Sweepstakes, Keepstakes, Or Sleepstakes?

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

Much of promotion is waste. Take couponing. More than 90 percent of all coupons are delivered by FSIs, which achieve a reported 1.4% redemption rate. In one wag’s words, the category’s “largest promotion technique has a 98.6% failure rate!”

But arguably it’s the sweepstakes that sits at the bottom of the promotional effectiveness totem pole. There is no requirement to purchase. Most consumers have never entered a sweepstakes. The Internet has empowered anybody to offer a sweepstakes and so, it seems, nearly everybody does. Worse, few companies can afford prizes of sufficient size to cause consumer heart palpitations in a hyper-clutter environment that includes lotteries that, at last count, were offered in 37 states.

Should we abandon the technique, then? Hardly. A sweepstakes can draw attention to your promotional ad or offering and stimulate product involvement. The challenge is to out-shout the competition with creativity. That’s nothing new; promotion will always be about ideas. What’s new is that our palette is broader than ever and it includes not only words and pictures, but also technology. Recent examples of creativity that have waggled our wattle:

Plum Crazy About Prunes – Not a mere drawing for purple prizes, this event draws attention to a whole new way to look at prunes – a repositioning if you will. This undertaking is an effort to get consumers to understand that wrinkly old prunes are really “sun-dried California plums!” It does just that – with a contemporary, fun flair. After all, who doesn’t like plums?

Crack Jack’s Safe – Jack Daniel’s grabs reader involvement with that call to action. The promotion is built around an ancient distillery office safe. Legend has it that the safe was implicated in Jack Daniel’s death, but readers’ odds are presumably better. The event extends the folksy brand essence of the “nation’s oldest distillery” with arresting promotional advertising and a colloquially consistent Web site, jackdaniels.com.

Watch what you eat – To win the Oreo cookie sweepstakes, you have to find a cookie impressioned with an icon of your prize. Talk about getting consumer involvement with your product – “Mommy, I think I just swallowed the car!”

Win more chances to win more chances, etc. – Creativity kudos go to Gerber, whose challenge is to keep parents connected with the brand as baby grows.

The innovation here isn’t the college scholarship prize theme, it’s the application of technology. Gerber bridged two technologies to create an unprecedented loyalty rewards system. When 16 Gerber products were purchased, Catalina’s checkout printing technology rewarded purchasers with an instant gamepiece – good for not one, but 10 entries into the sweeps. As they bought again they got 10 more chances. So entries became a reward currency!

When participants registered the gamepiece via toll-free phone, Phoneworks’ digital fulfillment technology kicked in. Callers heard an account balance of entries accumulated and a countdown of days until the next grand prize drawing, enhancing the value of the currency and continuing the excitement. Gerber delivered personalized product and nutritional messages during every interaction – messages customized to baby’s age, which was automatically recalculated for every call. Net net? Birth of a new breed of promotion – a “loyalty sweepstakes.” Cool, baby.

Bloody truth is that creativity makes for keepstakes. The big ideas win.

Premeditated Demotion of the Month – Enough with the pandering. Consider this recent example of we-think-our-consumers-are-idiots marketing. The headline blares: “Treat Yourself To Nabisco Classics And Get A FREE BOOK,” accompanied by visuals of Grisham, Winfrey, Koontz and the like. Consumers hyperventilating over this offer read on to discover that to get their free book they must buy two participating products and join the Doubleday Book Club. It’s a not-so-artfully-concealed attempt to minimize costs that will result in minimal redemptions and prompts the question, “Why bother?”


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