Why the biggest prize isn’t right

New research smashes the ‘big is best’ theory and preset ideas on competition entry methods, and demonstrates that online is changing the rules of engagement.

Above: Sony Mobile uses competitions and prize draws as a way for consumers to interact with the brand

Everyone loves the chance to win some cash but when it comes to the size of the prize, less is more, according to research done for Marketing Week. The study, by verification service PromoVeritas, finds that people are more likely to enter a competition or draw if they feel they have a good chance of winning, and their perception is that if the prize is of a lower value or there are more of them, they will be in with a better chance.

Volkswagen UK communications manager Tom Wharfe agrees that value is not always the most important factor for consumers. “Our most successful draw through social media, in terms of the number of entries, was when we offered a Campervan tent as a prize,” he says.

People had to guess where in the UK the car brand had pitched a Campervan tent in order to win. “It was low value but we really hit on something that people are passionate about – that level of nostalgia around the iconic Volkswagen Campervan. By tapping into that interest, we got huge levels of entries.”

Striking a chord with your audience when it comes to prizes is paramount and brands must do their homework, the research suggests. For example, when asked: ‘which prizes and gifts are likely to persuade you to enter a competition or prize draw?’ only 17 per cent of consumers answered: ‘a trip to the 2014 football World Cup in Brazil’, compared to 45 per cent who say ‘a household appliance’.

“Being able to give away tickets for the World Cup in Brazil is one of the huge benefits of being a sponsor – and [yet] people don’t seem to care,” claims PromoVeritas managing director Jeremy Stern.

“Cash is king. If I was doing something with £100,000 to offer, I wouldn’t give it in one prize, I would split it into 100 prizes of £1,000 because that would generate a better response. Consumers will think that although the prize value is lower, their chances of winning are higher, which makes them feel more positive and likely to give it a go,” he explains.

Promotions of all types remain as popular as ever with consumers with almost three-quarters of the UK population entering a prize draw or competition in the past 12 months, according to the 1,000 consumers polled. What’s more, almost a quarter of those who enter do so on average at least once a fortnight. 

Our most successful draw through social media in terms of number of entries, was when we offered a Campervan tent as a prize

Competitions that require a level of skill tend to get fewer entries than prize draws which are just a game of chance, says Stern. However, competitions tend to have more passionate followers because those who enter are likely to be more engaged with the brand in question.

Those between the ages of 35 and 44 and people over 55 are most likely to enter promotions and do so more frequently, according to the research. Targeting particular groups of consumers with tailored gifts can be easier online.

“When you’re running more traditional campaigns in a supermarket, for example, on-pack competitions or draws where people can win a prize, it’s the same message for thousands of people. Online, promoters can target consumers through social media with tailored gifts,” explains Graham Temple, vice-chairman at the Institute of Promotional Marketing (IPM). 

As well as its ‘win a tent’ competition on Facebook, Volkswagen launched a prize draw in November as part of its ‘Play the Road’ campaign. The brand created an app with Tribal Worldwide London and band Underworld with responsive technology housed within a smartphone that reacts to the movements of a car. Every time the driver turns a corner, speeds up or slow down, the movements of the car create music, which is played through the vehicle’s sound system.

However, VW couldn’t release the app to the public at large as it could be seen as promoting dangerous driving. Instead, it launched a prize draw whereby the winner could try the technology as part of a track day and created a video demonstrating the technology (see case study, below).

“Any big brand with a big budget can create a cool video and make it look like they’ve done something that isn’t actually real. But we wanted to get across the fact that we had actually created the technology and it works,” explains Volkswagen’s Wharfe.

“The promotion is slightly unusual in that it’s not trying to leverage an engaged fan base, it’s about making people believe that this technology we’ve created is real. At the end of the video it says ‘Musicians Wanted’, which drives people to our Facebook page so they can enter the prize draw for a chance to experience the app for themselves.”

To enter the draw, people had to come to the social page, but it was supported through other channels such as CRM. “We emailed customers and prospects of the VW GTI model and our sports [car] audience to tell them about the video and how to enter,” says Wharfe.

volkswagen-car-2013-460
Volkswagen promoted its in-car music app (below) by offering people a chance to test-drive the technology on a track day

The video had over 500,000 views in six days.

Meanwhile, electricals brand Philips regularly runs competitions and prize draws through social media.

“Competitions form part of a wider social content and editorial strategy that we employ to engage with our consumers,” explains Wander Bruijel, head of brand, communications & digital at Philips UK & Ireland.

“It allows us to reward fans for their loyalty, and it can form part of a strategy to grow our fan base and deliver higher levels of engagement.”

But the channel chosen often depends on what the objectives are.

“Philips is largely focused on the key social platforms, namely Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Each channel plays a specific role in the manner in which we engage with our consumers. Competitions on Facebook are largely about engagement and rewards. Twitter serves us well for brand amplification and reach,” he says.

Whatever the aim, fundamentally, says Temple at the IPM, the reason why brands run competitions and prize draws is to get people to buy their products, either in preference to a competitor, or in greater quantity. 

Despite the propensity of promotions on platforms like Facebook, it is not the only popular channel for consumers entering prize draws and competitions.

Company websites and microsites (54 per cent) and email (49 per cent) are by far the most popular entry mechanisms for promotions, followed by Facebook (39 per cent), according to PromoVeritas. However, in-store (26 per cent) and post or letter (20 per cent) are still popular, with Twitter at 16 per cent.

“The offline factor requires longer planning time,” explains Erick Arnberg, digital communications manager at Sony Mobile, which works with DigitasLBi on global digital initiatives. “We would only do it in an instance of a larger activity, a main campaign because you need a constant dialogue with your audience. If you were to include the offline element, you wouldn’t be as flexible,” he says. 

By contrast, text, which used to be an extremely popular method of entering competitions, has seen a drop in use with only 15 per cent of consumers favouring it.

Philips-Electricals-2013-ad-460
”Competitions allow us to reward fans for their loyalty, help grow our fan base and deliver higher levels of engagement” – Wander Bruijel, Philips (pictured)

“Mobile-enabled devices mean that it’s now much easier to enter through a website while you’re on the move,” explains Stern at PromoVeritas.

“The practice of texting answers is on the wane, partly because a lot of organisations started charging £1 for a text. People started to feel like they were being milked.”

Age is also a factor when it comes to preferred channel. Those aged 18 to 34 are, unsurprisingly, most likely to enter promotions through social media, according to PromoVeritas’ research, while those over aged 55 are dramatically less likely to enter in this way but are nevertheless happy to enter online – a higher percentage of this group make use of email and ‘comping’ websites (sites that list competitions) than other age groups.

Industry sector may also affect this decision. “In the technology industry, we see an over-index of consumers using digital, so it’s more of a natural channel for us,” says Sony Mobile’s Arnburg.

In August, Facebook changed its rules, making it easier for businesses to create and administer promotions on its site by removing the requirement that they could only be done through apps. Promotions can now also be administered on page timelines. Brands can now collect entries by having users post on the page or comment/like a page post, collect entries by having users message the page and utilise likes as a voting mechanism.

Promotions are popular and consumers will throw their hat in the ring if the prize is right.

Case study

Play the Road

Volkswagen’s ‘Play the Road’ promotion gave people the chance to win a VW track day where their driving style would be translated into a personalised soundtrack through an iPhone app created by the car brand. The app combines data from the car’s engine management system with smartphone technology to detect speed, turns, gear changes and driving style, creating a dynamic version in real time of a music track produced exclusively by electronic group Underworld.

To enter, consumers needed to visit a Facebook microsite containing more information on the project and an accompanying video. A short entry period was chosen to keep the promotion fresh.

“If you hold draws open for too long, you get a level of fatigue and there’s only so many posts you can do and a limited media budget to support it, says Wharfe.

Wharfe says Play the Road was not so much about data capture or lead generation. “That is a positive spin off,” he says.

“We tend to use social media for engagement and to leverage the interest and passion that people have for Volkswagen.” 

“We have quite a comprehensive strategy around fan generation. One of the ways we do it is through prize draws because we know people might be engaged with Volkswagen through the things we do but aren’t fans of us on Facebook yet. Draws are a good way to get them to visit our page and register for our content.”

Five tips for a successful promotion

1. Plan

Consider all aspects of the promotion from start to finish. Split the project into three phases: pre-promotion, live phase and post promotion. Implementation is vital: terms and conditions, winner selection and prize or gift fulfilment are the most common causes of promotional disasters.

2. Invest in solid terms and conditions

You can’t change T&Cs once they are published so begin with the end in mind. All significant conditions should be available at the time of purchase or participation. ‘Terms apply’ isn’t good enough.

3. Try to beat your own promotion

People will often try to defraud prize draws and voting promotions. Cheats will use bots to guess at entry codes, while others submit photos copied from professional image sites to try to win photo competitions.

4. Read section 8 of the CAP code

This is the industry code that is enforced by the ASA and governs all marketing activities in the UK. The Code is there to protect brands as much as consumers. Failures may not result in major formal sanctions but social media can magnify the problem.

5. Think about the prizes

The more prizes there are and the easier it is to enter, the better your response rate will be. Cash prizes get the most entries, but if your objective is deeper engagement, use a prize that reflects the brand and a mechanic that gets the consumer thinking about your brand. 

Source: PromoVeritas

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