For brands and agencies today, the opportunities offered by prize promotions and incentives are truly greater than ever before, says Chris Pearson of Element London
Prize promotions are as old as the hills. From cereal-box toys to Caribbean holidays, the idea of a brand driving sales and engagement through prizes and rewards has been around for decades. However, while prize promotions and competitions are a regular component of annual marketing budgets for many FMCG brands, they have traditionally been a ‘bridesmaid’, playing a supporting role to above-the-line advertising campaigns and creative concepts. From social media giveaways to retailer overlays, prize-led activations reliably drive sales, engagement and loyalty among key target markets without necessarily being a core focus in themselves.
But that may be changing. Prize activity has been at the very forefront of Coca-Cola’s 2017 positioning across Europe, with their ‘Win a Dream Holiday’ competition taking the place of ‘Share a Coke’ across bottles throughout the summer, supported by considerable above-the-line marketing spend. Recent promotions from brands including Weetabix, Carling and Danone have taken similarly prominent roles in advertising creative.
The profile of such promotions is further multiplied by greater press coverage and, increasingly, by greater levels of attention and engagement on social media. Brands and agencies are rightly fearful of the backlash which can erupt on Facebook and Twitter when competitions are badly managed – either at the entry or fulfilment stage – but this is just one side of the coin. An innovative, original competition with aspirational prizes and an engaging entry mechanic can be great social content: fun, shareable and aesthetically attractive.
Spreading the word
While some of this social media sharing will be organic and spontaneous, there are also ways to maximise the social reach generated by competitions and promotions. Whether competitions are run on social media sites or via a dedicated promotional microsite, you can prompt consumers to share their entries on their social feeds, driving further traffic and engagement from their peers.
The entry mechanic has a vital role to play here. Asking consumers to enter via a ‘like’ for a Facebook post, or by inputting their email address on a microsite, has an appealing simplicity that is likely to drive high entry rates. But asking people to tag an Instagram photograph or upload a video can be much more valuable, in terms of creating interesting personalised content. Entry rates may be lower, but there’s the potential for your brand’s messaging to be shared and spread much more widely.
Crucially, however, the prize needs to be right. Whether it’s an on-trend destination, a hot ticket event, a quirky or unique activity, or even a bundle of designer goods, the prize needs to fit the brand’s target audience. It also needs to have the cultural cachet – by virtue of being fashionable or aspirational – to make people want to associate with it. If a person’s social media profile is the face they want to present to the world, your prize needs to fit with that face. As well as being something your target market wants, it must also be something they are happy being seen to want.
One failsafe way to make sure your prize passes this test is by putting the choice in the hands of the consumer. From Nutella and Kleenex to Budweiser and Glenfiddich, we’ve worked on a range of promotions where winners have designed their own prizes. Ask entrants to describe their perfect day/weekend/holiday/birthday/summer – in words, pictures or video – and reward the winner by turning their entry into a reality.
In our experience, the entries make for fascinating reading. From touching stories submitted by people who want to make a dream come true for a family member, to hilariously weird and wonderful ideas about what constitutes the perfect holiday, a gallery of entries can constitute superbly entertaining content. The prizes we’ve organised for promotions of this kind range from month-long American road trips and Icelandic whale watching holidays to school trips, village fetes and even a wedding day!
In the case of winning entries, of course, the potential for social activity is huge. Having selected an interesting and engaging story to bring to life, a brand can use social media to document the whole prize experience. From the reaction on winning through to trip preparations, and finally the experience itself, why not harness the power of Facebook and Instagram to get the biggest possible reach for your prize budget? Written testimonials and photographs are great. If you can include a GoPro as part of the prize, and encourage winners to film a fun video diary, that’s even better.
Indeed, if you’re offering a prize with real novelty or entertainment value, it might even be worth enlisting a professional camera crew. Whether it’s a celebrity meet-and-greet, an adrenaline-fuelled action break or a wacky road trip adventure, a promotional video can often pay for itself. After all, we’re talking about genuine, unscripted footage of a delighted customer interacting with your brand while enjoying the experience of a lifetime. What better brand advertisement could there be?
Power and influence
With Instagram influencers and bloggers enjoying an ever-increasing profile and credibility as brand ambassadors, influencer marketing offers another interesting route to maximising the reach and visibility of your sales promotion. From fashion and food to tech and travel, if you’re offering an amazing experience for competition winners, why not reserve a space on the trip for a prominent blogger? Plenty of advance publicity while the promotion is running, live updates throughout the trip, and lots of interesting post-event content: it’s a win-win situation. Plus, with a well-matched influencer adding to the prestige and buzz around the prize experience you’re offering (particularly for youth focused brands), there’s no better way to drive engagement and excitement.
All of this can be summed up in three words: make it count. Whether it’s a limited edition product or a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a great prize promotion gives lucky customers something amazing, something to cherish and remember. So shout about it.
Chris Pearson is an Account Director at specialist prize and incentive agency Element London, which has over 30 years’ experience in delivering travel prizes, incentives, winner management and fulfilment to a range of global clients.