Recently I devoured the autobiography of Baroness Mone OBE within two days. I couldn’t put it down. I’ve followed her online for a while and as a person I look up to, I had no idea of her real journey, the real fight to the top.
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Most successful bra launch in history
Michelle Mone first got on my radar when I was researching PR examples to share with my audience. The Ultimo launch in 1999 immediately caught my eye and is my all-time favourite PR example.
Heavily pregnant Michelle went into Selfridge’s, without an appointment, to show the team her bra and ask them to stock it. She didn’t go to the small independent stores to launch her product, she was thinking big. Naturally, the store wouldn’t see her and even her confident pitch wasn’t getting an appointment.
She broke down… and how can you say no to a crying pregnant lady right? While they calmed her and offered her a cup of tea they tried on her bras. In awe of her design, they agreed to buy 6 months worth of stock.
Whilst this sounds great, it was an expensive activity that needed investment to deliver the stock and get out of accruing debt. She had £500 left to market the bras.
Most people would sink this into advertising, but even in 1999 £500 wouldn’t get you far. So she thought creatively and used it towards PR instead hiring 12 actors to protest outside the store on launch day. The actors were dressed as plastic surgeons protesting with signs and shouting that the Ultimo bra would put them out of business.
Driving to Selfridge’s on launch day, Michelle worried if the risky PR stunt would even work when her taxi couldn’t drive down Oxford Street. The road was filled with crowds… and the media.
The store sold all 6 months stock n five hours and the stunt resulted in £54m worth of free media coverage overnight. It’s safe to say the risk paid off as it was the most successful bra launch in Europe.
Read more about the story in her book or here.
Pinching Penny’s pants
The first Ultimo model to launch the brand was Rod Stewart’s girlfriend Penny Lancaster. The collaboration with Penny helped skyrocket the brand but when her contract was up Michelle decided to find another model to keep the brand fresh and moving forward.
She decided to approach Rachel Hunter… Rod Stewart’s ex-wife! The decision was completely for business as Michelle knew Rachel would fit the brand, plus she was a supermodel with bags of experience… but inside she knew the controversial story would hit the press.
The Ultimo PR
Michelle’s love of PR didn’t end there. She knew the power of it and continued to use it throughout her career.
To celebrate losing six stone she decided to have her own photo shoot in the brand’s underwear she could finally wear. Again, the decision paid off as the media was on her side and she even received thousands of supportive letters from the public.
When she separated with her husband, Michelle immediately sent out a press release announcing it to the media before he or anyone else did. Read the story here.
Sadly because of her use of the media, when she was robbed at knifepoint some journalists believed it was staged. Of course, it was not.
Seize your own opportunities
Baroness Mone encourages entrepreneurs to seize opportunities and proactively grow their businesses, telling aspiring business owners to never sit back. Read more of her inspiring words here.Never sit back. Seize your own opportunities and proactively grow your business. Entrepreneurial advice from @MichelleMone Click To Tweet
You don’t need a million pound budget or a degree to be good at or even dabble in PR. All you need is a can-do attitude and fire within you to succeed.