4 Ways to Make Your Next Design Contest Impossible to Ignore

design chalk art

Brand purists out there may cringe at the thought of creatives fiddling with corporate assets. But design contests have proven a fun tactic to engage consumers with a brand.

The Google Doodle may be the most prominent example of what can happen when a brand invites creatives to do their thing. Lego, Quaker and Starbucks also give us ideas about how to make design contests take off with fans.

What we’ve learned:

Build your contest for social media

The goal of a design contest isn’t only to find winning designs — it’s to get people engaged. To inspire your fans to say “You have to see this!” to their friends, be sure to:

  • Make it visual. Humans respond faster and with more emotion to visuals rather than words. Whether your contest involves architectural drawings or paper cups decorated with markers, make it something that people can see.
  • Make it easy to share. Enable fans to spread their favorite designs on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. And label your contest with a unique hashtag, like Starbucks did with #whitecupcontest for its 2014 White Cup design contest.
  • Encourage self-expression and fun. And reserve the right not to share every design.

Promote on every relevant channel

Consider your company website and social properties as table stakes. Think about where your brand’s biggest fans already hang out. For instance, when Belkin and LEGO teamed up to promote their “Brick Your Phone” contest, they made sure to talk it up on LEGO’s ReBrick social platform, which is a hub for amateur LEGO designers.

Quaker built a full-scale marketing campaign, complete with national advertising and dedicated microsites, for its Bring Your Best Bowl challenge.

Celebrate the people who connect with your brand

When Starbucks’ White Cup Contest ended, the company used a blog post to highlight the winner.

But even before that, the coffee giant celebrated entrants’ creativity. For example, a Pin that it posted mid-contest bore the caption, “I’ll have a grande raw talent, 2 pumps of amazing and sprinkled with beautiful please.” That kind of human connection simply makes people feel good — about themselves and about your brand.

Reuse, remix and revisit fan-generated content

This may sound like Content Marketing 101, but it bears repeating: When you have great content, find ways to use it again and again. Consider:

  • Collecting images from Instagram, Twitter and Facebook on a Pinterest board or a gallery on your site.
  • Blogging about individual contestants or unusual trends among entries.
  • Having your own designers or product team share their comments on the best entries.
  • Sharing photos of winners enjoying their prizes from the contest.
  • Using designs from the contest in your products, like Starbucks did when it turned the winning White Cup Contest design into a limited-edition cup sold in its stores.

Google also follows the last approach by posting winning designs from its Doodle 4 Google contest on its main search page.

Beyond showcasing the artwork of the schoolchildren who enter, Google hands out college scholarships to the winners and education grants to their schools — all of which draws more eyes to its home page and praise from press outlets around the world — not to mention creative inspiration for all of us.

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