Online contests have become a great way to drive traffic to your website, increase consumer databases and most importantly create connection for people with your brand. However, there are several things that must be taken into account when planning and implementing a contest for those reasons.
First: An online contest can oftentimes be the first introduction of a brand to a consumer. Ensuring that the brand persona is kept intact with any promotional contest is a top priority. What we want is an emotional connection with the brand. Having a mismatch in tone, imagery, content, usability, etc. creates an instant disconnect when the user ultimately lands on the main website only to find their introduction was merely a traffic generating farce. Consumers are bombarded daily with special offers and the last thing we can afford is to disappoint a consumer who then turns a blind eye to our brand - that's if we're lucky - the alternative is the consumer uses their online power to tell everyone in their network that the promotion is not worth the time!
Second: One of the easily forgotten aspects of any online venture is usability. As creative minds work together, focusing on flow, speed, functionality, browsers, etc. becomes a paramount concern when the ultimate goal is pleasing the user. A great offer is not enough to keep attention when pages are slow to load, navigation makes no sense and paths are not clearly defined. Online, your brand has split seconds to grab the user's attention and motivate them to continue on your designated conversion path - any break in that rhythm creates a roadblock. Just like in highway traffic, a certain percentage of drivers will simply turn around and take another path.
Third: As we begin to look for places to promote the online contest, it is important to target sites and media that foster the emotional connection with the brand. Placing your contest on a contest aggregator site leads to high amounts of traffic but little connection to the brand and ultimately results in a consumer database not interested in my brand offer but the next sweepstakes I happen to announce. The creative we place on the targeted sites, from text to image, must find a way to marry both the tone of the publisher's site and the persona of the brand. We must be careful not to "blend in" with the existing creative too much, but failing to create a brand connection to the user already creates a roadblock for the online contest.
As an interactive marketer, I believe online contests are a powerful way to brand online, generate buzz and ultimately build databases. I also believe, if done poorly, they can be one of the most dangerous online brand activities imaginable.
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