United Air Lines’ Sweepstakes Comes Up a Winner

Thinking about a sweepstakes to generate a bigger email list? Wonder if it’s worth upping the stakes by going from an instant-win to a daily instant-win campaign?

If United Air Lines‘ (UAL’s) experience is any indicator, the idea is definitely worth considering. (It’s been true with our work for a leading toy company, too.)

Here’s what Susie Obst, director of Internet marketing at UAL Loyalty Services Inc. has to say about her experience with sweepstakes promotions:

“We did a daily instant win with ePrize in September 2003, and it was the most successful campaign to date for driving unique, permissionable emails.”

Objectives: Customer Education and Opt-In Addresses

Obst feels UAL ran a unique campaign in that it wasn’t just about generating opt-in email addresses. “Our other objective was to educate both current and prospective united.com customers about the full suite of travel products we offer, beyond our primary business of air travel.”

To execute on the added objective, united.com worked with ePrize and ad agency Tribal DDB. “We didn’t want to alienate our business travelers or more affluent customers with a whimsical promotion, yet we wanted to stand out from the crowd.”

Robb Lippitt, ePrize COO, concurs, “We felt it was important to truly understand United’s campaign objectives and their unique branding challenges when creating the promotions.”

To educate prospects and customers about united.com’s travel offerings, prizes were offered in sweepstakes relating to these business units. The prize of the day could be a car rental, airline flight, hotel stay, cruise, or vacation package. As players waited for the game to load, rotating messages appeared in their browser windows, posing questions related to united.com’s different businesses. “Did you know that united.com also has car rentals?” was one example.

Tactics: E-Mail and Banner Ads

“The way we let people know about the campaign was via an email to our database, plus banner ads on third-party sites and our home page,” recalls Obst.

On the first visit to the daily instant-win site, players were required to fill out registration information. They were then given passwords for quick log-in on subsequent visits. Obst wasn’t able to reveal exact numbers but said the daily aspect of the month-long campaign was the driving factor in the high number of permission email addresses collected. In comparison, “a very simple sweepstakes that we might run for two or three months generated only half the email addresses that the daily-win game did in a 30-day time period.”

The email had a “tell a friend” forward feature, an aspect that’s standard with ePrize’s promotions. Players are allowed to replay the game if they forward the email to three other people.

Campaign-Tested Advice for Your Daily Instant Win

Obst believes daily instant-win promotions are invaluable for creating excitement, but she cautions they’re more time-consuming and expensive to execute than run-of-the-mill email promotions. “Like most companies, resources are an issue — and these campaigns are labor-intensive. We also try to be conscientious about our use of sweepstakes due to demographics of our customer base.”

Because sweepstakes laws are complex, she recommends using an experienced promotion firm, such as ePrize, which she lauds. “ePrize is terrific. They offer a complete turnkey approach.”

The internal challenge was to keep the campaign costs down, as prizes are awarded daily. “We had to be conscious when working with partners who were giving us free or discounted travel prizes to give them good exposure but not to overcomplicate the message. We accomplished this using iconography to portray the prizes in a simple way.”

Obst also advises marketers to stay focused on objectives. “Sweepstakes are fun, and there are many exciting things you can do. But don’t get so carried away by the fun aspect that you end up with a promotion that doesn’t move the needle for your business.”

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