shaking up industries. To do this as a challenger brand, you often have to compete against competitors with far larger budgets. To get around this, you need to make the most out of your advertising budget.

Sir Freddie Laker taught me the value of leading from the front and being happy to use myself as the face of the brand – it has served us very well over the years. But there are other tips that can make a big difference on a small budget.

Last year Catalina Girald, the founder of Naja.co, visited Necker Island for a leadership gathering. She had a brilliant idea for her ethical and eco-friendly lingerie, swim and activewear brand. She had a great idea and product, but she was worried it wouldn’t get enough promotion to excite the public.

When she asked me for advice, I simply told her: "Invest in one billboard.". When we were starting Virgin Atlantic we could only afford one billboard; we put it up and told the press that it was going to be a massive nationwide media campaign. The reporters turned out in force and wrote all about the billboard - enough so that we never had to launch the massive campaign at all! 

Catalina took my advice away and planned a strategy to launch #NudeForAll, a Nude lingerie collection in seven shades of Nude for women of all skin colours. In New York, one billboard costs as much as the cheapest subway station. So they bought the Bedford stop in fashionable Williamsburg, convinced a prestigious advertising agency to create their campaign for free, and launched this striking campaign.

The results? Website traffic has quintupled and #NudeForAll is all over the press, getting free publicity for the brand – it certainly caught my eye! Which leads us onto another crucial element of modern day advertising – online promotion and social media cut through – these ads will definitely achieve that. Catalina’s company has purpose beyond profit too. They only employ single mothers or women heads of household and they make about 50 per cent of their products from recycled plastic bottles. Smart advertising, purpose and a good product – that’s a winning combination!

What are the smartest advertising campaigns that have caught your eye?

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