It can be irritating to have to give away material in order to attract customers. Whilst the efficacy of a loss leader is beyond doubt, have you ever wondered what it might be like to receive free items for your business?
A friend of mine, a keen amateur photographer, once submitted some images to a television broadcaster and was excited to find that one was shown during the weather forecast. He took a screen grab and sent it to me. I asked how much they had paid him and he replied: “Nothing.” Later questioning revealed that he had given over all rights to the TV company.
It must have been identical to the time James Watt saw the lid of a boiling kettle bouncing: all this free energy just waiting to be harnessed. Something useful for very little expenditure.
Customers can be an excellent source for copy, images and other content for a promotion and all for, perhaps, a prize. A simple version, used for years, is the 'why do I prefer [your product] over all others' type of question. The cost can be minimal.
Pepsi MAX refined this, including images on social networks. Unique visitors to the website topped 50,000. Someone won a year's supply of the beverage. Lucky them.
Slightly different, but equally rewarding, was the recent Starbucks 'design a cup' promotion. The company supplied reuseable white cups, with just their green logo, on which competitors had to 'doodle' an image. Many of the designs were clever, some rather pretty, and others works of art in themselves. Starbucks got publicity and a design for a limited edition cup.
Such promotions are not too good to be true, but they do require planning.
1/ Don't cheat the participants
If you will use contributions in, for instance, email marketing campaigns, then make the prizes fair value. Not too generous of course, but being too parsimonious can lead to comments on social media. However, displaying the latest entries on your website is only to be expected.
2/ Multi level
Do not just stick with pictures of pet cats on, for instance, your website. Use social media and consider a YouTube compilation.
3/ Don't be pushy
If the purpose of the campaign is to gain subscribers to your email marketing list, then you will want to include links to sign-up on the web page containing the latest images, for instance. If you are trying to be upbeat, building community spirit, perhaps supporting a cause, then bold, aggressive advertising should be avoided.
4/ Keep control
If you ask for videos of people using your product around the world then some form of moderation is required.
5/ Be fun
If you are after a redesign on, for instance, your logo then accept that the vast majority will be useless for a myriad of reasons. It is best, though, not to limit participants' creativity as this will put off many. The entries for the Starbucks cup competition were mostly useless for a design, but the imagination and artistry was the major attraction for most casual visitors.
At worst you will get publicity. At best, you might get exactly what you wanted.