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03.01.2012Author: Ryan Davis Posted In: Big Ideas

Promotions help brands meet marketing challenges

By Ryan Davis

Read this article and you can win free marketing services.

That worked, didn’t it? You’re interested in hearing the rest, I bet. It’s human nature and it’s part of the reason promotions are a key aspect of customer acquisition and engagement. Digital promotions have grown from novelties to a several-hundred-million-dollar-a-year industry, according to multiple estimates. After all, multiple Super Bowl ads drove users to promotions.

Here are some marketing challenges that promotions have helped solve in the past few months:
• Increase Facebook “Likes”
• Get consumers to provide personal information to their rewards card profile
• Drive hundreds of thousands of consumers into a retailer’s electronic circular
• Grow an email marketing database
• Reward purchase
• Get more bang from a sports sponsorship
• Generate leads for a direct marketing business
• Multiply click through rates on a digital ad campaign
• Deeply and repeatedly engage a targeted group of consumers in a brand
• Putting a new and hot technology to work for your brand

The space has come a long ways from flashing neon sites and dancing monkeys imploring consumers to “Enter to Win!” Social media enables marketers to turn promotions into a thin layer of gaming. Consumers walk away feeling as if they played a little game, rather than feeling as if they entered a promotion. They don’t have to build a working farm but they can have a little bit of fun while getting to know a brand.

That’s if they’re done right. There are three major keys to making a promotion work for you:
1. Know the goal.
Settle on a clear objective and align tactics behind that. If the goal is acquiring new consumers, the barrier to entry should be minimal. Single-phase video upload contests are great for getting dedicated customers to engage more deeply with a brand. Simple sweepstakes are great for acquisition. The reverse is not true.

2. Align the prizing.
Giving away $10,000 yields marketers a list of people interested in $10,000. But giving away Expedia travel credits yields Expedia a list of people interested in shopping with Expedia. Giving away NASCAR tickets yields Sunoco, a NASCAR sponsor, and deeper engagement with NASCAR fans.

3. Embrace the measurability.
Promotions are as measurable as marketing gets. Other forms of marketing may show some numbers. Promotions help drive desired actions AND yield a database of people interested in a brand. In prime holiday season, Toys R Us can use a single promotion to drive eyeballs to its holiday circular, measure those results AND also build a database of consumers interested in the brand.

General Electric recently ran a promotion that met all three. (Full disclosure: Like the others mentioned, my company executed this promotion.) GE and its agency came to us last fall with the hopes of running a Facebook campaign that would grow its “Likes,” deeply engage consumers in the GE brand and utilize Instagram, a hot new photo-sharing technology. In just 11 business days, we developed and launched an eight-week campaign that nearly doubled GE’s Facebook “Likes” to 235,000+.

Consumers across the globe were asked to take Instagram pictures that reflected GE’s core principles: moving, curing, powering and building. Then the public was asked to vote for the finalists. And lastly, GE selected a winner. That winner will get to photograph a GE jet engine facility in the UK.

Ad Age took notice and quoted GE’s head of digital marketing as saying she “loved” the promotion because "when you're as complicated as GE, how you tell the story and how you bring the company to life is incredibly important."

The concept was right because while it created a big barrier to entry for entrants, it opened up public voting to attract others. And it capitalized on Instagram’s popularity to attract even more consumers.
The prizing was right because it was uniquely GE.

And what’s not to like about the measurability? GE has actively engaged its new “Likes” in discussion every day since, even tying messaging to its Super Bowl ads.

As for the free marketing services teased at the beginning of the article, ideas are always free. Please call. With the right promotion, everyone can win.

Ryan Davis is the president of Realtime Media (, a 19-year-old Bryn Mawr firm that specializes in digital promotions and loyalty programs for brands such Toys R Us, Maybelline, GE, Comcast, Expedia, CNN and Google. He can be reached at 484-385-2944.

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