5 Big Brands Absolutely Crushing It With Contests

August 5, 2015 | Elizabeth Wellington


Why are contests such a tried and true marketing method? We all love a good game. The chance of winning big brings anticipation and the opportunity to daydream.

It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that the most successful marketing teams harness the power of gamification. Over 70% of big companies use contests to reel in new audience members. And, it’s not only fun for your audience — it’s fun for you too!

Here are five awesome contests that shake things up across different markets to inspire your next campaign:


Dove is a darling of the marketing world. In an industry that often undercuts women’s self-perception to sell more products, Dove takes the high road. Their website lists their two missions as supporting the self-esteem of young girls and fostering an appreciation for “real beauty.”

Their recent Love Your Curls contest builds on these messages, encouraging women to embrace rather than subdue their natural locks. They asked women to submit a poem or story about why they love their curls. The winner received a $100 gift card, blow dryer, curling wand, Dove products and the opportunity to contribute to the Dove Love Your Curls e-book.

The magic didn’t end there: the submissions to the Love Your Curls contest inspired a book of whimsical poems for young women about the beauty of curls. Not only did Dove enthrall their audience with a successful contest, they transformed submissions into a piece of dynamic content geared toward a new generation of consumers.


Takeaway: Incorporating user generated content into your campaign will amplify the effect of your contest. Not only will you gain traction and increase site views, you will create a meaningful long-form piece that will stand the test of time.


With over 9 million users, Basecamp has wooed companies big and small with its project management software. In 2011, they launched the Basecamp Tell A Friend contest to attract new customers. Grounded in simple principles, this campaign encouraged existing users to hustle toward peer-to-peer referrals with awesome incentives.

Here’s how it worked: each Basecamp user logged into their account and signed up for the contest, at which time they were given a code to share on social media and with friends. Every new customer from a referral received $10 off their first payment to Basecamp. With each referral made through the code, the original user also received a chance of winning an iPad. The user with the most referrals in a month won a MacBook Air, and the user with the most referrals throughout the three month contest won $5000 cash.


Takeaway: Basecamp catered to the B2B project management crowd with the right kind of prizes. High-quality Apple products and a big wad of cash incentivized target users. Make sure to follow Basecamp’s lead by aligning prizes with your buyer personas. Before committing to a particular incentive, examine the purchasing habits of your audience — your prizes should be enticing enough to make someone’s week, or even month, with a win!


It’s no secret that crowds love furry animals. As Gabriel Mederos, Manager for Public Relations and Corporate Affairs at Nestle Purina Pet Care Company told Digital Trends, “People seem to want to share information on their pets and social media is a great avenue to share this information.”

Kong, one of the foremost manufacturers of pet toys, rode this trend, giving dog devotees another opportunity to share their photos with the world. By submitting a photograph of themselves and their dogs, pet owners automatically entered into a contest for Kong’s latest toy: the Jumbler. This contest capitalized on an audience’s love of selfies and animal photos in a successful campaign that gave a new product traction. Kong hit the jackpot with 400 entries in one month and increased time-on-site.


Takeaway: Some consumers live by the rule, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” They prefer to stay with what they know, especially if they are already satisfied products. Kong broke through that barrier, promoting a new built-to-chew dog toy by engaging customers with interactive content. Always consider contests as part of product launches and new efforts — you will see the difference in your numbers!

Heavy Construction Systems Specialists

HCSS works with companies throughout North America to streamline their construction projects with innovative software. In anticipation of March Madness, their marketing team developed a Most Interesting Project contest set up as two March Madness-style brackets. HCCS expected around 64 entries, which the public would vote on to advance to the next round. Because of their successful promotion strategy, HCSS actually received 128 contest entries, doubling their expectations.

The marketing team went back to the drawing board to reassess their approach. They split their bracket into two contests rather than one: the Heavy Bid Bracket and the Heavy Job Bracket. Within the first week alone, they had tripled their unique web visitors and driven 75,000 page views.


Takeaway: You can map out each step of your contest, but you always need to roll with the punches. Flexibility is key. HCSS is a great model for adapting to consumers in order to reap greater rewards.


GoPro rocked their marketing strategy when, every day for five years straight, they gave away one piece of everything they made to a lucky contestant. Some loyal fans even entered the Everything We Make contest on a daily basis for years, sparking long conversations between contestants on Reddit and other social sites. Through a long-term campaign, GoPro developed a loyal following that would make even the most successful brands jealous.

GoPro’s generosity fueled such profound marketing success that “go-proing” is now used as a verb — a thing that you do. As is true with other forms of content marketing, contests that focus on long-term audience growth can leave a big footprint in your identity as a brand.


Takeaway: Not all companies have the bandwidth for a daily giveaway, but GoPro showed us that you can catapult your brand forward by investing in contests as a movement rather than a tool. What will make your company stand apart? Commit your company to something new, and you’ll find out!

Want to learn more about how HCSS was so successful with their March Madness bracket? Check out our on-demand webinar!


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