July 24, 2014
The PR Power of Taboo
Recent U.S. sanctions against Russia have prompted an interesting side effect. Apparently, Russian manufacturers are literally running out of AK-47s. One of the companies included in the most recent sanction was Kalashnikov Concern, maker of the notoriously tough and reliable weapon. Now, CNN is reporting that K-Var’s website has listed AK-47s as “out of stock.”
Ronn Torossian says this situation illustrates one of the ways companies can turn taboos or scarcity into public relations bonanzas. It’s human nature to want what you can’t have, and marketers have been banking on limited or controlled market availability for centuries.
But, how can a company turn “you can’t have that” into a public relations coup? Start by loosely connecting the benefits of the product or service with the scarcity issue.
Now, look at the ways something that might otherwise be considered “different” or “weird,” and turn that into a feature or a benefit. Less than a year ago, American consumers were all about the AR-15. Widely considered a “better” weapon than the AK-47, the AR nearly dominated the American semiautomatic sporting rifle market. The Russian-made weapons had a proud history, but their American competitors were being featured nearly every day on the news. Why? Because they had become the central talking point for a rumored “assault rifle” ban. Suddenly, a weapon not in the highest demand was being presented as a product that might soon be illegal, or otherwise off the market. Consumers flooded retailers with orders.
The demand was so high it spawned several related specialty markets such as accessories and customization. Today, AR-15 orders have fallen off, and it’s the perfect moment for AK’s to fill the gap. The Public Relations Power of Taboo at work.