PR Success Stories: Airborne
Victoria Knight-McDowell, a 2nd grade school teacher had developed a blend of 17 herbs infused with zinc, amino acids, vitamins A, C and E, and marketed it as a natural preventive and cure for the common cold. In an effort to gain greater publicity for their product, Airborne, Victoria and her husband relied primarily on utilizing the general public’s approval and affection to spread knowledge of the brand.
Airborne’s popularity and success has predominantly been credited to a mention on the Oprah Winfrey Show that itself was the product of a skilled PR and word-of-mouth strategy. Oprah’s positive on-air endorsement of Airborne instantly created a media sensation around the product. Subsequent appearances on “Live Regis and Kelly” and many others ensured Airborne’s place as a staple product for medicine cabinets around the country.
Soon after the Oprah appearance, demand for Airborne literally skyrocketed out of control. Related search results from Yahoo!, the most popular search engine at the top, rose dramatically, with “airborne” rising by +370% and “airborne cold remedy” by +5500%. “Demand soared after “the Oprah plug.” Pat St. John said (vice president of marketing for the West Coast division of Trader Joe's). "There was a huge run on it for not just us but for the Costcos and the Walgreens and the other retailers who have been carrying it. They and we have been playing catch up ever since then, but expect to be in stock." Media relations had obviously played a pivotal role in increased sales. "Every year we've been tripling in sales," Victoria’s husband, Rider said, "This year, we grew sevenfold. The product's buzz has made keeping up with demand difficult, even after increasing manufacturing capacity six times.”