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Willy Wonka had it right: Offer an experience instead of cash

If you want to have a promotional contest, cash is probably the worst prize you can offer. Why?

  1. You attract prize-seekers instead of qualified prospects
  2. It does nothing to promote your company's unique offerings
  3. There's no reason for anyone to talk about it (you get no word of month)

A much better prize is an experience or event that only your business can offer. Make it something that only you can give, and make it worth talking about.

Example: Click on the photos below from TOMS Shoes, which gives shoes to poor kids when you buy a pair. You can win a chance to go on the shoe delivery drip to Africa. That has a huge appeal to their target giver.

Other ideas:

  • Restaurant: Win a chance to be a chef for a day, or a private dinner for 10 friends
  • Clothing store: Go on a VIP buying trip to a fashion show
  • Brewery: Learn to make beer
  • Car dealer: Borrow a cool car for a month
  • Marketing agency: A brand makeover or a free ad campaign for your favorite charity

Guess what? You'll get a better response and it will cost less.

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  1. Jamie Lee Wallace September 11, 2009 at 8:04 am #

    Andy – Love the idea of using experience to motivate people. It’s truly one of the only things you can offer that is uniquely yours. Other products and services can compete with yours, but a customized experience is a one-of-a-kind deal that customers can only get from you. In addition, you’re right on about experience-based promotions inspiring more social chat … and that’s worth a lot right there.
    Speaking of “worth,” I’d imagine that many experience-based incentives would also be a lot less expensive to supply than a wad of cash.
    Great ideas – thanks for inspiring!

  2. Scott Gould September 11, 2009 at 9:52 am #

    Excellent – offering an experience. This is what I do consultation in, so I’m right there with you.

    Today people’s needs are met so they buy according to emotion, not need. Making a product experiential, then, is the way to go!

  3. Team The Rise To The Top September 15, 2009 at 2:53 pm #

    I love this idea, as a consumer I know that I am more attracted to products that give me an experience, recently I just heard of a bar that allows you to host an office party at their venue and puts your boss behind the bar for the night. So you pay for what you purchase for the night but the fee of renting the venue is free because they pick a winner every week from people entering their company and they give you the experience of allowing your boss to be a rockstar bartender for the night! So they still make a profit even though the cost of renting the venue is free.

  4. Tom Planer September 24, 2009 at 8:48 am #

    This is a great article. We are working with a client where the prize is the chance to work alongside a professional illustrator and come up with a design concept that will be used across the website. This creates awareness of the site we are trying to promote, but also engages the target audience with something that is genuinely interesting and useful to them. How good does that kind of work experience look in the portfolio and CV of a budding young illustrator?


  1. Box Scores: Sept. 6-13 – “Willy Wonka, Fear and Mediocrity” « Work. Play. Do Good. - September 14, 2009

    […] -“Willy Wonka had it right: Offer an experience instead of cash” […]

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