Get ready to be speechless. Some of the world’s most savvy brands have executed marketing stunts so crazy they’ll make you wonder if their marketing team went rogue. We’re talking epic publicity pop-ups like dropping a man from space, customized Coke bottles, and renting an entire town for experiential marketing. 

These are not your typical digital campaigns or commercial spots. These are activations engineered by brands seeking worldwide virality through stuntvertising. But why utilize these extreme guerrilla tactics? Because taking risks, stirring buzz, and simply having fun builds brands and loyal fans. 

Below are 16 examples of the most unconventional and outrageous marketing stunts that generated earned media and won attention across every channel. From altering iconic landmarks to creating over-the-top hoaxes, these companies show no bounds when making a splash. Let’s dive in! 

Barbie’s Malibu Dreamhouse: 

Childhood dreams came true as Barbie’s iconic Dreamhouse mysteriously surfaced in Malibu, California, and was available to book on Airbnb. Ken himself was hosting and giving guests access while Barbie was “away” that summer. The giant pink house with a life-size pool and ocean views was free for a one-night stay for two guests. The listing arrived amidst a viral marketing campaign ramping up for the Barbie movie release on July 21st. Toy brand Mattel leveraged renewed interest in Barbie, resulting in collaborations with Xbox, Aldo, Ruggable, Impala and more. Marketers were also moving into experiential with a Barbie Boat Cruise in Boston. This clever activation aimed to build buzz for the film.

Red Bull Space Jump:  

In 2012, energy drink maker Red Bull made history by sponsoring Felix Baumgartner’s leap from 24 miles above Earth. The nail-biting stunt earned Red Bull the eyes (and hearts) of millions as Baumgartner free-fell at speeds up to 833 mph before parachuting safely to the ground. This death-defying event required 5 years of planning and a custom pressurized suit for Baumgartner to survive the extreme altitude. The live stream drew in a record-shattering 52 million views, proving Red Bull’s ability to pull off what seemed impossible. Talk about taking your brand to new heights! This stunt exemplified Red Bull’s brand personality as an adrenaline-filled risktaker willing to back crazy ideas.

KFC’s Edible Nail Polish:

KFC Hong Kong cooked up a tasty marketing stunt by creating edible nail polishes based on their iconic Original and Hot & Spicy recipes. The polishes literally brought the “Finger LickinGood” slogan to life. Created with a secret blend of 11 herbs and spices, the polishes enabled KFC fans to express their chicken love through flavorful fingertips. This quirky launch generated buzz on social media as beauty influencers posted photos of licking and biting their coated nails. The viral campaign aligned perfectly with KFC’s fun, innovative brand image especially among young demographics. Letting fans wear and taste their products in a whole new way was finger lickin‘ genius.

Elon’s Tesla in Space:

Sending Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster into space on the maiden flight of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket was a masterstroke of branding and public relations. As the flashy red sports car orbited Earth with its spacesuit-wearing driver “Starman,” the images went viral online, capturing the world’s imagination. It cemented the Tesla brand as the epitome of future-forward technology and Elon Musk as an innovative visionary. For SpaceX, it demonstrated the power of its new rocket in an unforgettable way that no typical test payload could match. This clever showcase created excitement and goodwill for both companies, generating an estimated millions of dollars’ worth of global publicity. The Roadster in space will serve as a symbol of human ambition and extend the branding impact indefinitely.

Taco Bell Liberty Bell Prank:  

In 1996, Taco Bell fooled the media and public into believing they had purchased the Liberty Bell and renamed it the “Taco Liberty Bell.” On April 1st, the fast-food chain took out a full-page ad in The New York Times announcing the fictional stunt. While completely made up, the prank stirred massive buzz around Taco Bell and remains one of the most famous April Fool’s gags ever. The ad was so convincing that some actually called to complain before realizing it was just a brilliant hoax. This simple prank demonstrated Taco Bell’s sense of humor and playful spirit, even as a huge brand.

Carlsberg’s “Probably the best” campaign: 

Carlsberg is known for clever marketing campaigns playing off their slogan “probably the best”. A great example was the 2015 “best poster in the world” stunt in London. The billboard dispensed free beer, a simple but perfectly on-brand concept. The hashtag #probablythebest generated over 3 million Twitter impressions in one day. Other memorable campaigns include responding to Protein World’s controversial “Beach Body Ready” ads by asking if people were “beer body ready”. Carlsberg’s creative marketing consistently leverages their iconic slogan. 

Diesel’s Knock off Store campaign: 

In a clever 2018 PR stunt, Diesel set up a fake counterfeit store called “Deisel” on New York’s Canal Street, known for knock-off goods. Unsuspecting visitors believed they were buying imitation Diesel products. However, the clothes were actually unique, authentic items created specifically for the stunt. Diesel tricked consumers into purchasing real designer garments rather than fakes. The one-of-a-kind “Deisel” pieces will likely become valuable collector’s items. This innovative stunt generated buzz for Diesel while commenting on issues of counterfeiting and consumerism in the fashion industry. 

Volvo’s Epic Split Featuring Van Damme:  

In 2013, Volvo made waves with their viral ad stunt featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme. The action star famously performed the splits in an epic scene set between two reversing Volvo truck trailers. With his feet planted on the side mirrors, Van Damme steadily lowered his body into a full dramatic split as the two trucks reversed in perfect synchronization. This dazzling and dangerous demonstration was used by Volvo to showcase the precision and control enabled by their advanced dynamic steering technology. The eye-catching ad generated incredible buzz for Volvo across the internet.

IKEA’s Sleepover Event:  

In 2011, IKEA brilliantly brought a viral Facebook joke to life by hosting a for-real sleepover at their Essex, UK store. After an online group humorously discussed spending a night in IKEA, the company extended the invite to 100 lucky customers. Arriving in pajamas, guests were treated to fun activities like enjoying Swedish meatballs, participating in product challenges, and being tucked into cozy model beds by a comedian. IKEA created a wildly imaginative, dream experience that tapped into their fans’ innate love of spending hours in their stores. The immersive stunt generated priceless engagement and goodwill.

The Blair Witch Project’s Fiction as Reality:  

The 1999 indie horror film The Blair Witch Project wreaked havoc through its groundbreaking viral marketing centering on ambiguity between fact and fiction. In the year leading up to release, its promotional website curated fake missing persons leaflets, police reports, newsreels, and “documented” interviews presenting the movie’s fictional premise as reality. This blurred reality tactic generated intense public speculation over whether the footage was real, fueling public intrigue and dread. By innovatively leveraging the early internet and society’s trust in documentary, the campaign created a terrifyingly convincing interactive legend.

Coca-Cola’s Name on Bottles Campaign: 

In 2014, Coca-Cola connected with customers on a personal level by printing popular names on their bottles and cans instead of just the Coca-Cola logo. This “Share a Coke” campaign tapped into the power of personalization, allowing individuals to find bottles uniquely labeled with their name at stores. The strategy made customers feel special and created a wave of social media posts from people eager to share their discovery. This simple personal touch fostered closer brand affinity and boosted sales as people jumped at the chance to buy a Coke with their name on it.

Snapple’s World’s Largest Popsicle Fail:  

In 2005, Snapple orchestrated a massive publicity stunt by attempting to set a world record for the largest popsicle, erecting a 25-foot tall, 17.5-ton frozen treat in the middle of Times Square. However, the oversized Snapple-flavored popsicle quickly melted under the hot sun and began leaking sweet fluid, flooding the streets. The hilarious PR fail went viral, with photos of streets flowing with red melted popsicle juice making headlines. Though the stunt didn’t go as planned, it generated tons of free press coverage and cemented Snapple as a fun, daring brand in consumers’ minds.

Burger King’s Whopper Sacrifice Campaign:  

In 2009, Burger King created a viral Facebook app campaign offering users a free Whopper if they deleted 10 friends from their friend list. The controversial “Whopper Sacrifice” promotion playfully preyed on people’s willingness to cull their inflated friend counts for free food. The campaign’s runaway popularity led to over 234,000 friend “sacrifices” within a week, forcing Facebook to shut it down. But Burger King ultimately achieved huge brand buzz and engagement by gleefully tapping into the burgeoning social media culture. The silly app highlighted the power and pitfalls of leveraging new platforms., The First Dot Com City:  

In a bold publicity move, fledgling e-commerce company paid the small town of Halfway, Oregon, $100,000 to legally change its name to for one year in 2000. The stunt drew massive media buzz for the previously unknown start-up, giving a creative edge against its early dot-com rivals. The name change colorfully emphasized’s mission to offer discounted products for half-price or less. The outside-the-box campaign was a huge success, elevating’s profile right before being acquired by eBay for $300 million later that year.

Nike’s Self-Lacing Sneakers:  

Capitalizing on nostalgia, Nike released real-life self-lacing sneakers in 2016 inspired by the futuristic shoes in Back to the Future II. When wearers stepped in, the Nike HyperAdapt 1.0 shoes automatically tightened to conform to their feet. Only available in limited quantities, the highly coveted sneakers caused a frenzy among sneakerheads, resellers, and Back to the Future fans. The craze for the innovative shoes generated huge buzz on social media and reinforced Nike’s brand image as a trailblazing company pushing athletic footwear into the future.

Old Spice’s “Man Your Man Could Smell Like” Campaign:  

In 2010, Old Spice created viral magic with their eccentric “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” ads starring Isaiah Mustafa. The former football player charmingly switched scenarios in quick cutting shots, seamlessly transitioning from horseback riding to hot tub lounging and more. The zany non-sequitur visuals and smooth delivery captured millions of views on YouTube. The memorable campaign refreshed Old Spice’s image as a modern, humorous brand targeting younger consumers, successfully boosting sales and pop culture appeal.

Key Takeaways

  • Going big pays off – Whether it’s falling from space or pranking an entire city, massive stunts make massive impressions. 
  • Laughing builds loyalty – Brands that show humor and don’t take themselves too seriously are more relatable. 
  • Risk brings reward – Bold ideas that push boundaries break through the noise. 
  • Leverage new platforms – Capitalizing on emerging tech and networks multiplies impact. 
  • Bank on nostalgia – Linking to audience’s cultural memories strikes a chord. 
  • Put on a show – Experiences that engage the senses make memories. 
  • Customize the message – Personal touches make people feel uniquely valued. 
  • Hype drives desire – Limited releases and exclusivity breed frenzies. 


From falling from the heavens to rising from the depths of the sea, these marketing stunts truly pushed the limits of possibility. While not every company can or should drop themselves from space, every brand can take inspiration from the imagination and audacity on display. At the end of the day, customers crave creativity, entertainment, and innovation. Companies that can package their message in unexpected and outrageous ways are primed to grab attention and create lasting impact. So be bold, be funny, be first – just don’t be boring. When it comes to marketing, fortune favors the bold, so long as the spirit behind it is as clever as the spectacle. Go big or go home!