Excuse me but, your marketing contest sucks!

I’ll openly admit to loving these snarky “here’s why your [maketing something or other] sucks” posts.

We’ve written sucky posts for:

And today we’ve been given a reason to write about a marketing contest example that will leave your business looking a little less than stellar.


Let me say right off the bat that contests aren’t easy.

There are Terms of Service (ToS) for each social platform you’re running your contest on, laws to know for your state, SEC rules, and all types of other shenanigans you have to know to cover your butt.

Lawyer and fellow writer for {grow}, Kerry O’Shea Gorgone, has a great post outlining how to do contests right. It’s definitely worth the five-minute read.

But this post isn’t about the right way, it’s about the dumb way to do stuff.

You know, because some of us learn by seeing what NOT to do.

Your Marketing Contest May Suck If …

  1. You’re violating the Terms of Service on the platform you’re using
  2. You contact contestants via Facebook messaging, or directly on their page (also a violation of Facebook’s ToS!)
  3. You use non-branded or non-industry gifts to lure contestants in (think iPads or other “popular” gifts)
  4. Your contest makes it easy to cheat the system (open voting, like getting “likes” on Facebook, often allows people to game the system)
  5. You ask for too much information from entrants
  6. You make opting in a complicated process
  7. You don’t define any rules or Terms and Conditions

One of the BIGGEST ways I see businesses bungling their marketing contests is by making it harder than it needs to be.

Have you ever gone to a place to have fun, like a bowling alley, and they have a list of all the things you CAN’T do while there?

It sucks the fun right out of your evening.

So does making your marketing contest complicated.

There’s a fine line between ensuring laws and Terms of Service are met and the process of opting in is easy, but it is possible.

Keeping it complicated?

Just take a look at this Litte Caesar’s commercial for how nonsensical you may look:


Sucky Contest Case Study

One company I follow in the social sphere, we’ll call them Company T for the sake of protecting the guilty, is a prime example of what NOT to do.

Company T is running a contest where they ask people to weigh in and vote on a branding asset.

I received information about the contest first on Facebook and then through the newsletter.

No complaints there!

No-No Number 1

However, with a closer inspection of the contest, I found it to be really confusing.

The contest really has two parts:

  • Give ideas for the branding asset
  • Vote for your favorite idea

And while the idea portion takes place on a private medium (via a Google Doc), the voting portion takes place on Facebook.

No-No Number 2

With these two areas, the contest will be running for almost 60 days — not something I’d recommend as people tend to get contest fatigue, forget, or become disinterested.

No-No Number 3

Another issue?

Rather than just providing my name, email, and idea to enter the contest — and of course, having to come back later to see if my idea makes it and to vote — I was asked to provide four other pieces of information (7 total).

This makes the barrier to entry a lot more difficult than most contests, which usually only ask for a name and email.

No-No Number 4

Their tangled Terms of Service was nearly a whopping 1200 words!

The copy for the contest itself? 144.

With sentences like:

“The invalidity or unenforceability of any provision of these rules shall not affect the validity or enforceability of any other provision. In the event that any provision is determined to be invalid or otherwise unenforceable or illegal, these rules shall otherwise remain in effect and be construed in accordance with their terms as if the invalid or illegal provision were not contained herein.“


“[Company T] also reserves the rights to cancel, terminate, modify, or suspend the giveaways at any time.“

I felt very unsure about entering the contest.

Legalese should be left to the lawyers, and simple and plain terms should be used and easy to understand by those entering your contest.

No-No Number 5

While the entry form asks for permission to add you to their mailing list, the ToS plainly says, “[Company T] may use this personal information to notify you about new promotions or other newsworthy information.”

Well, which is it?

No-No Number 7

While the ToS spells out where to vote (Facebook) and the voting period, I did not see a pinned post, app, or other “voting” happening on their Facebook page.

I did find posts referring to the contest, but they all led me back to a Google Doc to cast my vote.

This seemed to be adding an unnecessary step of going to Facebook just to be turned around back to a form (no doubt a way to game EdgeRank).

If you say the voting is happening on Facebook, it needs to be happening there!

One other small bit was that the prizes and values were given, but there wasn’t much detail about what you get with each.

It’s my belief that the more info your business can give winners about the prize, and answer the “what’s in it for me” questions, the better you will do.

Why I Didn’t Enter This Marketing Contest

Plain and simple? It just wasn’t enough to be worth it.

If I’m giving you MY brilliant ideas for a marketing asset, you need to be bending over backwards to make it easy on me to do so.

Simply turn those no-nos around to make sure your marketing contest is desirable:

  1. K.I.S.S. – Keep is simple, stupid. Don’t get all crazy with a part one and part two. Don’t use multiple platforms to run the contest. In fact, use a tried-and-true contest app like ShortStack, Rafflecopter, or WooBox to make it seamless and PRETTY!
  2. While there’s no ideal length written in stone, many contests only last a week or two so people are more likely to stay engaged.
  3. Entry should be painless. Don’t ask for unnecessary info or for details you can collect after a winner has been chosen.
  4. ToS should be clear, concise, and cover your butt. If you start telling people everything they can’t do or use too much legal jargon, you could turn peeps off.
  5. It’s always best to use permission marketing (aka: asking permission) before adding subscribers to your mailing list.
  6. Don’t add unnecessary steps just to get a few clicks or “likes” on Facebook (or anywhere else!).

Would you have entered this contest? What marketing contest no-nos drive you crazy? I’m curious! Let me know in the comments section below.

See you in the social sphere!