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Be Honest In Your Contests

By Brandon Carter | Updated on Sep 16, 2010 7:59:19 AM

Have you ever walked by a kiosk in the mall offering a contest for a trip to Maui? Or maybe seen an offer to enter a giveaway on the bottom of your credit card bill?

Of course you have. Do you ever send in for them?

I bet a lot of you don't.

Maybe it's because you read the fine print and realize the odds of actually winning are next to zero. I once read through the fine print on a vehicle giveaway in the local mall and found, buried waaay deep, that only widowers aged 65 or older were eligible. But the company was still happy to harvest the contact info of all those ineligible contestants anyway.

The larger concern for me is I tend to believe that there actually isn't a prize at all.

First, most companies rarely publicize their winners. Which is a missed opportunity to get a very-positive testimonial out to the world and drive up participation in future contests.

Second, companies are giving away "chances" to win a grand prize, not the prize itself. It works this way - a "chance" to win $1,000,000 is publicized (usually with the word chance in tiny type and the $1,000,000 BOLDED), the winner is selected, then behind closed doors, the winner has to select one of twelve envelopes. Odds are they walk away with $1,000 and an iPod, and the million stays in the bank.

Veteran marketers are familiar with the practice and plenty of companies have done giveaways like this. Contest insurers mandate it, which is part of the price of security.

It isn't cool, and with today's "everyone has a voice" consumer-centric world, some brand is destined to get hammered by an angry mob.

And they'll deserve it. Any company that steals tactics from the Nigerian Royalty Scams playbook is going to find trouble.

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Here's an idea: be honest with your giveaways. If you don't have $1,000,000 to invest as a potential prize, don't do it. If your prize isn't real and tangible, don't offer it.

If you wouldn't outright lie to, or even slightly deceive, your customers in other areas, don't do it when you're holding a giveaway.

I'm proud to say Access has been upfront and honest with our giveaways, in large part because of the wonderful merchant partners we have and their eagerness to reach out to our end user base. The results have been stellar for us. Here's an example from a recent giveaway with one of our education association partners...

Christy is a teacher in New Jersey who registered to win a Disney vacation when she activated her Access discount membership card. She sent this along after her trip:

My family and I had such a great time in Walt Disney World thanks to NJEA and Access Development. Winning the vacation prize at the NJEA Convention was a highlight of my year! Attached is a picture of us enjoying our vacation!

Now, wouldn't you rather have this kind of reaction? A happy customer who probably bragged about her trip to friends - or would you rather get a nice publicity pop from a big giveaway only to later have posts like this creeping up?

Topics: Ongoing Incentive Programs, Access Development, giveaways, consumer behavior, customer service, brandon carter, education, customer loyalty, Entertainment & Recreation

Written by: Brandon Carter

Brandon is a former writer and marketer for Access Development. He's a frequent blogger on customer and employee engagement & loyalty, consumer trends, and branding. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter at @bscarter

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