The most important element of a prize draw is the prize, right? Well, that’s only partly true because the prize itself isn’t always what makes people enter. A lot of people enter prize draws simply for the sake of trying to win something. Anything.

Kitchen sink

I previously wrote about five tips for an effective prize draw. In this article I am concentrating on ideas for prizes.

The prize becomes your headline, so you should make sure the offer is very clear. Don’t try to bundle five different levels of prize with many permutations. Imagine trying to write a 140-character tweet saying, “Win holiday and a suitcase or a bikini and sunglasses, or just sunglasses or a bikini…”

You need a strong, clear headline with one offer – “Win a family holiday in Tenerife”. But, there is a drawback to such an offer. One grand prize like an expensive holiday has negative connotations. People wonder about the chances of winning just one prize, and with the prize being so attractive, there will be tons of entries, which means the chance of winning will be so slim they may not bother entering.

Think about the number of prizes. “Win a Harry Pottery DVD – 20 to be won.” Now that isn’t such a lucrative prize, but there are 20 chances of winning it and a chance that less people will enter.

In 2001 I ran a prize draw on a website to give away five copies of a Hear’Say CD. So, the headline was “Win a Hear’Say CD” – retail cost of around £14 at the time. Not a huge prize, I’m sure you will agree, but we received 13,000 entries for that draw. What a result.

Perception of prize value is better than actual cost

When thinking about prize ideas for draws and competitions, think about things that have a high perceived value. Gadgets, for example, are always popular. Millions of people who would love an Amazon Kindle could probably afford to buy one, but they don’t. Offer them the chance to win one and they will jump at the chance.

Games consoles, accessories for games consoles, headphones, hard drives, tablets – all these things are popular prizes because they are all things people always want.

Think about prizes where you could imply a higher value than the cost of the prize itself.

Here’s an example. In the late 90s, on a website I managed, we ran a competition with the headline, “Win a year’s supply of shirts”. The prize was sponsored by Charles Tyrwhitt, the Jermyn Street shirt maker. The headline sounded great and the competition was very popular. We promoted it on the website and in our newsletter (there was no such thing as social networks in those days).

How much do you think that prize is worth? Sounds really expensive, right? In fact, to judge “a year’s supply” we asked the sponsor how many shirts a typical customer would buy over a year. They told us it was eight. So, the actual year’s supply was eight shirts and eight ties. Not a huge investment for Charles Tyrwhitt, who donated the prize in return for the publicity (which is continuing even here).

In another example, I ran a prize draw on another website called “Win your height in books”. This was an eye-catching prize draw because I organised a photograph of someone standing next to a big pile of books. The headline and the photo made the prize sound enticing and we had a great level of entries.

Ideas for prizes that sound more valuable than their actual cost

  • A beauty hamper
  • Win your height (or your weight) in something
  • A year’s supply of sweets/shirts/socks/washing powder
  • Free lunch for a month

Cash prizes are never really cash

You might think offering cash is a great prize – “win £200 to spend at Debenhams” – but that’s unimaginative and crass.

People would rather just have £200 and not be told they have to spend it in one shop. When you read a prize is money to spend in a shop, you know that the prize is really a voucher, or some kind of store credit on a store card. It would be better for the shop to just give some prizes away and come up with an enticing headline – “Win a two-minute virtual trolley dash.”

As an exciting headline, cash isn’t as interesting as “Win a used kitchen sink” – that is another prize draw we ran in the past. In fact that one was so interesting a national newspaper published the story of the winner with her sink.

We had refurbished the kitchen area of the office where we worked in Paddington, London. When we were talking about how to get rid of our old sink, someone joked, “Let’s give it away as a prize.” So that’s what we did, and one lucky lady was very happy with her ‘new’ ceramic kitchen sink.

On another occasion, we came up with another prize draw idea to try to get some publicity. We discovered that Elite Titles was selling the titles Lord and Lady of Old Trafford. We bought them from the company and then hired two Posh & Becks lookalikes to pose in Man United shirts with the names Lord and Lady printed on their backs. We used that as our promo shot for the prize draw, which we also promoted using some PR.

Coming up with prize draw ideas in this way can kill two or three birds with one stone. You give your audience a reason to swap their information with you and you achieve some brand awareness, perhaps even press coverage.

Ideas for prizes that could get you publicity

  • “Become Lord and Lady of Peckham”
  • “Win an audition with Simon Cowell”
  • “You be mayor for a day”
  • “Win your name on our new product”
  • “Test drive the new James Bond car”

Read more: Facts about Tenerife