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How to avoid the top 10 mistakes made in sales promotions

How to avoid the top 10 mistakes made in sales promotions

By Neil Barnes, Enable

A team of security experts who ensure that sales promotions work throughout the world say there are 10 major mistakes that those running promotions commonly make.

Enable managing director Neil Barnes says the publicity fall-out from promotions and prize competitions that go wrong can be incredibly destructive but careful planning can ensure they work every time.

He said: “It usually comes down to attention to detail and being meticulous in checking all possibilities for a mistake or potential security breach. Sales promotions have to comply with so many regulations that there are an increasing number of danger points for those who run them.

"More regulations and more incidents of litigation mean promotions need more careful and meticulous planning.”  

Enable say the top 10 mistakes promoters make are:

Failing to realise how sophisticated fraudsters can be

Fraudsters will go to surprising lengths to win a big money prize and so-called “compers” spend much time and effort looking at all possible ways to gain an advantage in a promotion, so one has to ensure the Terms & Conditions and policing controls are watertight

Protecting key data and information

Knowledge is power and the more people that know how, where and when a prize will be placed, particularly during the planning and implementation process, the more likely it is to fall into the hands of fraudsters. It is therefore important that key staff realise that certain information, including artwork and design must be protected.


Fair and random allocation of prizes 

Promotions must be fair, which means it is important to ensure prizes are seeded across the entire promotion universe in a transparent and truly random manner.  There are ways of generating truly random patterns and simply making your own selection based on ‘gut feel’   does not comply, breaching CAP code guidelines.

For competitions, the judging criteria, or details of how consumers can win, must be explained in advance of entry.

Independent judging and auditing

The appointment of a truly independent monitor is a specific requirement of the current CAP Code of Practice.

Too many organisers feel they “own” the promotion and want the perfect winner for them. Having an unfair winner, too many winners or attempting to influence the type of winner to match the brand identity can have serious repercussions and actually inflict damage to the brand.

Attempting to “adjust” prizes or skimp on promised prizes

Any organisation that doesn’t deliver on its promises will lose public confidence. Better to understand how the promotion is going to work from the outset than try to adjust it retrospectively to take account of poor take-up or over redemption against planned budget.

i.e. a true probability promotion could have 100% claims, against anticipated levels of 30%.

Fundamental errors in terms and conditions

The above can compromise any promotion.  Terms and conditions must adhere to the relevant code and need to be checked through thoroughly by legal experts, with knowledge of the promotions industry.

For example, clearly stating the number of entries an individual can make, or limiting the number of entries per address or email address etc. and limiting the number of major prizes an individual can win.

Changes in regulations and legislation

Rules are changing all the time in areas including food hygiene, ‘no purchase necessary’ routes, packaging, gambling etc. All need to be understood and checked every time. Do not copy and paste previous T&C’s and guidelines.

Understanding regional, national or cultural differences is also important.  Increasingly competitions and promotions are held in multiple territories and legislation in each needs to be checked. Sometimes laws may be the same but cultural views make it necessary to subtly change the promotion.

Maintaining proper records and documented audit trails

If something does go wrong or needs to be checked the paperwork is vital to ensuring that legal obligations are met. Trading Standards and loss adjusters respect proper and accurate documentation.  Enable has standard documentation and procedures for almost every situation.

What if…?

It is vital to have someone play “devil’s advocate” and ask the “what if?” questions time and again. Brand managers and creative agencies are often too close to their promotion and too caught up with the excitement to see a potential pitfall. ‘That will never happen’ seems acceptable until it does happen, so everything needs to be considered.

The earlier all these checks are made in the promotional process, the easier it is to avoid often costly problems later on.

Product and system amendments

Systems and materials continually change so it is essential to ensure everything is actually viable.  Understand the limitation of print and productions techniques on media based systems and ensure security is not compromised.

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