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Giving Away Your Reputation: When promotions go wrong

Published the 03 April, 2018
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Bad Marketing practices - Clive Christian case study

Competitions and giveaways have long been a device used by companies to increase awareness, boost their contact database and boost consumer sentiment. However, there have been a long list of incidents which have had the exact opposite effect, from the infamous Hoover free flight promotion to the TV phone-in scandals that led to significant fines.

These more recent scandals led to a tightening of competition regulations, but many companies still risk significant reputational and financial damage by being unaware of their obligations, often even leaving these initiatives in the control of untrained, junior staff. In the modern age of social media, poor or unethical practices can be instantly magnified to vast audiences and significantly outweigh the expected benefits at the start of a campaign.

It is amazing how many marketing and communications professionals believe that merely adding a note to their terms and conditions somehow overwrites their legal requirements and duty of care to participant as lined out by the Advertising Standards Authority and Committees of Advertising Practice.

Without the proper training and guidance it is perhaps unfair to expect junior staff to correctly navigate the legal requirements, so this is an area where the senior leaders need to have control and visibility. Due to the exponential harm that can be caused by basic errors, it is imperative that the senior Communications and Marketing leaders are fully versed in the company’s obligations and have maintained visibility of the process from start through to prize collection.

Poor promotional campaign case study: Clive Christian Holdings

One recent personal example of a poorly conducted promotion came from Clive Christian Holdings. The initial excitement of winning a prize claiming to be worth thousands of pounds, was instead transformed to anger and stress due to a lack of due care from the promoter.

After finding a single email in my spam inbox, due to a particularly spam friendly header (come on marketing professionals – we’ve been aware of this issue for a couple of decades now) my grateful responses were met with silence for 14 days.

I eventually got worried enough to go straight to the prize provider and it was only then that the promoters responded, claiming that the prize had been give elsewhere as I hadn’t replied in time. Apparently they thought that a single vague email, containing no details on timeframe (but which they later claimed had to be responded to within 3 working days), was sufficient enough communications to account for something of the value of £3k. Can you imagine if your bank was so blasé about not contacting you about losing this amount?

Even if we ignore the numerous code breaches, such as the tight time-frame and making all reasonable efforts to communicate with a winner, could nobody really see the potential brand damage and negative PR from putting in unnecessarily restrictive response times, giving no clear communication on this point, making so little effort to contact the winner, ignoring the winner’s emails and then blaming them for the delay?

It is vital for senior comms and marketing leaders to oversee, train and advise unqualified staff on these basic aspects. The point of a promotion is to increase goodwill, not devise a multitude of ways to elicit the opposite response. Similarly, they need to take the lead on how promotional regulations are internally perceived and followed. After all, these codes are as beneficial to the company – providing a clear guide on mitigating any reputational issues and legal disputes – as they are to the public that they were designed to protect.

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