Is Contesting a Waste of Time and Money?

A No-Nonsense Marketing Smart Tip October 20, 2004

There has never been a research study in Radio which has shown that listeners want contests. Few listeners say contests are important or desirable and fewer still say they have ever participated in one. But if this is really true, then why do we invest so much effort and money in them? In the absence of supporting TV or direct marketing, do contests increase ratings any more than doing nothing? How can we make contests work better?

Do Contests spike Ratings?

With the right mix of ingredients and the right direct mail or TV support, contests can definitely work. But without these supporting elements (which are, themselves, advertising the station) the jury is very much out.

But it doesn’t need to be this way. We shouldn’t always have to lean on heavy direct marketing or TV support in order to make contests work. But can contests work without this support? There is a way….

Making Contests work better

Whenever we whip up a contest, we are usually obsessed on the prize: “What do people want to win?” Then our strategy is to get as many of these items (or as much cash) as possible. This thinking is exactly wrong, I believe. Plenty of research has shown that the impact of $100,000 is only slightly greater than the impact of $10,000. More is not always better.

You see, the value of a prize isn’t in the prize itself but in why listeners want the prize. It’s in what the prize does for the listener. It’s in the prize experience. And that’s something we almost never focus on.

Creating the “Prize Experience”

When Vons, a California supermarket chain, wanted to tie in with Pixar’s new movie The Incredibles, they didn’t give away a zillion tickets to the movie, they gave away one total room makeover by a Pixar designer. That is, they didn’t give away a prize, they awarded a “prize experience.”

The answer for your station isn’t to get a hundred plasma TV’s – it’s to get ONE plasma TV and makeover a room in the winner’s home into a theater, with movie seats, a popcorn machine, dimming lights, and state-of-the-art audio. it’s the “home theater experience.”

The answer isn’t to get a hundred Harley bikes, it’s to get ONE Harley, a biker outfit, an instant membership with a Harley Owner’s Group, and a pole position for a ride through town in honor of the winner. It’s the “Harley experience.”

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