Brand Building

Running Promotions: The Competition

A competition is a great opportunity to build brand awareness and bring your product or service into the spotlight. Here’s how.

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April 2, 2020


Right now your brand probably needs all the attention it can get, as all grapple with the new business landscape. On top of that, consumers are anxious and cash-strapped, desperate for some rays of light in the gloom. Running a competition is something you can do right away to create some noise, and lighten the load for at least one or two of your customers.

The psychological effect of being selected as a winner in a competition brings with it warm and fuzzy feelings, radiating in your general direction. And because we all love sharing good news, winners typically end up promoting your brand organically.

Done with empathy and consideration, giving something away could come across as a generous gesture; participating in the renewed sense of human connection that seems to be at least one upside to this global pandemic. Competitions will always be valuable for brand visibility and new leads or sales, but they’re also an expression of giving back.

Perfect for…

A competition is a great brand building opportunity that brings your product or service into the spotlight – especially if it’s the prize in question. You can put it into the hands of new consumers, and make them feel special at the same time. If you’re a brand new brand, competitions can really fast track awareness, and make your product instantly desirable.

Brands frequently use competitions –  in the form of contests, lucky draws or giveaways – to make us pay attention to what they’re offering, by involving it in the competition mechanism. With a worthwhile prize at stake, people will gladly use, research, promote, share, and even innovate your product. Leveraging these efforts can in turn result in loads of engaging content, and valuable consumer insights, along with increased brand awareness.

Consider this

Giving a prize away isn’t just a random act of kindness. Well, of course it could be, but your business should ideally benefit in return for what you’re offering. That’s the trade-off, and it’s a delicate balance to strike.

Gaining or engaging customers is always going to cost some marketing dollars, and this is a worthwhile number to know when weighing up how generous you can be. An expensive prize will turn more heads in your direction, but it could count as a loss for you if fewer than expected cross the threshold from ‘chance taker’ to ‘new customer’.

Do the math – and then make it count by really stirring up some big brand energy while you have the extra attention.

Getting noticed

A desirable prize is the foundation of a great competition, but you can ramp up the desirability with a stunning design that makes us stop scrolling, and start reading. Show us what we stand to win (if possible), in its best possible light. Delicious images are the most direct route to the “must enter now!” part of the brain.

Competitions have terms of engagement, which require us to (in the immortal words of Vanilla Ice) “stop, collaborate, and listen.” Drawing folks in to see what’s involved, and decide whether or not to give it a go, is your first challenge. And that requires reading. Ugh!

Design and typography are your biggest friends here. Keep things as uncluttered as possible, and our eyes on the prize. Clean, bold sans-serifs are great for impact and legibility. You don’t always have to stick with your brand’s regular typeface – draw attention to something out of the ordinary. Consider adding a BIG BOLD display font to your brand’s collection, specifically for promotions.

The marketing calendar

AAs with all promotions, it’s wise to consult the marketing calendar when you’re planning a competition. Tapping into the prevailing mood and time of year makes your competition seem relevant: it’s happening right now. Seasonality should also guide your prize. If you’re giving something away, the more immediately useful it is the better. Right now, for example, baking products are more appealing than concert tickets.

Special days on the calendar can thematically tie up your competition, but also gear it towards a relevant audience: an X-Box on National Video Game Day, tickets to the World Cup Final, a designer dress during Fashion Week, a trip to Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day… Take precise aim, and incentivise the crowd most likely to sign up, with the thing they want most.

Your own special days are also a good excuse to be generous. Celebrate your business birthday or important milestones (number of followers, product launch, winning an award) by sharing the love.

Tactics to try

These are a few variants of the competition you might want to try for building your own brand or small business:

Like & comment to win

The plain white t-shirt of competitions. It takes seconds to get involved, so you’re guaranteed to get plenty takers, and spike your social engagement. But it’s a very fleeting and generic engagement, so we’re likely to forget all about it as soon as the next pretty thing pops up on our feed. If you’re inviting comments, use them as market research: “What’s your favorite thing about us?”; “Where would you like us to go next?” Get to know your customers’ needs and desires better.

Vote to win

A variant on ‘Like & Comment’, ‘Vote to Win’ is another market research secret weapon. Is your fanbase more into dogs or cats? Ask them. It’s super useful when you’re faced with a significant product or strategy decision. Lilac or Peach? Portugal or Greece? The logo with the owl or the one with the raven? Let the wisdom of the crowd decide, and reward them accordingly.

Follower milestones

Like we said earlier, competitions can sometimes just be an act of kindness. Giving something away to your fans and supporters when you hit 100, or 1000, or 1000000 followers is a cool thing to do. Gratitude is cool. Generosity is cool. You could of course tie it in to any of the other tactics we’ve discussed… or you could just take a moment to acknowledge the folks who are helping you make your dream come true, one human being at a time. Nothing wrong with a lil’ humblebrag either, to let the world know you’re moving on up.

Surprise a follower

If your followers know they stand a chance to randomly win something every day, or week, or month, just for being in your extended squad, they’re likely to sign up and hang around. And when they win? Oooohweee! You just made somebody’s day, and turned a liker into a lover. You’ll need to sift through contest-tourists to find your true tribe though, but if you can afford a regular giveaway, you’ll keep a constant energy in your feed.

Create to win

If you know your audience has creative inclinations, use this to your advantage by getting them to create content for you – and build your brand awareness in the process. Use this as a lens to view your product in the hands of real people, in the real world. User-generated content can be a goldmine for your brand, because it’s authentic, engaging, and relevant. Competitions like these also attract more interest, because the winner is decided more on merit than luck. The barrier to entry is a little higher, but the valuable collateral you stand to gain is well worth a big, shiny prize.

Outsource ideas

The law of averages dictates that there’ll always be a few geniuses amongst your audience, and a red hot prize is a good way to draw them out. Perhaps it’s your logo redesign, or a new recipe you’d like to develop, or the cover for your new album. Target followers with valuable talents and insights, and reward them handsomely. Make a fuss over the winner; interview them on your blog, or nudge your followers towards their other work. People thrive on recognition – it’s part of the prize.


Competitions require all your ducks to be in a very neat row before announcing it to the world… to pre-empt anything blowing up in your face. Before you go live, make sure you’ve got the essentials in place:

The Prize

The central character in this story is the grand prize. Or perhaps there are a few tiered prizes. Or ten identical ones. Just make sure we know exactly what’s up for grabs.

The Mechanism

The last thing you want is to be spending half your day tending to a torrent of questions. Make the entry mechanism and the contest criteria unmissable, and make it crystal clear. Is the winner decided by a vote? An executive decision? A draw? All crucial stuff that affects our decision to enter.


Once the winner is selected, how are you going to get the prize delivered to them, and when? Make sure you know this – and communicate it – in advance. A disgruntled winner is the easiest way for a competition to backfire.

Measuring success

What are you trading the prize for? It’s an important question to ask, and you should ideally have some way to measure this. You’ll need some data to determine if your competition ended up being a win for your brand. Worked even better than expected? Great! Now how can you make it bigger next year…?

Terms and conditions

Competitions bring emotions into play, and you need to manage these. We all want to win. Sometimes we’re desperate to win. It’s important to us. The best way to mitigate against a peeved customer, is to be fair and transparent from the get-go.

Unmissable social media posts

Uptake is a product of hype. And hype is a product of preparation. So set some time aside to design some really banging posters that usher as many people as possible through the doors to your competition. You’d be amazed at how a vibrant poster design can sub-consciously dial up the excitement. Might as well make it spectacular (this is the part where you download the Over app)

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