21 Contest Ideas for Your Marketing Strategies

Christy Walters


February 24, 2022 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

gold and black trophy on white background to show contest ideas

In content marketing, a contest is an event your audience or followers compete in to win prizes. Contests differ from other promotions like sweepstakes and raffles because the winner needs skills to claim their prize. Companies use contests to generate interest in their brand or engage with their audience. 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:

10 Digital Contest Ideas

Most content marketing contests take place in digital spaces, like on social media. That makes for easy entry for the audience, and an easy way to announce the winners for the brand. Use these ideas to help you create contests for your digital platforms:

1. Blog Post Writing

Get more user-generated content for your brand by hosting a blogging contest. Provide your readers with a topic and a word count and take their submissions. This type of contest idea is a case where the prize is the contest itself. You could publish the winner’s content on your website and share it on social media to give the writer recognition.

2. Digital Games

If you’re able to create a short computer or in-app game, you can turn that into a contest. The game premise could be anything, from a matching game to a skills test. For more brand tie-ins, 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.

Award a prize to the person with the highest score after a certain period. If the game doesn’t keep score, give the prize out randomly to one person who completes the game or level.

3. Fill-in-the-Blanks

chick fil a social media post for contest ideas fill in the blank

Image via Post Planner

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.

4. Pick-a-Photo

A pick-a-photo contest helps you collect user-generated content. Come up with a theme and ask your followers to meet it with their best interpretation of a photo. The 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 win.

Related: The Pros of User-Generated Content and Avoiding the Cons

5. Pick-a-Product

If you’re looking to debut a new product or product line, get people to vote on which one they want to see. For example, Lays ran this type of contest more than once to add new potato chip flavors to its line. Fans of the brand could submit their flavor suggestions and then pick from a list of finalists.

In pick-a-product contests, 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 also helps you collect data about your audience. It tells you more about their likes, dislikes, and expectations for your company through their opinions.

6. Photo Captions

Different from the pick-a-photo contest, for this contest idea, 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 the funniest or best sales pitch.

7. Photo Voting

Like a pick-a-photo contest, you can create a theme and ask people to submit photo entries that match it best. 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 understands both processes.

Collect submissions through social media or email and display all entries on your website or in a form for voting. Sourcing submissions way, rather than just letting people submit and vote right on your feed, helps you monitor the entries and make sure they fit the theme and are appropriate for the audience.

8. Slogans

If you’re looking for a new tagline for your company or a particular product, run a slogan creation contest. This contest idea gives people the chance to come up with a tagline that they 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 also helps you with market research to learn about what people are looking for or how they view your products and services.

If you want more information about how you can distinguish yourself from the competition, use the CopyPress free content analysis tool. It helps you discover gaps in your content marketing and that of your competitors to provide customers with more of the targeted content they crave.

“CopyPress gives us the ability to work with more dealership groups. We are able to provide unique and fresh content for an ever growing customer base. We know that when we need an influx of content to keep our clients ahead of the game in the automotive landscape, CopyPress can handle these requests with ease.”

Kevin Doory

Director of SEO at Auto Revo

9. Spot-the-Difference

Have you ever played those find-the-changes games online or in a magazine? This type of contest works just like that. There are two ways to create a spot-the-difference game. First, ask one of your graphic designers to create an edited version of a logo or photo relative to your brand. If you don’t have the time or money to use a graphic designer, take two photos in your store, warehouse, or office with objects moved or changes made in the second photo.

Award a prize to the person who finds all the changes first, or the first person to find each change if you want multiple winners. You may also choose to pick a winner at random from everyone who finds all the changes. Tell people how many differences exist to help their searches.

10. Video Shorts

Thanks to the rise of social platforms like TikTok, short videos make up much of the popular content online. Capitalize on this trend for a contest by encouraging people to develop a short, funny video to fit a theme. Similar to photo contest ideas, this option is more appropriate for social platforms like YouTube, TikTok, or Snapchat.

Related: How You Can Add Short-Form Video to Your Content Strategy

11 Hybrid Contest Ideas

Not all promotional contests have to take place only online. Especially if your business works in-person and on the internet, consider these hybrid contest ideas to use both digitally and in the real world:

1. Bingo

Bingo games are fun contests because, thanks to online bingo card generators, you can include almost anything within the game spaces. Personalization makes the game feel more like a scavenger hunt the audience can do at their own pace. Host bingo in person at an event and give prizes to the first person who wins, or to a few people who win each round.

You can also run a bingo game online where people complete the spaces on the card and show proof that when they’re done, 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.

2. Coloring Sheets

Coloring contests are popular for brands that cater to families or children. Traditionally, these contests 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 its favorite. You can also run coloring contests digitally, either by providing a download of the physical coloring sheet or a way to design it online.

3. DIY

A DIY contest is an exciting choice for companies in artistic, construction, or STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Give people a creative prompt and see what they come up with. Provide the prompt online and the requirements for the project, such as materials or methods you can and can’t use. Then invite your audience to share photos or videos of their creations for judging.

Consider providing kits with the only materials people can use and see how they rearrange those items to fit 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.

4. Escape Rooms

Escape rooms are a popular team-building activity for companies. But they also work well for brand contests. Hold escape rooms 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. Then, give a 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.

5. Guessing Games

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 is easy and fun because the guessing items can be the prize. This contest idea is 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 the contest in person, such as at a conference event, and have people write their answers on a sheet. When choosing the winner, consider the person with the closest guess. Think about how you may handle a tie if a few people get the answer exactly right.

6. Logo Design

If you’re preparing to redesign your company logo, make your audience 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. Some options include a digital design program or drawing by hand. Contestants can then submit images or files with the logo designs for judging.

7. Mascots

If your company has a mascot or plans to get one, have your followers choose what mascot to pick or what to name it. There are other mascot contest ideas, too, such as redesigning their outfit. 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.

8. Product Customization

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 for 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.

9. Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts are fun contests that help you increase conversions and build brand awareness. 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. Guide your audience to things you want them to see, do, or learn. Then, award the prize to the person or team with the highest score or by picking a winner at random from those who finish.

10. Seasons or Holidays

The holidays are prime time to hold contests and increase engagement. There are a variety of both digital and in-person holiday contest idea options to choose from, such as:

  • Christmas tree decorating
  • Easter egg decorating
  • Gingerbread house construction
  • Halloween costumes
  • Home or space decorating
  • Parade float design
  • Pie baking
  • Pumpkin carving
  • Snowman construction
  • Ugly sweater creation

11. Trivia

To test people’s wits and smarts, hold a trivia contest. You can set up the win structure in a variety of ways. The goal of every trivia contest is to know the right answer. But you might choose the winner from the first person to answer correctly. Or you could choose a winner at random from every person who gets the answer right. You can also run trivia contests online, using different questions each time. For the question topics, pick information that relates to your business, products, or industry.

You can also turn trivia contests into trivia nights sponsored by your brand. Hold one at your retail or office location, at a conference, or online over video conferencing platforms. Trivia nights don’t have to center completely around your brand or even your industry. Instead, you can use them as a sponsorship strategy to gain brand awareness.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Sponsored Content

Why Should You Run a Contest for Your Business?

Contests reward 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. Feeding these kinds of audience needs through contest ideas helps increase brand recognition across your channels.

Making interactions with your brand fun and memorable brings people back to your sites, profiles, and content. If your contests are really fun, they might encourage your followers to bring friends. Because you can run contests on almost any platform or in any situation, they provide plenty of opportunities to connect with people no matter where they get their content.

Related: Use Content Marketing To Promote Special Events

What Can You Use for Prizes?

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. Their input should closely match the reward. For example, you wouldn’t give away a free laptop for a fill-in-the-blank contest, but you might for a trivia night winner. Depending on the contest, you may give away:

  • Branded swag
  • Consulting sessions
  • Customized products
  • Discounts
  • Event tickets
  • Free visits or meals
  • Gift cards, vouchers, or shopping sprees
  • Limited edition products
  • Product bundles
  • Social media recognition
  • Subscriptions to your services
  • Upgraded memberships

Are There Legal Restrictions on Contests and Prizes?

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 special laws in your state about hosting contests or giveaways before you take the time to plan one. Some other potential legal issues and rules to consider include:

  • Announcing the opening and closing dates for a contest before it begins
  • Sharing information about how, when, and where you select winners and award prizes
  • Contacting all winning entrants and sharing how much time they have to accept a prize before they’re disqualified and you choose another winner

Connect With CopyPress on LinkedIn for More Contest Ideas

At CopyPress, we’re just as interested as you are in marketing our brand in a fun, relatable way. Be sure to connect with us on LinkedIn for more tips, articles, and even contests. Join our community to talk about all things content marketing and strategy. Share your big wins and biggest frustrations with us to get the help you need to make your business shine, online and off.

Author Image - Christy Walters
Christy Walters

CopyPress writer

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