I’ve written about creative ways brands have incentivized participation a few times over the years, from World of Warcraft’s Zebra giveaway, to Orange Balloonacy’s Boost from a Buddy scheme, to the next-level points system in the Ford Fiesta Movement.
However in the last year social media has grown to be a key communication and interaction channel for brands, and it’s been fascinating to watch the intense experimentation and creativity that brands have gone to in order to get people to fan them, to participate with them, and talk about them in their streams.
Here’s some examples along with results where available, broken into three key groupings: Competition, Giveaway, and Cause Marketing.
Competition Based Incentivization
Kellog Krave Choc Chunks
Kellogg’s Krave has launched the most complicated and integral points consumer-facing points scheme I’ve seen yet.
Fans earn a virtual currency called ‘choc chunks’ by performing various social media activities on behalf of Kellogg’s, like becoming a fan of the brand, uploading photos, and referencing the brand in status updates. They can then exchange their chunks on the Krave Choc Exchange for prizes like music festival tickets and iTunes vouchers.
The activity has taken the brand’s Facebook page from >1,500 to 40,000 fans in just seven days.
Ford Fiesta Movement
I wrote with morbid fascination about the Ford Fiesta Movement’s social participation scheme back in 2009, but it seems even more important now that the campaign has been deemed by many to be a major success and is being revisited with Fiesta Movement 2 for 2010.
The full details of how the points scheme worked are worth a read, but the gist was that Ford exchanged a free car and some competition prizes in exchange for full, enthusiastic co-option of social media influencers’ channels. Influencers were selected based largely on their social media reach, and then rewarded directly based on a points scheme that counted posts on various channels and comments and interactions on those posts.
Results: 4.3 million YouTube views, 500,000 Flickr views, 3 million+ Twitter impressions, 50,000 interested potential customers (97% of which didn’t already own a Ford)
Nissan - The Hypercube
From 7,000 wannabe entrants, Nissan selected 500 cultural influencers — musicians, artists, writers, DJ’s, bloggers, and more — to campaign for the opportunity to win one of fifty Nissan Cubes. The resulting storm of creative activity resulted in both a torrent of original content created by the entrants featuring the Hypercube, then posted and distributed by the entrants across social networks ranging from Flickr to Twitter to YouTube.
Results: 330,000 site visits, 1.5 million canvas views, 50,000 registered voters, 250,000 votes, 87% increase in awareness of Hypercube, 8,000 tweets and 2.6 million Twitter impressions
Orange Balloon Race - Get a Boost from Your Buddies
Another example from back in 2008, the whole of the Orange Balloon Race was an incentivization program to spread the word of the campaign. It was simple to enter the contest, by picking and naming a balloon. But to put wind behind it you needed support. That meant getting your friends to sign up, and it meant putting your balloon widget on all your social media spaces and getting friends to click it.
Results: 40,000 sign-ups, 3,000 sites applying to participate, 15,000 player widgets installed, generating 3.2 million exposures to the race
Giveaway or Reward Based Incentivization
Skittles 2-for-1 Facebook vouchers
Skittles has had a big year on Facebook, skyrocketing to over 4 million fans. Many promotions and incentives paved the way, one of them being a 2-for-1 voucher for Skittles candy available only on Facebook.
Results: The 2-for-1 offer helped drive over 100k fans joining in just 10 days.
American Express - I Want to Be With Coco
Capitalizing on the buzz around Conan O’Brien following his controversial departure from NBC and their sponsorship of his subsequent tour, American Express released a very simple competition. Post the following on Twitter, and get entered to win tickets:
Hey @americanexpress I want to be with Coco in [your closest city]. Pick me! http://bit.ly/bEUqsh #amexConan
Results: By the second day of the competition Amex had doubled their Twitter users, from 12k to 24k.
Microsoft’s Bing Farmville incentive
Farmville’s fans are so rabidly obsessed that a 12-year-old recently blew his $300 in savings and then $625 on his mom’s credit card to buy more virtual currency to spend in the game.
So when Bing ran an ad in FarmVille offering some of that same virtual currency just for becoming a fan of Bing on Facebook, you can bet that many would click “Yes” just as fast as they could.
This is pretty much as close as it gets to straight up buying fans, and stretches the definition of “fan” slightly beyond the point of credibility. But if they just wanted a bigger fan number in a hurry, it was pretty effective, with Bing gained 425,000 fans in just one day, tripling the 117,000 fans they started with and bringing them to the point where they are now only trailing Google by 80k fans.
Massive Attack Heligoland Tweatre
To promote the release of Massive Attack’s new album “Heligoland” they employed a very simply Twitter promotional mechanism, centered around 7 films they’d created alongside the album and reside in their “Tweatre’. To watch the films, you needed to login with Twitter. And (noted in slightly smaller text), when you logged in you automatically sent a tweet to your network letting people know you were watching the films in the “Tweatre”, thus driving more people back to watch and spam their networks as well.
T.G.I. Friday’s - Fan Woody
Last fall T.G.I. Friday’s ran a major media campaign including TV and paid search telling customers that if they could get 500,000 fans of “Woody” by October 1st, all the fans would get a free burger.
Results: T.G.I. Friday’s hit their goal by September 19th, 12 days ahead of target. Less good is that the page is now removed, and the fans appear not to have been merged into T.G.I. Friday’s own page, which is currently sitting with just 378,000 fans.
Papa John’s Pizza Giveaway
Papa John’s kept it simple — become a fan on Facebook, get a free medium pizza.
Results: Papa John’s gained 200,000 fans, including 125,000 in a single day.
Squarespace iPhone giveaway
Last summer Squarespace offered to give away 30 iPhones over the course of 30 days. To enter, you simply had to write a tweet with the hashtag #squarespace.
Results: Squarespace succeeded in reaching the number one trending topic on Twitter. They also notoriously helped kick off the debate about whether this type of promotion constituted nothing more than spam.
Sephora - Sephora Claus
Sephora’s holiday sweepstakes encouraged Twitter users to tweet the sentence “Dear @sephora, all I want for the holidays this year is _______.” with a drop-down list to pick the product they wanted most, and to share that wish with all their friends. Sephora would pick one Twitterer a day to reward with a gift.
Toys’R'Us Black Friday Preview
Black Friday in the States is shopping as sport, a highly competitive and ritualized event. Fans line up from dawn or even camp out for days in some cases, and in that context you can imagine the promise of a little competitive edge could be a compelling incentive.
With that in mind, Toys’R'Us offered on Facebook a preview of all the deals on offer, plus access to exclusive mystery deals, but only for fans only.
Results: The exclusive preview promotion helped make Toys’R'Us the fastest growing brand on Facebook for the Black Friday period.
Subway “Tweet to Eat”
Subway is the latest brand to bribe a bit of buzz, with their “Tweet to Eat” promotion. Each day a “famous Subway fan” will be featured, and people are asked to tweet to @subwayfreshbuzz why that celeb is a great fit for Subway. Tweeting gets you an entry to win one of five $10 gift cards per day. A bit on a cheap side as an incentive, no?
Cause Marketing Based Incentivization
Kraft “Share a Little Comfort”
Kraft’s Share a Little Comfort initiative involved Kraft donating a free box to Feeding America for every tweet or Facebook update that promoted the effort.
Results: Kraft hit their goal of 1 million donations within three months, with each donation correlating to a tweet or Facebook update.
PUR Daily Drop
Water filtration brand PUR’s Facebook presence centers around a cause marketing initiative called “Daily Drop”. For every new fan they get, PUR donates 10 cents to the Children’s Safe Drinking Water Fund. Then, every day each fan can contributed another 10 cents to the fund by clicking on the donate button, which publishes an update to your wall as well.
Results: PUR has 64,000 Facebook fans to date.
Target Bullseye Gives
Target’s Bullseye Gives programs allowed Target fans to vote for the charity they thought most deserving of Target’s donation dollars.
Results: Through the two-week campaign, traffic to Target’s profile increased 5,000 percent, resulting in Target adding close to 100k fans, as well as producing 291,000 votes which generated tens of thousands of additional peer-to-peer impressions.
Another Twitter mentions based donation drive, eBay/PayPal and MillerCoors pledged to donate one cent to breast cancer research for every tweet using the hashtag #beatcancer, with the initiative organized by BeatCancerEverywhere.
Results: The campaign netted out with 681,629 mentions, 209,771 of which came in a single day, setting a new Guinness world record for the “distribution of the largest mass message through social media within 24 hours”. The mentions translated into an estimated 100 million impressions for the first 24 hours alone, and raised over $70k for charity.
Brian Morrissey of Adweek notes that Colgate’s Smiles Facebook application was suffering from a distinct lack of interest and usage until Colgate came up with the idea of partnering with SocialVibe to add a cause marketing spin. Every time someone shared a smile, Colgate would make a charitable donation.
Results: 500,000 shares in three weeks.
Cheerios Feed a Curious Mind
For every new fan of their Facebook page, Cheerios offered to donate a book, up to 500,000 in total, to non-profit First Book.
Coca-Cola Open Happiness Virtual Gifts
Coca-Cola offered a $1 donation to Boys & Girls Clubs of America for everyone who sent a virtual gift on Facebook of a special Coca-Cola bottle, also unlocking an exclusive preview of their Super Bowl commercials.
Sara Lee - Deli Difference
How do you get people to follow a deli sandwich brand on Twitter? Sara Lee was struggling with this, and hit upon the idea to donate $1 to charity organization Share Our Strength for every extra follower they gained in a 24-hour period, up to $25,000.
Results: Sara Lee only gained an extra 1,000 or so followers through the promotion. Apparently there are limits to our generosity, and receiving tweets about deli meat is one of them.
What’s the verdict
Three quotes as food for thought:
On the face of it, this benefits all parties. Charities get help, people get to feel good about themselves for doing nothing more than clicking a button, and brands get to piggyback themselve into the stream. The problem is these kind of programs threated to pollute the stream. What happens when we’re all just marketing to each other, blasting out updates for brands, whether there’s a cause attached or not? Luckily, as Karl Long says, you get the network you deserve. I’ll let a few instances of this pass, but the unfollow and unfriend button will be put into use once this takes off.
- Brian Morrissey, Here Come the Social Media Bribes, May 2009
Dolan allowed it was possible marketers could “pollute the environment” with contests, but she believes the Sephora audience is defined enough as beauty consumers to obviate such risks. “It’s a very qualified audience,” she said. “It’s not this bribery of we’re giving away a car or 100 iPods.”
- Adweek, November 2009
The proverbial “penny for your thoughts” will soon no longer apply in the realm of Facebook as Revolution mag reports the company is proposing changes in its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities which will “ban users from selling status updates or using their profiles for commercial gain.”
- Agency Spy, August 2009
Three quotes spanning the spectrum of the debate. On one hand, you’ve got the brands saying “our customers are smart enough to not abuse these promotions”. At the other extreme you’ve got Facebook saying “you can’t sell your streams”. Then you’ve got smart people like Brian Morrissey and Karl Long suggesting that ultimately it will be self-regulation that is most effective. We’ll simply block or un-follow people that abuse our streams.
As social media spaces and our personal communication streams grow in importance and influence, it’s natural that brands are going to try to find creative ways to grow their networks, and incentivize the distribution of their content within those networks.
And as you can see from the results above, whether you appeal to people’s self-interest or generosity, these incentivization tactics really do achieve goals of increasing subscriber bases and generation peer-to-peer impressions.
Facebook and Twitter will surely look to apply some forms of regulation to ensure that our streams don’t end up polluted and choked with spam. But by the same token these platform providers are also trying to encourage increasing uptake by brands of their spaces, and there is clearly desire from a segment of their audience base for brand interaction as well, so there must be some give and take.
Ultimately it feels like it is going to be down to us as marketers and consumers to regulate this. Create spam, get reviled and unfollowed. Be clever and create fun and rewarding incentives, and get rewarded with followers and fame.
Patricia McDonald of BBH Labs’ has a good post on some guidelines for how to do these type of incentivisation programs right, and hopefully the above examples can provide some inspiration as well.
What do you think? Is this just marketers being clever about how to be involved in conversations as per the Cluetrain? Or is this just the evolution of spam?
Would you recommend this type of incentivisation program to a client, or run one yourself? What guidelines would you follow yourself?
A few of my favourite articles from elsewhere on the topic of incentivisation, all worth a read:
- When everyone’s a broadcaster, is everyone an advertiser?
- Marketers look to learn from loyalty - eMarketer
- What social followers want - eMarketer
- Brands in Social Media and Selling Influence - Experience Curve
- Here come the social media bribes - Adweek
- Blending paid and earned media in the stream - Brian Morrissey
- Shortcuts into the stream - Brian Morrissey
- Brand Sweepstakes Get Twitterized - Adweek