The Difference Between Sweepstakes And Contests


I love seeing the phrase “enter for a chance …” and feeling like I just hit the lottery when I win something. If you’re anything like me, you jump at the opportunity to get something for free, and you’re not afraid to give your name and email address away for a chance to get it. But, do you really know what you’re getting yourself into?

Brands love when consumers enter their contests or sweepstakes. They give away some sort of prize, and in return receive valuable consumer information and/or engagement. It’s a win-win.

When you win something from either a contest or sweepstakes, it might feel like you won the lottery, but it’s actually far from it. In fact, it’s actually illegal for brands to conduct lotteries. Sweepstakes and contests are both derivatives of a lottery but, are both legal and can be highly effective at building a consumer database, driving short-term sales, promoting a new product, generating true engagement, and more.

We recently partnered with US Sweepstakes and Fulfillment Company for a two-part OXY sweepstakes and contest program. Once we had a really good idea of what we wanted to achieve, US Sweeps was instrumental in helping us execute the program. For anyone looking to conduct either a sweepstakes or contest, below is some information to help you get started and an explanation of differences between both types of promotions.

First, it’s important to understand what the goal of conducting a sweepstakes or contest would be. Is a brand looking to quickly build a database of leads or is it looking for the start of a truly engaging relationship? If it’s the former, a sweepstakes is probably the right choice for achieving the brand’s goal. With a sweepstakes there will inevitably be people looking for an easy freebie. For a brand looking to start a deeper, more fruitful relationship, a contest may be the most appropriate option. Regardless of which one you choose, there are tricky nuances to both.

To create a contest or sweepstakes, you need to build (or rather subtract) from a lottery. A lottery is a promotion consisting of all three of the following:

  1. Prize
  2. Chance
  3. Consideration

In all 50 states, under US Federal law, brands are prohibited from conducting lotteries. Eliminate one of the three elements and you’re in the clear.

A sweepstakes eliminates all aspects of consideration and has the following qualities:

  • A free method of entry – typically through social media or other digital channel – and an alternative method of entry, which is usually by mail
  • All entries are put into a random drawing of chance and the winner receives a prize
  • Brands cannot ask participants to go to extreme lengths to become eligible to win a prize (e.g., visit 20 stores for a chance to win)

A contest eliminates all aspects of chance and includes the following:

  • Winners are considered and selected by judges based on the performance of a skill or other judging criteria (e.g., submit a video, write an essay, etc.)
  • Entry fees and/or purchase are allowed in most states
  • No guessing or luck allowed
  • Winners receive a prize

For both sweepstakes and contests, perhaps the most important part in developing them is writing and implementing the official rules. These represent the agreement between the brand and participants. The official rules need to clearly articulate how to participate in the promotion and detail the parameters for participation. Official rules serve as the decision maker should an issue arise, must be easily available to all participants, and should not be altered after the promotion starts.

Simple, right? Consumers enter, you give away sweet prizes, and then consumers love you.

So, be like me and give out your information; send an email with your name and phone number to Together we can kick off your brand’s next sweepstakes or contest.

Building an Integrated Trade Show Program: Maximize Your PR Investment

From B2B to B2C, traditional Public Relations (PR) tactics play a critical role in the marketing mix of a truly integrated trade show program. Leveraging these tactics, including press release announcements, pitching media for on-site interviews, and securing Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) for educational speaking sessions, is still valuable for drumming up news on and off the trade show floor.

Draft and Distribute Announcements

Press release announcements are the best way to drive media hits during a trade show. Taking a “got news, make news” approach is a great way to create a cadence of buzz around your brand and its products or solutions. It is key to plan out announcements in advance of the trade show kick-off and, if applicable, draft product announcements to distribute during the show. Trade shows provide a launch pad for media opportunities and help with driving the overall total number of media hits.

Don’t have anything newsworthy? Think again! You don’t always have to have a product launch or product announcement to have a newsworthy press release. Primary survey results, case studies, new customer wins, general industry trends, and/or highlighting a company’s booth activities/demos/speaking sessions during the show can garner media pickup and drive media interest during a trade show. It all comes down to the strategy behind the announcement.

Pitch for Face Time

Trade show press rooms offer a great face-to-face opportunity for any company’s spokesperson or SME to connect with reporters, editors, industry analysts, and influencers. Many trade show organizers will share a list of attending media and analyst firms with exhibitors and sponsors. Leverage the contact list to pitch on-site interviews and/or coordinate analyst briefings.

Can’t get your hands on a current media list? Don’t worry! Reach out to media contacts you have worked with during previous shows or do a little Twitter research to see if any of your key influencers are attending and actively tweeting from the show.

Secure Speaking Engagements

Proactively track the call for speakers or papers deadlines for top industry trade events. It is very common for speaking abstracts to be due 6 to 8 months in advance. If an SME is selected and confirmed to speak during a trade show, there are many ways to publicize the opportunity. Press releases, pitching media interviews, blog posts, and social media are just a few ways to highlight the SME as an industry thought leader.

At Martino Flynn, we provide a range of trade show marketing capabilities. From traditional PR to social media execution and strategies, we work with our clients to develop a custom trade show mix to meet their goals.

For more information about Martino Flynn’s trade show marketing capabilities, call us at 585.421.0100.

Sales Support In the Digital Age

It wasn’t that long ago that the average sales rep’s toolkit was limited to boxes filled with paper collateral. Today, there are many more options, including multimedia tools. So how do you decide which tools to invest in? And how do you help assure their effectiveness?

These tips can help make the most of the time and money you invest in sales and marketing support materials.

Talk to Your Star Salespeople.

Asking a few questions of your highest achievers can yield significant insights. (While this may seem like an obvious thing to do, you’d be surprised how often this step is skipped.) What materials are working for them? How are they using them? Are there any that they rarely or never use? Any they wish they had to fill a gap? Talk to both veteran sales reps as well as those who may be less experienced, but offer a fresh perspective. These conversations can happen individually or as a roundtable. However you approach this step, overcome the perception that you always know what your salespeople need more than they do. Their input won’t dictate what materials you pursue, but it will absolutely inform your strategy.

Optimize Materials for Multiple Uses.

To make the most of your marketing support budget, don’t just limit the number of content pieces you create and maintain—maximize how you leverage them. Plan to use different channels to tell your stories. You’ll want basic versions that can be expressed with text and images; these can be applied to simple documents like PDF sheets, iBooks, and others. You’ll also want richer multimedia versions; ideally, video that engages with sight, sound, and motion. Regardless of the medium, try to make your materials as modular as possible to streamline inevitable updates.

A few types of media documents that we consider most practical and effective:

  • Portable documents. That’s right – PDFs. These are so widely compatible, they’re practically ubiquitous. Across a multitude of devices, they’re readable and maintain layout consistency better than any other format. They’re useful locally on a laptop or tablet. Post them to your web server and they become searchable content.
  • iBooks. We’re big fans of the iBooks format. Compared to a native iOS or Android application, iBooks can be a really cost-effective way to get multimedia content onto an iPad while also avoiding the distribution hurdles that native apps (especially iOS apps) present.
  • Video. If you want rich, engaging content that’s portable to many different contexts and technical applications, it’s hard to beat video. Sure, truly interactive pieces (e.g., games) offer the highest potential for deep engagement. However, they’re costly to create and update, and usually platform-specific (therefore, limiting). Video, on the other hand, offers a wide range of production techniques, can be viewed on many devices and platforms, and can be embedded in web pages and many other types of documents. And it’s no secret that video is one of the most comfortable and enjoyable modes for people to consume content.

Make sure you think through each use case when making media selections. For example, will materials be used with a rep present, or are they freestanding and self-guided? Does the content need to work in more than one context, or just on its own?

Make a Plan for Distribution and Organization.

It’s not enough to produce great sales collateral—you need to plan ahead so your sales reps know what’s available and how best to use it. If you’re replacing materials, make a plan to get the older ones out of circulation. Keep a central repository for sales support documents, and make sure it’s organized and easy to use. If you already have a system in place to keep track of documents (like the clean, easy-to-use Dropbox, or the more robust and complex Salesforce), make sure that new documents will be compatible.

One last tip: while there are many systems available that provide a structure for distributing and even tracking the use of sales documents (like Showpad, which we haven’t taken for a full test run yet), in our experience, none of these can operate well without regular care and maintenance from a knowledgeable (human) manager.

More Than Sales: Measuring Ad Effectiveness

Someone recently told me that she thought the objective of every marketing endeavor should be “to make more money.” While we’d all like our efforts to lead to higher sales, measuring success is not always so straightforward. In fact, gauging the effectiveness of advertising based on overall sales is often not the best approach.

While there are certain types of advertising that can be tied to specific sales gains (such as some forms of digital and direct response), most campaigns require a different means of assessing effectiveness. There are too many factors outside of marketers’ control that can influence sales to attribute success or failure to an individual program. In most cases, metrics need to be specifically aligned with a campaign’s goals.

Obtaining those relevant metrics can be a challenge. But we’ve found that conducting pre- and post-research surveys is a cost-effective way to get a baseline read of key metrics prior to a campaign and gather comparative data after its launch.

Before getting started, there are a number of key considerations that will help you maximize your survey’s effectiveness.

What behaviors are you trying to influence?

Do you need to boost awareness to induce trial of a product? Are you trying to build affinity to lower consumer attrition? It’s important to be clear on what behaviors you want to encourage and why—and which behaviors are irrelevant.

For example, if you’re trying to increase awareness to get more people to try your product or service, the likelihood of a repeat purchase isn’t relevant. That metric hinges on the consumers’ post-purchase experiences, something not influenced by an awareness campaign. Targeting the right metrics is the foundation for accurate advertising effectiveness measurement.

Who are you talking to?

One of the trickiest parts of conducting pre- and post-research surveys is getting similar samples of respondents for each phase. This is where many false readings arise.

It’s vital that you set up a clear sample plan that outlines your target audience. Even with this planning, however, it’s not always possible to get the respondents to completely balance out from one round to the next. Analysis of research results needs to include a review of who responded in each round and how this might impact the data. For instance, if the second round of research has more high-income respondents than the first round, the data in the second round would likely skew as less price sensitive.

What else is going on?

Many things can change from the start of a campaign to the end. It’s important to be aware of factors that may impact your target audience’s behavior during the time in question, such as seasonality of demand, news coverage about the product or category, or other campaigns running during the same time period.

Bottom line: with all that goes into creating a campaign, a little extra investment to accurately assess its success just makes sense. Well-framed strategic planning and research will go a long way toward understanding where your marketing dollars are most effectively being spent—something that will ultimately make you more money.

Getting Consumers to Come and Fetch Your Product: Product Differentiation in the Pet Care Market

You’d think that product differentiation would be a matter of common sense. Find something that’s truly unique about your product, own it, and proclaim it loudly and proudly.

But if it’s that simple, why aren’t more companies doing it?

Walk into most stores, and the shelves are a sea of sameness. A mélange of “me, too.” It seems that many companies are looking at what’s successful for someone else, and emulating it. To stand out, you have to thoroughly research your market, and then look at your product in a different light based on the results.

In its simplest terms, product differentiation requires finding and promoting one thing about your product that no other competitor can say. A good unique selling proposition is never, ever a list of things. Too often, companies try to say everything at once, and wind up communicating nothing.

What’s going on?

To arrive at a strong selling proposition, you have to know the market inside and out, so research is critical. For the pet care category, here are some trends to consider when you’re looking for ways to turn your product into an attention-getter:

Intense competition

Of course, it’s tougher to make your product stand out when there are more products to compete with every year. And the pet market is particularly difficult in which to emerge, with new-product introductions—and rules and regulations that govern them—increasing. Competition is intense, and brands are fighting for every dollar.

Pets are people, too

Pet owners see their animals as family members that deserve the highest quality of care, so today’s consumers are typically more interested in how well the product works than how much it costs. Your package should project that on the shelf, which makes innovative product and packaging development particularly important in this space. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), browsing store shelves is one of the top two ways that pet owners find new products, so your package has to stand out.

Money is no object

Or at least not as much as it used to be. Pet owners have been known to cut spending on their own non-essential items to spend more on pets: in fact, during the recession, sales of pet products actually rose 4.8% in 2009*.

It’s only natural

Pet owners’ increased focus on the health and wellness of their animals has led more brands to introduce healthier and more natural product lines and extensions. In 2014, sales of natural, organic, and eco-friendly pet products exceeded $7 billion**.

Different ways to differentiate

These brand or product elements can present opportunities for you to stand out:

  • Brand positioning (Is there an underserved market segment you can own?)
  • Product story (Is there something interesting or unique about its history?)
  • Product innovation (Can it do something that no other product can?)
  • Packaging (If designs in its segment are loud, maybe a quieter one would
    stand out)
  • Product form (Sometimes it’s enough just to look different)
  • Cause alignments (Is there a cause that’s near and dear to your target?)
  • Messaging (Say something different, or say the same thing in a different way)

Research often equals insights

Differentiating pet care brands in today’s overcrowded environment may require seismic shifts in strategy—or maybe even a total transformation. So where do you start to determine the right path? Research pet owners’ needs, behaviors, drivers, and aspirations. Then take a fresh look at your product through their eyes—that’s what often shines the light on your unique selling proposition.

Getting inside pet owners’ heads and hearts is the key to getting your product in their hands.

*APPA National Pet Owners Survey.

**“Natural, Organic, and Eco-Friendly Pet Products in the U.S.,” 5th Edition.

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