The popularity of an Instant Win


Becky Munday, CEO at Mando, addresses customer lack of belief in brands Instant Win promotions, and shares how brands can shape their promotion to encourage customers to enter.

In times gone by a Winning Moment competition was one of the most popular mechanics for a brand to run. However, over the last couple of years there have been a few people creating a small amount of negative press. These so called “Experts” are making brands think twice before running these competitions and customers are missing out on the chance to win brilliant prizes and engage with the brands they love.

Some of these “experts” run online blogs, writing about their experiences of entering competitions. They claim to make a living out of winning prizes designed to reward consumers for purchasing the brand. I believe, that they are actually damaging some brands reputations by stating that these competitions are unfair and misleading, just because they don’t know anyone that has won. I blame the internet. This forum provides instant access to information and you think you know everything with Google at your fingertips.

A number of brands have got into hot water in the past over “Experts” claiming that these promotions are misleading. Covent Garden Soup in 2012 ran a competition with the chance to win £500,000 as a top prize. Although 260,000 customers entered, due to the winning URN not being entered that the algorithm was assigned to, the top prize wasn’t won. This resulted in a small number of people complaining that the promotion was unfair. Annie Swift, Chief executive of the IPM (at the time), said: “There was nothing wrong with the terms and conditions. It was legal, and it followed the rules which cover promotions like this.”

20 years ago, McCain put blue chips inside their packaging and if customers found one they won a family trip to Disneyland. Only a few were claimed but I don’t remember one person complained. This is partly due to the internet. Now it is easy for “Experts” to speak to each other in forums and social media groups where they can quickly jump to conclusions because none of them have won. The problem is this is more a maths probability problem than a brand ethics problem. If there are only 10 prizes across 35 million packs or codes and 20,000 “experts/compers” enter, the probability is they will not have a winning code.

McCain got into trouble with the ASA in 2018 for exaggerating prizes (£3m prizes available), but it was only after a complaint, the universe and chance of winning became public. The ASA upheld the complaint, but with a few small tweaks such as a clearer headline, a smaller pack universe and a greater allocation of lower tier prizes, McCain could run a fabulous Instant Win promotion that really gets customers talking positively. Instant Win and Winning Moment Promotions must comply with the CAP Code, and rule 8.20 states: “Promoters must not exaggerate consumers’ chances of winning prizes. They must not include a consumer who has been awarded a gift in a list of prize winners.”

The CAP Code does not state that customers must be told what the universe is for the competition. Customers only have to be told how many prizes are available to be won, and unless explicitly stated that prizes are guaranteed to be won, there is no promise that every prize will be won. This is not considered as unfair by the CAP Code.

Customers want to hear that other customers have won, making it believable, which is why we always encourage brands to offer a tiered system of prizes, ensuring that there is not just one top prize, but thousands of smaller prizes that can be won too. However, Mando has worked with a brand that has been running the most famous Instant Win and Winning Moments promotion for the last 15 years. It is so famous and successful due to the promotion itself as a whole driving sales and awareness, and customers actually win prizes as there are so many of the lower tier options on offer.

Brands should not shy away from running these promotions just because there are a small number of people that feel they are unfair because they haven’t won. With the correct promotional advice and ensuring that the promotion complies with the CAP Code, brands should still run these promotions to appeal to the everyday and most loyal customers, not just the ones that buy their products to make a quick win.

For more information or to find out how we can help with your upcoming sales promotion please contact Amy Hemstock on 01296 717900 or