Thursday, April 21, 2016

7 lessons learned from leading a Sweepstakes campaign

A few years ago I had the opportunity to bring together K12, Inc., Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), and Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge (specifically working with Disney Youth Programs) for a Giveaway campaign that I titled Rhythm of Conservation.

With Earth Day arriving tomorrow I thought it might be helpful to share some insights I had in leading a national giveaway campaign that was inspired by Earth Day and World Oceans Day.

The ultimate goal: Leads for K12 virtual schools in 32 states across the country

Below are 7 lessons or takeaways from my experience that I hope can be of help to you if you are considering a sweepstakes/giveaway or find yourself launching one right now.

Find a professional firm to handle the legal side

I worked with Ventura Associates ( to help me take care of the legalities and ensure that everything we did was in line with standards and laws. There are other firms out there who do the same thing as Ventura but I would definitely recommend them for your consideration.

Whoever you select, having a firm like Ventura at your side is reassuring and well worth the investment. Trying to navigate each and every state law associated with sweepstakes or giveaways would be maddening. I simply turned this part over to them and allowed them to do what they do best, and they did.

Think inside the box

Creatively we all like to "think outside the box" but I quickly realized how many parameters were in place when it comes to sweepstakes/giveaways. Many of my initial desires had to be refined to fit within the legal fence. At first this felt restricting until I happened to mention to my team in a meeting that it "felt like we were being boxed in so we just have to think inside the box this time."

By accepting this the creativity began to flow, and Rhythm of Conservation was born. Sometimes the fence around us can actually force us to be more creative. My friend Michael Milchalko, in his book Thinkertoys, describes this as Brute Force. The legal parameters, or box, forced me to be creative in a completely new way.

So, don't fight the structure and legal associated with sweepstakes/giveaways, embrace them instead and see how it drives your creativity.

Make the Grand Prize grand

My desire from the beginning was to bring Disney into the fold for this campaign. Simply having their name attached to the campaign brought further credibility, awareness, and entries. While we had secondary prizes to entice more entries (one Grand Prize most often means less entries), I wanted a Grand Prize that fit the motif of the campaign at Walt Disney World.

A 4-day/3-night stay at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge with Savannah View fit the Grand Prize naturally
and nicely. It was also Grand enough to warrant a strong giveaway enticement. Making the award for a family of four with two Disney Youth Education passes helped diminish unqualified entries (to a certain degree). Also, part of the prize was a 4-day Park Hopper pass for each individual. Disney's Animal Kingdom is an AZA-accredited member so that was an added bonus.

It also fit my goal of having each component of the giveaway synchronize with the theme of conservation.

One note here -- when working with Disney, when the lawyers become involved build in time for delays. My good friends at Disney Youth Programs helped me maneuver through this web in a timely fashion and ensure we maintained Disney standards, but there were times of concern along the way.

Partnerships must be real partnerships

I mentioned earlier that the campaign brought together K12, Inc., AZA, and Disney Youth Programs. It was important to me that, although the prime goal was leads for K12, that each participant would benefit from this campaign.

AZA was able to gain commitments from over 110 zoos and aquariums across the 32 states, and Disney Youth was instrumental in helping me secure Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge as the grand prize (4 days / 3 nights).

AZA members were tasked with promoting the Rhythm campaign across their social channels before and during the 75-day campaign. In addition, they placed signage within their parks promoting the campaign to drive people to their zoos and aquariums.

My goal was to drive people to our online entry form and drive them to the participating zoos and aquariums on Earth Day and World Oceans Day. I did this by having the signage mentioned above carry a text entry option that was the equivalent of 5 additional entries.

As we collected entries, Disney Youth Programs had the opportunity to promote their educational programs to the collected leads. And, we each did cross-promotion on social media to promote the campaign.

One final area, and one I was most excited about, was the way in which the essence of the campaign was shared. It was after all, Rhythm of Conservation, and promoting conservation efforts was of prime importance to me. So, we continually promoted member zoos and aquarium conservation efforts on our social pages. And, I worked with AZA to develop a conservation initiative tied to the entry form page.

When a person arrived at the entry page, they could enter of course. Also, while they were there they would also be introduced each day to a new animal that AZA had selected to showcase. Each animal was an endangered one. A family could see a photo of the animal, learn about it briefly, and learn about ongoing conservation efforts for each animal. This was a wonderful addition because a person could enter once each day which meant a great return base of families. Our tracking of the landing page showed that people spent
an average of 2+ minutes on the page whereas it would have only taken seconds to fill in the form. This meant they spent time on the page learning about the endangered animals, using the K12 lessons, and simply reading the content.

In addition, K12 had some interactive portions of their science lessons on the landing page that allowed families to learn more about conservation, animal science, biology, and earth science.

The overall result of Rhythm of Conservation was 12,000+ unique, qualified leads at a cost of $10 per lead.

The zoo and aquarium social media posts, on-site signage advertising, and the extra effort each one did for the campaign was the equivalent of over $3 million in advertising for the campaign. Not bad on a $120,00 budget.


Consider entry form first before creative concept

One of the issues I ran into early on was the entry form itself. K12, Inc. served students in grades K - 12 and this meant I was aiming for a targeted group. Singles, families without kids, and the empty nesters were not a target, however, they would see the campaign, and could enter if they so desired.

Also, you have the professional sweepstakers as I called them. These are people who have web sites and social sites dedicated to all the sweepstakes and giveaways available. Then, add to it the Disney connection and it had the potential to be a lot of unqualified leads.

I had estimated a 12%-15% throwaway based on research and opinion but felt it was worth the effort if I could achieve a per lead cost of less than $20.

This relates to the entry form because this was my one area to limit the unqualified entries. How could I design the entry form in order to better target the families with children?

The reason I say start with the entry form before the creative is it falls into the legal side of the equation. Once you have the structure in place (legal) and the entry form (in terms of function and selection), then you can turn your attention to the creative and strategy in a more orderly fashion. I felt the entry form delayed and hindered the creative and wished I had started there first -- get it out of the way, then have fun with the rest of it.

By the way, the unqualified leads came in at 16% so it was slightly above my estimation but still acceptable.

Internal communication is critical

One area I fell short on was internally, connecting it across the country to the K12 schools and marketing representatives. Looking back I had a plan for the internal side of the campaign -- communication and follow up -- but fell short on the execution stage. This is a part I would pay more attention to if I had a do-over.

Lead-up communication, buy-in, and communication throughout your campaign to all of your fellow employees is critical. Spend as much time on it as you do on the external.

Make it all fit together

I chose the theme Rhythm of Conservation and went all out with the alignment of assets to fit this theme.

1. Assets had a New Orleans and Mardi Gras look and feel to them to bring in the rhythm section.

2. As mentioned previously we focused heavily on the conservation education on the landing page. We also did this with our Rhythm Facebook posts, continually linking to participating zoos and aquariums and sharing their conservation efforts with our new Facebook fans.

3. The Grand Prize tied into the conservation theme as I shared above.

4. Even secondary prizes connected with the conservation theme. The NOOK had pre-loaded conservation apps.

5. Our messaging and content carried the jazzy vibe of New Orleans

In the end, I tried to build a cohesive campaign where all the pieces fit together and made sense. I would encourage you to do the same -- when you develop your theme, consider all aspects of the campaign and how they either naturally fit the theme (Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge), or how can you make them fit the theme (pre-loaded science apps on the NOOK)?

Hope this is of help to you. Feel free to share your thoughts and comments, and reach out if you have any specific questions.

FIGMENT Consulting
Data driven. Imagination crafted.

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