Indeed, others felt the same way, and in 1992, thousands of sweepstakes entries from contestants that did not buy magazine subscriptions were found discarded, confirming their suspicions. As a result of lawsuits resulting from consumer complaints about deceptive advertising practices were filed and settled against both Publishers Clearing House and its main competitor, American Family Publishers, many of the blatant practices revolving around sweepstakes have been tamped down, if not outright eliminated.
Nevertheless, any remaining faith I had in the fairness or validity of sweepstakes of any kind had been shattered. But old habits die hard. Late last year, I had entered a drawing for a guitar being offered by Roslyn, NY-based retailer The Music Zoo, in exchange for opting in to their email newsletter. Thinking it was more likely that I’d see Ed McMahon pull up in an American Family Publishers prize van than see the FedEx truck with the guitar on board, I completely forgot I had entered the contest.
So it was a major shock to see the following email arrive in my mailbox on April 14:
It’s no secret that sweepstakes can help drive sales. I will be sure to visit the store in person at least once (since it’s located relatively close to my house), and buy a few things to show my appreciation. But the larger question revolves around how larger-ticket sweepstakes and giveaways impact future sales, not only from the winners, but for those who do not win.
It makes sense that smaller, lower-value items that are given away on a daily or weekly basis would drive more visits to a physical store or Web site, and hopefully spur purchases. Contests with larger prizes, such as HGTV’s Dream Home giveaway (which is a once-a-year promotion), also use tie-ins designed to spur purchases. And a significant amount of research has been conducted on the effectiveness of sweepstakes, in terms of building buzz, and lifting sales.
However, in a world where marketing departments prattle on about building “deeper” relationships with customers, I’m surprised I haven’t seen more high-profile giveaways and contests that tie the winner directly the brand or service, to engender greater engagement or recurring sales. In addition to potentially gaining a new customer, these promotions could also highlight or spotlight services that are not top-of-mind to most customers.
I would love to hear of specific examples of contests or sweepstakes that go beyond simply providing an item, and truly link a winner to the brand, particularly from small or independent retailer.
PS Incidentally, for those who want to see the guitar I won: