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Contests, Promos, & Giveaways: What You Should Know

Contests, Promos, & Giveaways: What You Should Know

Whether your business centers on a product or a service, the holiday season is filled with opportunities. But how can your marketing compete when all of your competitors are pushing for the same clients? Why not incentivize your customer with a contest, promo, or giveaway?

In my years as a marketing expert, I’ve noticed that companies fall into one of two camps when it comes to incentives. The first camp consists of the anti-incentives crowd. These brands might feel that giving a free incentive would denigrate their product or service. They believe that such promotions (or even discounts) could damage the brand even if they attract new customers. Antis see incentives as pandering to their consumers. The second camp is filled with pro-incentives people. Such brands believe that people love free stuff, therefore free stuff will attract customers. This group is all about giving away promotional materials, too. (Coincidentally, brands like these are the reason we have uniquequirky, and just plain weird marketing swag.)

Both sides make fair points. You don’t want your brand to appear aloof, but you don’t want customers to take you for granted, either. There’s a way to balance both. Let’s discuss contests, promos, and giveaways, along with incentives!

Contests are events in which individuals (or teams) compete for a prize. They are a great way to get user-generated content (UGC). Often, brands will ask customers to post pictures or create videos that meet certain requirements. 

Tagline: “Send us your best pic, and the winner will receive an all-expenses-paid cruise!”

Promos (short for promotions) are limited-time offers or events that are held to encourage consumer engagement. Brands want to attract new customers, so they’ll offer free shipping for a given time period. Some companies offer discounts to new users or members. In several U.S. states, the school year is preceded by a “tax-free weekend,” in which the government forgoes sales taxes in an effort to increase back-to-school shopping at local establishments. 

Tagline: “Buy-one-get-one-free sale on pens this weekend only!”

Giveaways are when a brand gives an item or provides a service free of charge to consumers for promotional reasons. These can range from a free gift with purchase to giving out promotional swag to passersby. 

Tagline: “Free gift with every purchase!” 

As you decide what you want to do, you need to think about the following points.

1. Competition 
This point could just as well be labeled “research.” Find out what your competitors are doing. While you want to stand out from the crowd, knowing industry norms will keep you from looking reckless or foolish. For example, a Porsche dealership wouldn’t hold a buy-one-get-one (BOGO) for free deal on cars, but they might throw in free oil changes and other maintenance for the lifetime of the vehicle.

2. Incentives
There are actually two types of incentives. The incentive could be a reward, i.e., something that could be considered a bonus. With the above example, a reward might be the inclusion of an official Porsche crest keyring. The incentive could be a motivator, i.e., something that would push your audience through the decision process faster. In the previous example, the free maintenance acts as a motivator. The great thing about the types is that you can combine them or use them concurrently. One final note on incentives: it should be something complimentary to your service or product. An insurance company might give out a free umbrella to new clients, for instance.

I personally believe that incentives can be great for your brand’s sales and reputation. I’ll leave you with a story that, to me, proves the value of an incentive.

The Go! Agency handles the marketing for a franchise of assisted living facilities. One challenge they faced was that caregivers of potential residents who toured their properties would love what they saw, but choose another home for their loved one. These decisions were often based on price and other factors that our client could not control. We decided to add value to the tours by creating an ebook that explained what you should ask about a potential assisted living facility. At the end of each tour, the guide would say, “I know that you’ll probably continue looking around and researching your options. We totally understand–you want to find what’s best for your family! Anyway, the website has a link to an ebook we’ve written. The book gives you some questions that we’ve had people ask time and time again. We’ve chosen the most important ones, so it should be useful if you tour another residence.”


By sharing knowledge, our client is now an expert. 


By trying to help out caregivers, our client is now a resource.


By emphasizing that they understand, our client has now endeared themselves to that family.

All because of an incentive. 

Contests, promos, and giveaways are great for encouraging engagement from your audience and drawing attention to your brand. You can do so much with these events, both in terms of money made and buzz generated. 

Do you need help with with an event, or your overall marketing strategy? Discover what my team of marketing experts can do for your brand! Contact me today for a free consultation!


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