Britain's biggest DIY retail chain, B&Q, jumps on the Fifty Shades of Grey bandwagon by telling staff to read the novel so they can advise on sales of duct tape and other 'potentially sensitive' items. As Hayley Platt reports, it's part of a growing trend towards 'real-time marketing'.
B&Q sells around one million metres of rope every year - enough to stretch to the moon and back. Now they're hoping to sell a bit more thanks to a recent publicity stunt. Britain's biggest DIY firm leaked a hoax memo to its staff suggesting they read the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey. The idea - they'd be able to answer any 'potentially sensitive' questions customers may ask. It follows a scene in the book where the novel's main character, Christian Grey, buys some rope, duct tape and cable ties for his somewhat unconventional pursuits. William Ostrom is director of communications at B&Q. SOUNDBITE: William Ostrom, Director of Communications, B&Q, saying (English): "When we knew that the film was coming out we thought perhaps there's an opportunity here to ride on the back of the publicity that's inevitably going to surround a major film release." The movie premiers in the UK at the weekend. B&Q's perfectly timed PR stunt - an example of real-time marketing, where companies react to a specific event, when it's happening. It's a growing trend that brands particularly exploited around the time of the Royal Wedding. And again when the Duchess of Cambridge fell pregnant with England's future heir to the throne. But it can go horribly wrong. Russell Parsons of Marketing Week, points to a suggestive ad campaign by Mini's Canadian marketing team to mark the Royal couple's wedding. SOUNDBITE: Russell Parsons, Editor, Marketing Week, saying (English): "If you kind of walk the line as Mini did in that particular case, there is a risk that people are just going to dismiss the marketing and advertising in this case as opportunistic and crass and in poor taste." B&Q say they're not trying to compete with specialist retailers for customers interested in trying out a bit of bondage. They simply wanted to remind people of the brand. It may be a tenuous link. But it can prove to be very effective and cost effective if successful. SOUNDBITE: William Ostrom, Director of Communications, B&Q, saying (English): "Clearly topicality is an incredibly important asset for any brand to be associated with. But it's very difficult to pull it off without spending very large amounts of money." Still, B&Q is hoping it's range of Mr Christian Grey paint will be a big seller. Customers can buy a bespoke pot in pale grey - the exact colour of the infamous grey tie belonging to Mr Grey. And there's no strings attached, you don't even have to have read the book or seen the film.