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4 PR and Marketing Lessons from Fiji Water Girl’s Golden Globes Photobombing

Derek Blaszak

Director of Digital Marketing

Not since Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodger’s sideline antics has there been such a calculated and prolific photobomber.

If you watched the red carpet arrivals at the 2019 Golden Globes, or scrolled through your feed on practically any social media channel recently, you’ve probably heard about and seen the Fiji Water Girl.

Los Angeles-based model and Fiji Water brand ambassador Kelleth Cuthbert became an overnight internet sensation after pictures of her standing behind Hollywood stars holding a tray of bottled water went viral. With a sly smile and a bit of elegance, she managed to steal the limelight from quite a few celebrities.

CNN proclaimed Fiji and Cuthbert deserved the award for “most obvious PR stunt.” While it does seem like blatant promotion, however, there’s something about this move that’s genius. After all, everyone was talking about Fiji Water after the awards show.

Here are a few lessons we can learn from one of the first major memes of 2019.

1. Adding Value Gives You an In

Cuthbert and other “Fiji Water girls,” were on the red carpet on behalf of the brand to help keep all those famous people hydrated on their big night. They were providing a valuable service by giving something away that people wanted and needed.

If these women were just wandering around the red carpet holding banners that read, “DRINK FIJI WATER TODAY!” They’d still be promoting the brand, but they’d also be annoying and extremely intrusive.

Can you think of any other advertising tactics like that?

How can you create marketing that adds value without irritating your target audience?

2.  Put Yourself in the Middle of the Action

The red carpet is a place where people are meant to get noticed. It’s where all the action and excitement is. The “red carpet” for your company could be the expo floor at a big industry tradeshow. It could also be a networking event, or even a social platform or an online forum where experts in your company have an opportunity to share their knowledge.

If you want to get noticed (AKA earn attention), you need to show up to the places where important conversations are happening – whether in the real or digital world. And, you need an actual plan when you get there. Get some advice in our article about tradeshow marketing strategy.

3. Steal the Show by Keeping it Simple

The Golden Globes awards show is a night of glitz and glamour. It’s the world’s most beautiful people wearing the world’s most expensive clothes as flash bulbs fire and photogs scream out names.

No one was screaming the name Kelleth Cuthbert. So, how did she get noticed?

Fiji Water Girl grabbed the public’s attention wearing a simple blue dress (the same one as several other women) and a smile. She didn’t have to dress extravagantly, and she didn’t make goofy faces, give bunny ears, or de-pants Henry Winkler.

When everyone else is being noisy and needy, being quiet and clear about your intentions can help your brand stand out. By effortlessly slipping her way into the story, Cuthbert also created a sense of mystery. This sparked the public’s curiosity. We wanted to know, “Who is this woman and what is she doing?

4. Patience Pays Off

The truth is, Fiji Water Girl was no accident. It was a payoff that was perhaps overdue for the bottled water brand.

According to Business Insider, Fiji has been sending brand ambassadors to awards shows for more than ten years. It’s been part of the brand’s long-term marketing strategy, and only now did it happen to go viral.

There’s really no sense in trying to make your marketing content go viral. Viral internet fame is fleeting. Depending on when you read this you may have no idea who Fiji Water Girl is. But, when you show up consistently and follow an actual marketing strategy rather than randomly trying every flashy tactic that comes your way, you will see results.

Brand marketing is not the same as direct marketing. It takes patience and commitment.

Be Prepared for Potential Critics

Public relations is an art. For every glowing review there will be a handful of critics, and you never know when the media will publish those opinions.

An example of that for Fiji Water is an article from VOX titled, “Fiji Water Girl would be great – if bottled water wasn’t so harmful.” Not only does the article talk about the environmental impact of bottled water, it also calls out Fiji for holding tax exempt status in the actual islands of Fiji while polluting the air with diesel-powered factories.

Meantime, Jezebel decried the virality of the #FijiWaterGirl meme as horrible sponsored content that we should be ashamed of sharing and enjoying.

It’s reasons like this that having a top-notch public relations team on your side can be so valuable. Maybe you’re not as public-facing as Fiji water and you don’t have an in-house PR staff. That’s where Element comes in.

We’ll help you develop that rock-solid marketing strategy, and we have public relations experts who are ready and willing to help you get noticed, get covered, and protect your reputation. Contact Element to find out more.