Online vs Offline Contests: Which One Is Better for Your Brand?
Online vs offline contests and sweepstakes — what are the differences, and which is best? The good news is as long as all legal requirements are met, your brand can run either successfully! Entries can be collected online using a web form or offline on printed entry forms that can be mailed in or collected in stores. Instant wins can be done with an online virtual scratch-off or animated “play to win” scenario, or using old fashioned printed scratch-off cards or seeded “open the box to see if you are a winner” type mechanism that is printed in or on a product. Contests can be done in person or via online with photos and videos and essays.
Which is the better way to go? It all depends on your overall goals, budget, lead time and level of technical expertise.
Here are some things to consider for each of these areas as you plan your next promotion.
Goals: Ask yourself what you would deem a success: Lots of entries? Lots of unique emails to add to your list? Increased purchases? Increased store traffic? User generated content on the web? Whatever the answer is, designate a primary goal and design your promotion accordingly. If your strategy is to bring people to your physical store, then the in-store, offline sweepstakes or contest may be your best bet. Similarly, if you want people to purchase a product at retail, a printed coupon with a form to complete for a sweepstakes entry or a hidden instant win mechanism might be a better option than an online method of entry. However, if adding names and emails to your brand’s contact list is the primary goal, a simple online promotion might work well.
Cost: Many people want to run an online (or social) promotion because they assume that will be more cost effective. This is sometimes true, but not always. The more complicated or bigger your program is the more you might have to spend for an online promotion. Remember to factor in costs for things like design, animation, extra hosting, judging, fraud prevention fees and more. Similarly, design, print and postage costs can soar if you have need to distribute printed entry forms and ballots to all of your locations, or seed instant win scratch off game pieces across the country. Shop around and compare pricing before you commit to any vendor.
Lead Time: Online may be your best bet if you need something up and running quickly. Printing and distribution of printed materials and deadlines for printed ads may make your lead times run several months before your actual launch date. But don’t assume online is always quick to execute — programs that involve custom programming or extensive testing and approvals may take a lot of time as well. Make sure you have a realistic timeline for execution before you commit to anything.
Level of Expertise: If you are tasked with running an online promotion, make sure you have the team in place to troubleshoot any legal, technical, and logistical issues that might come up like printing errors or a denial of service attack to your sweepstakes web site or a notification of wrong-doing from the FTC. Many times we see marketing teams initiating and executing programs illegally simply because they didn’t do their research and they simply don’t know what they should know.
If you aren’t confident in the knowledge and experience your team has in deciding whether to go online vs offline, or in executing a promotion should anything come up, then you should contact a promotional marketing company (like Marden-Kane) to help you. We can also help you identify and craft a program to meet your goals, and work with your budget and timing to launch the best offline or online program for you!
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