There is nothing more exciting and challenging for me than the start of new campaign; a blank piece of paper in front of you, knowing where you need to get to, but no idea of how you’ll get there. Luckily, after over 30 years planning and running global promotions and games for the likes of McDonald’s and PepsiCo, I’ve pulled together a pretty robust set of principles to guide me.
Here are 5 ways to ensure your brand’s promotional games are always a success:
1. Know your audience and your subject matter inside out.
Never has the phrase ‘walk a mile in someone else’s shoes’ been more relevant. I had the pleasure of being part of one of the best cause-related marketing campaigns ever, which saw Walkers and News International give over 5 million free books to schools across the UK. However, it was only a success because we invested significant time and resource into making sure we had a promotional mechanic that made sense within our audience’s lives, and crucially, that we were offering the right books, as this is what created value for our audience. The books and the authors we partnered with are what gave the scheme its credibility, while the fact that token collection and redemption was easy and simple to understand meant that participation was huge.
2. One team. One goal.
Running McDonald’s annual Monopoly campaign is a mammoth task that relies very heavily on team work. Delivering campaigns on this scale calls for many internal and external teams— from supply chain partners to auditors, fulfilment houses to agencies—to work together seamlessly. But naturally, each business has its own agenda and trying to get everyone walking shoulder to shoulder can be tough. That’s why it’s vital for the common goals to be universally agreed up front. Is the campaign solely focussed on delivering sales, or are we looking to drive data collection or raise brand awareness? Rallying behind a set of clear goals from the outset and baking them into your collaborative processes will give everyone direction and make communication and delivery easier for all.
3. Focus on what you don’t know, not what you do.
Even after 30 years in this industry, I still believe learning is key! Whether that's learning a new skill, learning about a new technology or simply learning from the past. It’s one of the reasons I love what I do. Being responsible for The Marketing Store’s gaming operations keeps me on my toes because every campaign is an opportunity to grow. While something may have worked in a previous campaign, there’s no guarantee it will work next time. In fact, there’s almost always a more effective way to get the same results, or better ones! So, embrace the fact that technology is constantly changing and look across your agency mix to see which new skills might be able to elevate your gaming experiences even further.
4. Always ask ‘what if?’
As leader of our operations team, it’s my job to ensure we have thought through every eventuality (or as many as we can think of any way) so that whenever the unexpected does happen we have the right expertise in the right place to deal with it. Working for a huge brand like McDonald's means that whatever we do, we will always be a target, so ahead of a campaign launch, we do everything we can to mitigate setbacks by running ‘what if’ style brainstorms, where we put ourselves in the mindset of someone who is trying to buck the system. When I consider the ‘what ifs’ for our online Monopoly game, I often feel as though I must’ve been a crook in another life!
5. Keep calm and game on.
It’s vital to be calm under pressure and avoid the urge to panic when things are not going as you want them to. Understand that nobody will get it right all the time. So when things do go wrong, remember that it’s often how you deal with the issue that matters, not the issue itself. Set team expectations that are realistic and achievable, and don’t rush into imperfect solutions under pressure. It’s always worth taking a little extra time to think them through! Even the most meticulously planned and expertly run promotional campaign is bound to throw up the odd challenge, but I say bring it on...it's what makes each and every day an adventure!