The end of winter is an event extravaganza: Valentine’s Day, the Oscars, the Superbowl and spring break are all within a month of each other, so it’s not a great time for marketers to get seasonal ennui.
One thing's for sure, promotions themed to events typically draw better numbers than their generic counterparts. Memories, nostalgia, desire and excitement all drive interest and traffic to promotions that evoke an event’s spirit. At Launchfire, we’ve created and executed themed promotions for 15 years so I figured I’d call on our brain trust to give you some insights.
I asked our founder John Findlay for his input. We talked about prizing strategy:
“You don’t have to give away the farm to get your core demographic excited. One of the first big promos we ran (just after the Ice Age!) was for an NHL sponsor. The program ran during the NHL playoffs and the grand prizes were vintage NHL hockey sweaters. The program drew huge numbers despite the fact that the prizes were only worth a couple of hundred bucks each. That's because the prizing struck a chord with the target demo. NHL fans love their merch and they love vintage merch even more. I guess the lesson for us was that in some cases inexpensive prizing can still be highly magnetic”
I also picked his brain about planning and timing:
“Start early. The more time you have to plan, the fewer headaches you’ll have closer to launch. I remember doing a promotion with one of the major professional sports leagues and they insisted on having 6 weeks to review and approve graphics for the program. Fortunately our client had gotten things rolling early enough that we could still deliver on time. If not, we’d have been screwed. Another advantage of starting early is that you have the necessary time to reserve and leverage house media. If you’re not planning far enough advance many of your options will have already been reserved for other programs and you’ll have to rely entirely on paid media to drive traffic.”
Our co-founder and head of sales AJ Pratt chimed in:
“In a perfect world, you start work on a promotion 4 months before the event happens. That way you’ve got one month to pick a vendor, a couple of weeks to finalize the details, six weeks to hammer out the work, and the last month to run the promo leading up to the event. I’m always willing to give a better deal to a client that plans farther in advance because it’s easier to schedule and we have more time to build something awesome. I know that perfect world rarely exists, and you CAN get a promotion done quickly, really quickly even, but it might be more expensive and tougher to hammer out”
He also gave some tips about promotional strategy:
“Remember you aren’t promoting the event. You’re using the event to promote your brand. Go into the promotion with a clear understanding of the KPIs used to measure your success. Whether it’s email opt-ins or a bump in sales or educating consumers about your products, make sure you know what your goals are upfront. ”
Finally I talked to Alex Lemaire, our in-house super robot
“The best advice I could give: use technology to support your campaign's mission, rather than trying to force-fit a social network or technology as its centrepiece. That next breakout social net won't always pay out; sacrificing your message to work in untested spaces or those whose marketing rules handcuff on a whim could leave things hollow. Do share your goals and vision with your tech group during the creative phase, and gather input on tools that can craft the experience that's sought (whether it's commerce, relationships, profiling, gamification, proximity, email marketing, etc.). Nerds can surprise!"
While that’s all great advice, nothing grinds my gears like a promotion that has *nothing* to do with the event it’s lazily tied into. What can you do to avoid that?
For your reading pleasure, I’ve assembled four easy ways to tie in your event to the promotion so schmucks like me can’t accuse your brand of being lazy!
Why would you give away a laptop on Valentine’s Day? Give away a romantic trip for 2 instead. The buzz about the prize will draw people who are excited for the holiday which translates to more attention and more engagement. Ideally your prize will enhance the experience of the event or holiday for the winner. For example, giving people a 10k Christmas shopping spree salves the pain points of frugal holiday shoppers and draws them to your promo. Additionally, make sure you showcase the prize by incorporating its imagery into your corporate social networks and email blasts.
User Generated Content
People are excited about the event, so let their excitement drive the promotion. If you’re aiming for movie fans, start an Oscar’s bracket where your users can predict who’s going to win the top awards. If you’re looking for women in their 30’s and 40’s on Valentine’s Day, run a promotion on Pinterest on Twitter where users can share their best (or worst) Valentine’s Day moments.
Copy and Graphics
This one’s so obvious but a lot of promos fall short. Adding a couple snowflakes does *not* make your promo Christmas-themed! You’ve got to put some work in to really integrate the event’s imagery and shibboleths (I have been looking for an excuse to use that word for months) into the visuals and text of your promotion. Users are looking for an experience that encapsulates what the event is about, not just some lazy pictures that remind them of it. Here’s an example to illustrate what I mean: If you’re running an autumn-focused promotion make sure you use deep and rich fall colors to really evoke the season’s spirit, not just a couple big leafs on your border. Evoking the memory and feeling of a holiday or event is more art than science so it requires a graphics team capable of capturing that feeling with images and tone. A Christmas promotion should make people think of family and feel safe while a Mother’s Day promotion should make people want to call their mom. Accomplishing that tone with graphics and copy is no short order, but it’s essential to capturing the attention and appreciation of your audience.
If you’ve ever read the blog before, you won’t be surprised I found a way to wedge this one in. My eagerness doesn’t make it less true though! When a promotion is gamified it becomes easier for the user to feel the connection to the event or holiday it’s themed to. While pictures of football players and Superbowl rings are nice, letting players digitally kick a field goal to try and win a prize really gets people excited for the event (and your promotion!).