Whether you’re looking to build brand awareness, increase engagement, or just have fun with your audience, contests may be a marketing strategy to try. Coming up with great contest ideas for all your platforms and situations can be a challenge, but we’ve compiled a list to help get you started. In this article, we cover:
A contest is an event in which people compete to win recognition or prizes. Contests differ from other forms of promotions like sweepstakes, raffles, and lotteries because they include an element of talent or skill. You often choose a winner based on performance or merit rather than by chance or luck. In marketing, companies use contests to generate interest in their brand or engage with the audience. Some competitions reward people with digital clout, such as seeing their username displayed on the company’s page. Others yield actual prizes, such as gift cards or free products.
Running a contest rewards your audience not just for their skills and knowledge, but for interacting with your brand. They also appeal to different people in your audience, such as those who are competitive, smart, enjoy having fun, or want attention. This can help increase brand recognition across your channels.
Making interactions with your brand fun and memorable may bring people back to your sites, profiles, and content, and it might encourage them to bring friends. Because you can run contests on almost any platform or in any situation, digital or in the real world, they provide plenty of opportunities to connect with people.
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Picking prizes for a company contest can be up to the marketing team, event coordinators, or anyone from your organization that’s running the show. It’s important to consider what’s appropriate for the amount of effort your audience puts in to win the prize so that their input most closely matches the reward. Depending on the contest, you may give away:
In the United States and other countries, there are certain laws called no purchase necessary laws that dictate how and when you can give away prizes to people. It’s more common to consult these laws for random drawings rather than contests based on merit. But it could be helpful to learn if there are any kind of special laws in your state or country about hosting contests or giveaways before you take the time to plan one. Some other potential legal issues and rules to consider include:
Use these ideas to help you create contests for your digital platforms, such as social media:
Get more content for your brand from outside sources by hosting a blog post writing contest. Provide people with a topic and a word count and take their submissions. This can be a fun choice, especially for content creation companies whose products or services are inventing the best and most interesting pieces for their clients. This type of contest is a case where the prize may be the contest itself. You could publish the winner’s content on your website and share it on social media to give the writer recognition.
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If you’re able to create a short computer or in-app game, you can turn that into a contest. The premise could be anything, from something like a matching game to a skills test. You could theme the game around your product or service. For example, a heating and cooling company may create a game that requires players to get the repairman from the front door to the basement heating unit while avoiding obstacles such as pets or children’s toys.
You could award a prize to the person with the highest score after a certain period. If the game doesn’t keep score, you could give the prize out randomly to one person who completes the game or level.
Fill-in-the-blank contests are a fun way for both your marketers and your audience to get creative with words. Provide a sentence or phrase in text or an image and leave out a word. You can use this framework in a few different ways. One option is to have a correct answer and have people try to guess what word completes the blank. Another choice is to run it more like a caption contest where you pick the funniest or most clever user response.
A pick-a-photo contest can help you collect user-generated content. Come up with a theme and ask your followers to meet it with their best interpretation of a photo. Your theme may have something to do with your products. For example, you may encourage people to find the best way to enjoy a meal from your restaurant and then take a photo.
The theme could also have something to do with an upcoming event, holiday, or campaign, but doesn’t directly relate to your brand. Be clear in the directions about the theme and any judging criteria to give people the best chance to try to win.
If you’re looking to debut a new product or product line, you can get people to vote on which one they may be most interested in seeing. For example, if you’re going to debut a new flavor of soda, you may ask your followers just which flavor they want.
Your followers or anyone online can vote and then you may select a voter or two from the winning category to be the first to try the new product. This type of contest can also help you collect data about your audience. It can tell you more about their likes, dislikes, and expectations for your company through their opinions.
Different from the pick-a-photo contest, in this option you provide the image, and your followers add their humor. Share an image that relates to your company, product, or industry, and then invite people to come up with captions. You could even run multiple contests from the same photo, choosing captions in different categories such as funniest or best sales pitch.
Like a pick-a-photo contest, you can create a theme and ask people to submit their entries. But instead of your social media team or marketing department choosing the winner, let your followers or fans decide. Set criteria for how to submit and how to vote so that the audience is clear on both processes.
You may collect submissions through social media or email and display all entries on your website or in a form for voting. Doing it this way, rather than just letting people submit and vote right on your feed, may help you monitor the entries and make sure they fit the theme and are appropriate for the audience.
If you’re looking for a new tagline for your company or a particular product, you can run a slogan creation contest. This gives people the chance to come up with a tagline that you may associate with your brand in the future. This is another case where the contest may be the prize. The winner gets to see their tagline appear on your website, in a commercial, or on product packaging. Reviewing the submissions can also help you with market research to learn about what people are looking for or how they view your products and services.
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Have you ever played those find-the-changes games online or in a magazine? This type of contest works just like that. If you have someone on your team skilled in photo editing, or the ability to take two pictures of the same thing or space after making significant changes, you can run this contest online. Consider using your product, storefront, or another company-related subject for people to spot the difference.
To win, you may award a prize to the person who finds all the changes first, or the first person to find each change if you can afford to have multiple winners. You may also choose to pick a winner at random from everyone who finds all the changes. Be sure to tell people how many differences exist to help their searches.
Thanks to the rise of social platforms like TikTok, short videos make up much of the popular content online. You can capitalize on this for a contest by encouraging people to develop a short funny video to fit a theme. It works similar to photo contests, but may be more appropriate for certain social platforms like YouTube, TikTok, or Snapchat.
Not all promotional contests have to take place exclusively online. Review these contest ideas you could use digitally, in person, or a combination of both:
Bingo games can be fun contests because, thanks to online bingo card generators, you can include almost anything within the game spaces. This can make the game feel more like a scavenger hunt, but one you can do at your own pace. You can host bingo in person at an event and then give a prize to the first person who wins, or to a few people if you have multiple prizes.
You can also run a game online where people complete the spaces on the card and show some kind of proof that they’ve done them, like through a photo or video. Your followers can then submit the card and all the materials to you when they’re finished. Increase the stakes by offering additional prizes for special bingos, like four corners or full cards.
Coloring contests may be popular for brands that cater to families or children. Traditionally, these types take place in the real world. A child receives a coloring sheet of the company’s logo or product and then they design and return it. A panel of judges chooses their favorite. You can also run this type of contest digitally, either by providing a download of the physical coloring sheet or a way to design it online.
A DIY contest may be an exciting choice for companies in artistic, construction, or STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Give people a prompt of something to create and see what they come up with. You can provide the prompt online and the parameters of the project, such as materials or methods you can and can’t use. Then invite people to share photos or videos of their creations for judging.
You may also consider providing kits with the only materials people can use and see how creatively they can mold them into the concept topic. You could even ask participants to film a tutorial for their DIY project and use that to showcase the winning entry on your website and social feeds.
Escape rooms are a popular team-building activity for companies, but they can also work well for contests. You can hold them in person or virtually, depending on what resources you have. Craft the story, premise, and clues for the escape room to teach people more about your company or products. You can give the prize to the person or group that breaks out first, with the fastest time, or by choosing a random winner out of everyone who breaks out.
How many gumballs are in the jar? You’ve probably seen this type of contest before at a street fair or a bridal shower, but it can work for your company too. A guessing contest can be easy and fun because the guessing items can be the prize. This contest could be an ideal promotion for a company that sells food, candy, or any other small products you could stuff in a jar.
Run this contest online by sharing a photo of the filled jar and asking people to guess the number of items inside. You can also run it in person, such as at a conference event, and have people write their answers on a sheet. You can decide how to choose the winner, with options such as the person with the closest guess. Consider how you may handle a tie if a few people get the answer exactly right.
If you’re preparing to redesign your company logo, make your audience a part of the process. Give them the elements you want to be included in the logo, such as certain colors or symbols. Then let the public submit the designs any way they choose, such as through a digital design program or drawing by hand. Contestants can submit images or files with the logo designs for judging.
If your company has a mascot or plans to get one, have your followers help choose what mascot to pick or what to name it. There are other contests you could hold with a mascot too, such as redesigning their outfit. Consider putting your mascot contest in the physical world by holding a selfie search or scavenger hunt where people find your mascot around town or at an event and take a picture with it to win.
If you intend to redesign your product packaging or develop a new design, open that process up to the public. Hold a product customization contest. Provide tangible or digital design sheets to allow people to draw and draft their own creations from scratch. If there are certain elements, like colors, or expectations for customization, make them clear in the contest directions.
Scavenger hunts can be fun contests because they can help you increase conversions and build brand awareness. You can run them digitally, in the real world, or a combination of both to suit your organization’s needs. Send people around town or the web to find items related to your company.
You could also include clues for people to crack, which can lead them to specific areas of your website, blog, or even retail stores to find the right information. This can guide them to things you want them to see, do, or learn. You can award the prize to the person or team with the highest score or by picking a winner at random from those who finish.
The holidays can be an optimum time to hold contests and increase engagement. There are a variety of both digital and in-person options to choose from, such as:
To test people’s wits and smarts, consider starting a trivia contest. You can set up the win structure in a variety of ways. Knowing the right answer can help you pick the winner, but you might choose the first person to answer correctly, or pick a random winner from everyone who gets it correct. You can also run trivia contests repeatedly online, using a different question each time. Consider using topics that relate to your business, products, or industry.
You can also turn trivia contests into trivia nights sponsored by your brand. You may hold one at your retail or office location, at a conference, or online over video conferencing platforms. Trivia nights don’t necessarily have to center completely around your brand or even your industry and may be more for fun to get organization recognition.
Contests are a fun way to get people involved with your brand. Consider running multiple contests throughout the year on different platforms to keep people excited and interested in your company.
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