Friday 6 July 2012

There's no such thing as a free lunch!

As a comper, you may not agree with that. You've probably had free lunches in the past, dinners too. In fact one of the wonderful things about comping is having something you wouldn't have otherwise had, and not paying a thing for it.

But just how free is that prize? The businesses that run competitions are not doing it out of charity, they want some return for their investment in the prize and the promotion. We compers must accept that if they don't get that,  they won't run any more competitions.

So lets have a look at what they might want in return for those prizes.

  • To sell as much as they can of a product.  In the early days of comping, this was the only reason to run a competition, and is still a very important one. You buy a product in order to enter the competition, and maybe you want a few goes, or even a LOT of goes, so you buy some more. Sales of the product increase and the promotion is a success.
  • To introduce a new product. What better way to get people talking about a new product than to attract people to it with the lure of a prize?
  • To get you to swap brands. This is often the purpose behind promotions on everyday products like butter, tea and coffee, where consumers tend to be loyal to a single brand. The promoters feel that if they can just get you to try their own product instead, you might swap loyalty.
  • To build up a mailing list. Whether by post or email, having the potential to contact you directly rather than waiting for you to go to them can help them to increase sales.
  • To imprint a brand name in your mind. When tiebreaker competitions were fashionable, promoters often felt that by asking you to spend time thinking about a product, it would embed it in your mind and you would actively seek it out when shopping in future.
  • To encourage and reward loyalty.  Making regular customers, or those who interact with the brand through social media like Facebook and Twitter, feel valued is an important part of keeping customers happy.
  • To drive traffic to a website. There are millions of websites out there and one way a brand can lure you to visit theirs rather than someone else's is to run a competition. Maybe they are hoping that you will stick around for a while and read what they have to offer, eventually making a purchase, or maybe they are just looking for a lot of hits to help their search engine rankings, either way they are keen to get you to the site. Or maybe they simply want to have links to their site featured on other sites, which helps with their search engine rankings.
  • To get information about you. In some cases, for instance the sites that just run survey based competitions and aren't actually selling anything, they are looking for your personal information so they can sell it on, perfectly legitimately if you haven't opted out,  but when a brand looks for information, it is usually to help them to profile their typical customers so that they can target their advertising and improve their customer service.
  • To make money from affiliate links. Maybe they get paid for everyone who clicks on a link from one site to another, or for everyone who signs up to a particular service while entering the competition. This is the sort of thing that is happening when you do one of those competitions where you are given the chance to opt in to other offers before you get to the "submit" button.
So for instance the monthly competition on the Grape Vine website has two purposes -  my established readers and long term supporters have a  chance to win and be rewarded for their loyalty, while potential new readers may well visit the site for the first time,  send for a sample copy and decide  to subscribe. While if I run a competition here on the blog, the brand providing the prize hopes that you will visit THEIR site and have a look around - but even if you don't, some strange magic of the internet means that simply having the link to their site on my blog helps their SEO. (No, I don't understand that either - to me having a link that isn't followed is like having an exercise DVD that never comes out of the box....)

Why am I telling you all this now? Well, recently there has been another spate of apparently fake competitions on Twitter and Facebook. And one way of telling whether or not a competition is genuine is to look at the above list of  things a promoter might want to get out of a competition and ask yourself which of those it fits. If they don't appear to be doing anything BUT running a competition, or a series of competitions, with no associated brand or sales website, if they aren't trying to get you to buy a product or register for more information,  then what are they going to get from it? What's the payback for the prizes on offer? If a Twitter feed or Facebook page does nothing BUT shout about the competition, especially if there is no link to a website, the chances are it's just some kind of hoax or scam. Nobody, apart from the occasional eccentric millionaire, gives something away and expects absolutely nothing in return - there has to be some benefit to them that pays for the prize. So remember:


If it looks too good to be true, it probably isn't true!

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