If you’re looking for a way to promote your business, create brand loyalty, and increase social media numbers, you may want to consider hosting a contest.
Despite the long list of legal rules, contests are a great way to show off your business and its products, increase awareness of your brand, and reward your customers.
Contests can be as easy or as extravagant as you want. You can simply ask your customers to enter for a chance to win (the specific language “enter for a chance to win” being a legal requirement) anything from an oil change to tickets to an upcoming concert or show. Or, you can ask them to do something more elaborate, such as creating a video using your product, with the best video – based on written criteria – winning its creator a prize.
A successful contest is less about how much money you spend on prizes (although that can help to increase the number of people who enter), but rather what your end goal looks like. If you want to increase brand loyalty and awareness, host contests on a regular basis and offer a variety of prizes – not just your own products and services, but other items you know your customers are interested in.
If you want to increase your social media numbers, create a contest that encourages online participation, such as a photography contest, or get customers to vote for their favourite new ad campaign.
Once you know the goal of your contest and have prizes your customers would want to win, it’s time to start creating the contest rules. Contests in Canada are governed by both the Competition Act and the Criminal Code (more information is available here), meaning that while the rules are lengthy, it’s important to follow them because those who break them – both individuals and companies – will not only face thousands of dollars in fines, but could go to prison.
In Canada, you’re unable to host a contest of chance. Each contest needs to offer a skill-testing question, usually math, which makes the contest about skill rather than luck. For a contest that requires a skill – writing and photography contests, for example – judging criteria must be clearly stated, so people know how they can win. There’s a mandatory short list of rules that need to be provided, as well as the legal “long” rules that must also be accessible (meaning a clearly-labelled hyperlink isn’t enough). Contest creators should have their rules vetted by a lawyer to ensure they comply with Canadian law.
For Quebec residents, rules get even more complicated. (This is why most Canadian contests exclude residents of Quebec.) Contests for children also require a lengthy set of additional rules, such as it being illegal to contact a winning child directly – you can only talk to a parent or guardian 18 and older. In Ontario, contests involving alcohol must also comply with the rules created by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, and you’re unable to give alcohol away as a prize.
Finally, if you’re hosting a contest on social media, each platform has its own set of rules you need to follow. For example, Facebook advises that contest holders must completely acknowledge that the contest isn’t “sponsored, endorsed, administered by or associated with Facebook.” Ignore the rules of social networking sites at your peril – they can close down your account if you break them.
Once your rules have been created and posted in an easy-to-access area, how do you successfully promote a contest? Social media is an obvious choice. You can use social media to promote your contest and encourage people to enter. However, you can’t ask people to like or follow your Facebook page to enter; it’s against Facebook’s rules. One way to promote your contest through social media is to invite influencers to join the contest and encourage them to invite their own followers to do the same.
There are a number of internet-based contest programs available, like the US-based Rafflecopter. However, Canadian companies should be wary about using these types of programs, as the rules governing contests differ between countries.
If you have the budget for it, you can purchase traditional ads in newspapers, TV, and radio to promote your contest. If your contest is unique and generating buzz, you can pitch the story to local media, which will definitely increase your profile. If you have a consumer-facing business, like a retail outlet, you can also promote your business in-house, remembering to include short rules and information on where to access long rules in any other contest materials.
Whether you’re giving away a stack of new books, tickets to a sporting event, or an all-expenses paid trip to a far-off destination, when done properly, contests are a great way to reward customers and build brand awareness.
Lisa Day | Contributing Writer