The 50 Shades PR Bandwagon….

There’s a term used in PR – Piggybacking. It’s where we PR types take what’s in the news and piggyback clients onto it, to make them relevant. The most obvious of these recently has been the launch of Fifty Shade of Grey! Type in the moniker to Google and you’ll get 297 million hits!

I could offer you 50 Shades of PR – but I won’t (because that would actually be boring), instead I’ll show you 10 different ways companies have piggybacked the phenomena that is Mr Grey…

1. I know, Gransnet, how, why, really? The team at Gransnet created their own Mr Grey, renamed Mr Beige. They developed tongue-in-cheek content for their website and then promoted it via social media and their newsletter. The headline grabbing top story is designed to promote their users to go further and look at other content on their site. An obvious tactic, yes. But also fun, creative and made relevant to their older generation of readers. 8/10.


  1. FIFTY SHADE OF STATIONERY landed on our desk last week – stretching the link? Waaaaayyy too much, but it made me look inside. 3/10Stationery
  2.  B&Q announce they expect a run on rope and duct tape following film release and tell staff to watch the movie so they can answer sensitive questions.They later admit this is a PR ruse. A great example of how to grab the headlines. It’s quick, easy, relevant and a bit of fun and gives the DIY giant two bites of the cherry. 10/10


  1. Is this really going to make you buy Surf ? Not really! 3/10surf5. Launch of limited edition 50 shades of Green – aphrodisiac ale. Great job! 10/10beer6. The Baby Onsie/Change Mat/and any other baby product you can plaster this onto – an easy win for online baby retailers. Not particularly exciting and probably inappropriate to put on a child, but a fun purchase potentially at the right price 5/10

change mat baby vest7. Love it or Hate It – another great PR stunt from Marmite – 10/10


8. Domestic Abuse Campaigners Use the film to highlight their issues. Whether you agree with their point that 50 Shades Glorifies Domestic Abuse or not – their highly vocal campaign combined with controversial banners certainly got them in the headlines!


9. A Canadian paint company offers 166 shades of grey…their press release includes: Whether you prefer the bold, red undertones in Silhouette AF-655 or the stylish, cool blues in Metropolitan AF-690, Benjamin Moore has a grey for every shade of your desire.”

A survey to make it more newsworthy would have worked better i.e. it turns out that it’s shade#12 called xx in a survey of 50 shades of grey that proves the most popular.. 4/10

paint10. This very blog…I’m using 50 Shades to talk to my clients and potential clients about PR

The key to successful piggybacking

  • Preparation – know what’s coming up
  • Timing – two weeks after an event is too late
  • If it’s tongue in cheek keep it fun – don’t take yourself or your company too seriously
  • Remember, you can make serious points too


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