The Fundamentals: How to Run Awesome Brand Promotions

6 min read

Many businesses, big and small, seem to think that promotion is purely about driving more traffic to their business right away. Short-term effects are a definite bonus of running promotions, but if you’re not using them to advance your brand long-term, then you’re doing your brand a disservice.


McDonald’s became a staple of modern America because they promoted their food products to represent happiness — I mean, they quite literally have something called a “Happy Meal.” Naturally, it didn’t take long for the unhealthiness of their food to become common knowledge; but they’ve promoted their brand so well over the years that America’s attention from the saturation of calories in their food has since been diverted.


Promotion should inherently drive more traffic to your business, but we’re talking about building a lasting brand that will sustain itself longer than a promotional campaign. McDonald’s runs its annual Monopoly campaign, and it’s a huge hit. Millions of people line up to get their hands on a game board and spend loads of money trying to get all the right pieces for a new car or boatload of money. However, giving away free items only goes so far. If McDonald’s hadn’t already successfully implanted itself into the American psyche, they wouldn’t get much further than their annual Monopoly giveaways and $1 coupon books.


So what are the fundamentals that every promotion needs to nail?


Be Honest

Here’s the thing about McDonald’s (their promotions anyway): they’re always very real and very honest. If you play Monopoly and win a car, you’re going to get that car. Proper promotions tell the truth and build trust immediately. Getting others to play is about building that trust from the get-go.  Showing actual winners with their prizes only adds to the legitimacy of the campaign.


Speaking of legitimacy, part of being honest is admitting that not everyone’s a winner—unless everyone is a winner — and McDonald’s has trumped that arena because every Happy Meal comes with a toy!

Know When to Shut Up

Do you remember your last Christmas dinner? Your crazy Aunt Bertha won’t stop poking and prodding about every aspect of your life; and they won’t let you walk away for a moment to grab a glass of scotch and maybe a big slice of ham. You know what I’m talking about! Everyone’s got a chatty relative who’s completely incapable of knowing when to just shut the hell up.


Promotion can be the same exact way.  As they should be, promotions are often used to extract valuable information from customers — but just like the chatty relative, the less you talk, the more you will be liked. And the less you ask for information, the more receptive your audience will be.


The only time you should ask for information from your customers is during the initial interaction. This is the best time to get all necessary information because people entering to win that hot new Camaro know they need to give a little something in return. However, you should never ask for information that isn’t necessary. For example, why would you ever need to ask someone for their Social Security number?

Show Some Restraint

It’s pretty reasonable for folks to assume that there will be some contact made after an email has been passed along. It’s a given that they’re signing up for some interaction, but they are, by no means signing up to get harassed regularly about checking out your brand new inventory or “hot new deals.”


If you’ve managed to get their email, you’ve already established a sense of trust and you better uphold that by making it your mission not to flood their inbox, fill their voice mail, or stalk their banner ads.


Definitely try to think of this customer relationship as you would a budding personal relationship: you get the information (think phone number), and you wait to reach out to them, and you definitely hold off on calling too often. It’s a delicate process, and it’s very easy to turn off your customers — so be careful and tread lightly when it comes to making contact with them.


Oh yeah! One more thing: Under no circumstances should you ever, ever, EVER sell or compromise their data. They will find you, and they will kill you and you will lose their hard-earned trust. Basically, you can say goodbye to the relationship you’ve spent all that time cultivating.. You wouldn’t give out your information to just anybody, so don’t give out theirs.


Brand promotion requires a lot of refining and chances are good that you’ll need to fix any mistakes along the way. The most important thing you can do as a marketer is to ensure that you learn from those mistakes. If you don’t, then your brand promotions will ultimately fail.


What are some awesome promotions you’ve seen? Do they abide by these principles or do they go a different route?