What are the key factors for a successful promotion?

The appetite for promotions is as strong as ever, with over 90% of consumers interviewed stating that they’d like to see more being run. They are fantastic at driving short-term volume across almost all categories and can often brand build better than any brand campaign ever could. So why don’t brands run more promotions? If we think back to 1971 (when concept testing promotions all began for IMI), it’s usually because marketers rely on gut call, or there was significant overspending on the campaign, making a ROI improbable.

The key principles to a successful promotion…

#1 - Don’t rely on your gut…

…it’s wrong as often as its right, and we appear to be only getting worse…







% of promotions in IMI’s database that did not deliver a positive ROI

Testing the concept is so important. Don’t put time, energy and budget into programs that won’t succeed. You can concept test among category non-rejecters for as little as $1,000 per concept, and in under a week using IMI’s Flagpole

#2 - Get the prizing right!

It’s the number 1 driver of participation. We hear all the time, ‘how cool would it be to win a jet ski, or “a Mini would be a great prize”… two of the worst performing prizes in our database.

Prizes often don’t need to be a grand as we think. 3 x $10,000 can have the same impact as 3 x $1,000,000. 1,000 free ice creams can also have a greater impact as giving away $1,000,000. Why? Because of perceived chance of winning. Knowing how much enough, and how much is too much is imperative to driving a positive ROI.

  • 3 prizes of $10,000 61% 61%
  • 3 prices of $2500/month for a year in cash 61% 61%
  • 3 prizes of $100,000 60% 60%
  • 3 prizes of $1,000,000 67% 67%
Q. How likely would you be to purchase a product or brand that you are aware of, but don’t normally purchase it if offered in a promotion where you could win…

#3 - Get the number of prizes right

Consumers in all categories have tipping points. Thresholds at which behaviour will change in mass. Not enough prizes, and your competitors’ consumers don’t think they’ll have a chance at winning. Too many, and you’re wasting budget that could be reallocated to driving awareness and comprehension.


100 iPads


10,000 iPads

Participation intent if the frequency prize is…

#4 - Get out of the way

High purchase requirements and promotions that are difficult to enter (poor mechanic) are a deal breaker. They form barriers to highly incremental purchasers and discourage repeat participation.

Created with Highcharts 4.2.7 % 82% 58% 51% 42% 29% 19% 19% 10% 8% 52% 18% 12% 8% 4 2 2 1 1 Open To Most Preferred Enter online via the internet Enter in store on a tear-off pad Enter by SMS Enter by Mail Enter via Social Media Enter by downloading an app Enter by sharing or liking on social media Enter by contributing on social media Enter by 25 words or less 0 50 100 150

#5 - Design your promotion for your not-best customers

In most categories, the bulk of the incremental purchasing (volume that would not have happened otherwise) comes from lapsed or non-customer. This is why forcing a multiple purchase can skew a promotion to your best customer, which can simply encourage pantry-loading. The result is a campaign that looks great at 8 weeks, but in fact flat when we also evaluate the 10 weeks post campaign.

Created with Fabric.js 1.7.193%5.1%5.7%6.3%5.3%3.1%3.7%3.6%1.1%-2.9%-4.1%-3.8%-4.4%-4%-4.5%-4.1%-3.2%-1.2%Sales Growth vs Weighted avg. 10 weeks prePromo Wk1Promo Wk2Promo Wk3Promo Wk4Promo Wk5Promo Wk6Promo Wk7Promo Wk8Post Wk1Post Wk2Post Wk3Post Wk4Post Wk5Post Wk6Post Wk7Post Wk8Post Wk9Post Wk10

#6 - Optimal prize structure: Grand or Frequency?

The optimal build for a promotion is 2 tiers: 3-5 grand prizes + “Thousands to be won” frequency prizes. If you can only afford 1 tier, always go for a frequency prize. Why? Even if I like the prize being offered, I will not participate unless I think I have a shot.

Better odds of winning are favoured over larger prizes both on a claimed and modelled (driver analysis in tracking) basis.

Created with Fabric.js 1.7.1939%29%31%27%27%29%25%61%71%69%73%73%71%75%2008200920102012201520162019Prefer a smaller chance to win a large prize Prefer a better chance of winning something smaller

CASE STUDY: Know your drivers

A million bucks ($1,000,000) 


$50 per hour over 8 weeks ($67,000)




Conversion from awareness to participation




Conversion from awareness to participation

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