The “Instructional” Campaign

According to the calendar, Spring has officially sprung. And while we are still experiencing some chilly days, it’s undeniable most of us are ready to shed our winter gear for shorts and sandals. As with all season changes, clothing companies are eager to help you exchange your wardrobe.

Recently, clothing company Lands’ End launched their new “How to Spring” advertising campaign, showcasing, “How fun and fashionable it is to add bright colors, graphic prints and floral patterns with a few perfect pieces from the women’s spring collection”. It could be argued that every spring campaign that will launch this season will have a similar goal; however, Lands’ End decided to do something a little different this season by adding a sweepstake to its promotional and marketing strategy.

The sweepstakes works by first connecting with Facebook or entering your email. Once you’ve connected, you are asked to fill out your name, email, and zip code. Filling out this information unlocks the game. The rules are simple, select an outfit and click “spin”. If the outfit that the player selected matches the three tumblers, the player automatically wins a gift card with a balance of $25, $50, or $1,000. That’s it! Simple right? Not to mention, everyone is eligible to enter every day for the grand prize of $1,000 shopping spree. You can view the official rules of the sweepstakes here.

While we like to think that games, contests, and sweepstakes’ only motives are for fun and entertainment, they are actually a smart marketing move – encouraging consumption of the product by creating consumer involvement. This involvement builds fan base, engages the audience, and enables consumers to do your marketing for you. Not to mention, user generated content often provides quality, innovative, and creative ads for free.

In addition to promoting brand visibility, contest and sweepstakes are strategies that provide valuable quantifiable benefits for companies as well. They are cost effective, they help build search engine optimization (SEO), and increasingly important, they provide a rich source of consumer data for the company about existing and potential customers – emails, product preferences, location, etc.

With every click essentially producing some sort of user information, online contests are growing in use on websites and especially on social media. The most popular initiatives include: photo and video contests, tagging contest, hashtag giveaways, and website raffles.

Top Rank, an online marketing blog, named some of their picks of the best contest use on social media.
Facebook: When Frito-Lay began their campaign for searching for new potato chips flavors, the company bypassed focus groups and turned to Facebook to connect directly with the customers who would be eating them.
Pinterest: AMC Theaters have an entire Pinterest board, AMC Giveaways, where all users have to do is follow the board to stay up to date on the latest AMC contests. The basics are simple, when users see a prize they want, clicking on the image takes them to a landing page that collects their information.
Twitter: In a “retweet to win” twitter contest, Doritos tweeted a message that simply asked followers to retweet for a chance to win. The tweet was retweeted over 500 times in a day with winners snagging products that ranged from Doritos to widescreen tvs.
Instagram: As many clothing company are starting to do, Vera Bradely’s instagram contest asked users to post pictures of them and their favorite Vera Bradley bag using the hashtag #VBStyleShare. At the end of the contest, winners received a wrislet, followers of the hashtag could receive fashion inspiration, and staff could see how consumers were pairing their products.

The benefits contests can provide seem like an almost no-brainer for companies to increase brand awareness while also gaining consumer data, but as they start to trend they are also subject to overuse. To combat becoming another form of clutter, companies will have to make sure their contest are increasingly interactive, engaging, creative, or lucrative.

Have you ever participated in an online contest? Did you win? Did it make you feel more favorable towards the brand? Scrolling through your social media feeds have you seen brands using contests similar to the ones above? What are some of the best/most creative ones you have seen?

- Elizabeth Harrington, Caroline Robinson, Savannah Valade

Will The Force Be With You?

      It’s Super Bowl season and we, as viewers, are ready for the stream of entertaining advertisements that keep us occupied between breaks. I’m sure everyone remembers last years buzz worthy Star Wars inspired Volkswagen commercial. How can one not be enamored with a little boy in a movie quality Darth Vader suit that genuinely startles himself by using “the force” to turn on his dad’s new Volkswagen? Beyond all the cuteness, the commercial relays the push-to-start feature that the affordable (and apparently fun) German car has to offer.
     To top its success from the last Super Bowl, Volkswagen has returned with yet another Star Wars inspired ad and the entertainment factor is undeniable. Yet what do barking dogs and Star Wars really have to do with the German automobile company?
     Advertisers take full advantage of the hype surrounding the Super Bowl to create innovative, touching, and entertaining commercials. Companies will pay extraordinary amounts of money to ensure that their commercial is seen by the millions of viewers watching the game. After all, this one time of the year advertisers can assume that almost every single American is tuning in. What company wouldn’t want their product showcased at this time? It’s like a black Friday Christmas sale for advertisers. These companies want to bring attention to their product in anyway possible, even if that means their product isn’t even mentioned until the last three seconds.
     In the Volkswagen ad, the viewer is unaware of the association between Volkswagen and Star Wars until the very end. This proved to be a very strategic move on VW’s part. Last year, companies were able to monitor which commercials made the biggest impact on viewers via Twitter, FaceBook and other popular social platforms. They measured the ad’s success by the number of times it was mentioned in the digital realm and were able to realize what struck a chord with the vast audience. What once seemed to be a hail marry concept of integrating marketing, advertising, and social media, is now an easy field goal for the IMC commercial championship. Volkswagen is betting that we will remember how fond we were of last year’s Star Wars theme and associate those same feelings with their brand this year as well. You can’t go wrong with puppies and kids, right?
-Alexis Kapczynski, Kacy Cox, Sara Kaloudis, Josh Bowman

The Race to be First

Reporting any new information to the public can be risky, especially when it is a headlining topic.  As any social media expert, one should always make sure that the information they are providing the public is 100% accurate.  Any false information can put you and your company’s reputation at risk.

With overwhelming attention surrounding the football program at Penn State, every tweet, wall post and blog comment brings more and more Internet traffic to the school and community.  In a society that completely thrives and relies on Internet access, acquiring information has never been easier or faster.  Along with the ability to supply millions with information via Twitter, Facebook or other social media sites, comes the responsibility to maintain an ethical mindset when sharing information.

Joe Paterno, the recently released Penn State head football coach who served for 42 years, passed away at 9:25 am this past Sunday. On Saturday night, several hours before Paterno’s death, Onward State, a student-run news organization, reported through a tweet that the community icon had passed. The Onward State managing editor, Devon Edwards claims the tweet was based on an email hoax and has since resigned.

It is shocking that a student organization (which presumably is more focused than professional organizations on performing tasks “by the book”) that is tied to an institution which has been so heavily shrouded in controversy recently, would fail to perform such a basic and necessary task as confirming information, especially when dealing with such an emotionally charged topic as the passing of Joe Paterno. Unfortunately, this is just the latest occurrence in what seems to be an ongoing problem with many forms of media.

Managing Editor of Onward State’s Apology