Using contests and sweepstakes to spur even more profitable retail

profitable retail

Lessons from the Bingo Parlor, and other games marketers play. Or: Turning lemons into lemonade when a good idea goes bad.

Best intentions don’t always turn out best. Take the story surrounding Coca Cola’s tea brand, Gold Peak Tea, which recently ran a promotion themed: “A year off work and a $100,000 prize!”

The winning contestant as reported by Tanzina Vega in the NYTimes, has been disqualified because he had “used an online contest forum, a Web site where people who enter crowdsourced digital sweepstakes post links to those contests and ask members to vote for them.”

Gold Peak Tea responded on Facebook about this promotion miscue:

“Theodore Scott was disqualified when it was determined during the verification process that he had attempted to inappropriately induce members of the public to vote for his submission, a violation of Official Contest Rules.”

Coca Cola will have to determine their next course of action, which could lead to awarding the prize to an entry that didn’t violate their rules.

When retailers or brands use sweepstakes or collection-stamp games tied to large cash and merchandise prizes, they do so to build transactions (usually over a short period of time). Lifting product sales or overall dollar volume is the real motive behind a brand’s good natured fun and largesse.

When however the promotion results in a different outcome, one that is not good for the brand or the consumers participating, the debate internally can turn to – should we stop running promotion of this nature?With today’s crowdsourcing tools and the online delivery mechanism to leverage information, shouldn’t we stick to safer ways to lift sales or build transactions?

The answer of course, is NO. How the brand reacts/responds to the snafu is really at the heart of the matter.

I was personally affected by our version of crowdsourcing (sort of) when years ago a sweepstakes we conducted for a key restaurant client, found itself receiving thousands of entries on the last weekend of the event. Nearly 100,000 to be exact.

No big deal – until you realize that these additional entries were manually printed (3 x 5” cards) by ingenious students from Cal Tech – the scientific academic institution known for some of the best pranks in the world!

They outsmarted our legal guidelines and rules writers by catching the instruction that if you didn’t enter the promotion using an official, sweepstakes entry form, you simply need to fill out a 3 x 5” card with your names, address, etc.

The students were absolutely right – our rules did not specify‘Hand print’ which back then may have thwarted mass entries via school computers.

Lesson learned and future sweepstakes rules, modified.

Most importantly and something Coca Cola may want to consider is what we and our client did next.

We held a press conference and announced our intentions to honor the students, mass produced entries AND announced our intention to match, prize for prize the winning entries, properly filled out, in accordance with the rules.

The gesture cost us another ‘years’ worth of groceries and a new car, but yielded millions in publicity value for the brand. And the goodwill it garnered.

The goal of using games to engage current and competitors targets not only can build product lift and when faced with unintended consequences, the outcome when handled correctly that doubled sales and added brand trust.

Read the New York Times article, “Winner Uses Contest Site and Loses Grand Prize”