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Social Sweepstakes

Products were the inspiration for Albertsons’ online captioning contest.

Products themselves serve as the inspiration for participants in Albertsons LLC’s second “Best Road Trip Ever!” contest, in which they build a story around images that contain items manufactured by the contest sponsors.

The Boise, Idaho-based grocer has updated its online contest with an innovative format in which products are used as the basis for creating road trip-themed essays that can be shared and voted on for the chance to win a Ford vehicle.

This year’s contest, which ended Sept. 4, was an enhancement of last year’s Best Road Trip Ever in that the products took center stage in the content that was created and judged.

“For this contest, we had participants use sponsors’ products as the muses for their stories,” says Karl Meinhardt, VP of social and digital marketing at Albertsons. “When you think of top-of-mind marketing, it’s one thing to see a brand on a page, where someone might click on it and remember it later. But when you use that brand to create a story, the imprint on the brain is going to be much deeper. Whenever you create around something — whether that is an idea, a concept or whatever — it sticks in your head.”

How it Worked

Once a person registered for the contest, he or she was directed to the caption page, which consisted of four boxes, each showcasing an image that includes a sponsor product. Above and below the product images were drop-down menus with phrases — the top menus were phrases for beginning the caption story, and below were ending phrases. According to Meinhardt, with these types of contests, participants find the most difficult parts to be creating the opening and closing sentences, so to make things easier, Albertsons supplied 10 choices of each.

Four images were displayed, each containing a sponsor product. Participants had the option to change the image selection by clicking a “spin” button, which caused the product images to spin much like images on a slot machine, revealing a new “almost random” selection. (The images displayed were determined by an algorithm that was weighted relative to the level of sponsorship, so products from larger sponsors appeared more frequently). The spin button could be clicked as often as desired until the participant found a product mix for which he or she wished to write captions.

“We shot all of the product pictures ourselves, and stylized them ourselves to have a cool feel to them — sort of like you would see in someone’s Instagram or Pinterest post,” says Meinhardt. “We didn’t want just a simple product shot of a soda bottle, for example. This way, it also helps participants create their captions.”

Once the starting phrase was selected, each participant wrote a caption (of up to 250 letters) for each image, ending the essay with a selection from the drop-down endings menu. Once the story was finished, it was added to the leaderboard, and the entrant could share the post via Twitter and Facebook. Points were accumulated for each sharing action — if the story was shared on Twitter or Facebook, if it was “liked” or retweeted on these platforms, etc. — and as the points reached increasing levels, the level of the prize increased in value, starting with a Ford Fiesta and progressing up to a Ford Expedition.

When the contest had been live for a little more than a week, its leaderboard already contained thousands of entries that had received tens of thousands of votes and shares, jumping the prize to a Ford Focus, and only a couple of hundred votes shy of the next level, a Ford Fusion.

Viral Votes

Viewers of each post could cast a vote, and participants were encouraged to share their entries as widely as possible for the chance of attaining as many votes as they could. Five finalists were chosen for each of Albertsons’ divisions, based on total number of votes their entries received. A panel of judges then chose the winner based on the content of the entries.

“Some of these entries are great,” Meinhardt says. “Some [are] almost written like haiku poems, and those are interesting in their own way, and then others are just simply amazing. It’s an interesting break from the usual ‘enter to win’ sweepstakes.”

The grocer discovered that such contests impact participants’ path to purchase behavior even before their path to purchase starts. “If you look at the classic path to purchase, there is a whole planning stage … before they go to the store,” says Meinhardt. “We have another stage before that one, and that is engagement and connectivity. If we can get [consumers] to connect with us and our brand and our products and our sponsors’ products before the path to purchase, then we have a better chance that when [they] get [to] the planning stage, they will plan with us and our products. Affinity to a brand happens because you have something for consumers to connect to, and through the contest, this affinity is happening because it’s part of the creative process.”

“When you think of top-of-mind marketing, it’s one thing to see a brand on a page. But when you use that brand to create a story, the imprint on the brain is going to be much deeper.”
—Karl Meinhardt, Albertsons

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