A personal perspective on Photo Contest and its Fail Points


“Show your style”, “Be stylish”, “Your [Brand] moment”, all of those “creative” cliché towards which I always show a strong disdain. Yes, obviously, everyone can see it and feel it. Photo contest is the most popular type of campaigns in Vietnam. Every time we sit down and think about our social media plan, that damned word “photo contest” always finds a way to jump first into mind. Like a must, a barrier that frames “social media marketing”. We hate it. We admit it. But not all can find a way through. Why are they bad?

Firstly, photo contest losers lack of proper incentives. The winner will receive an SH, an Ipad, or an airplane, or a diamond underwear. I don’t care. And we don’t care, either. Simply because most of us don’t believe we will win. What if we lose? How can they compensate us with all the efforts we put into? They cannot. Financial incentives can attract people’s attention, but it does not necessarily motivate them to take actions.

As I wander around, some good photo contests give more than just a big monetary-value prize. For example, the recent Nike “PHOTOID” campaign allows customers to design a pair of Nike shoes by themselves. Customers just need to upload a photo, and the pair of shoes that best fit the photo’s color mix will be automatically designed. Look, there is no money mentioned to motivate people to take pictures, tag and share, isn’t there? The campaign provides a free benefit that is consistent with its strong positioning towards individualism. Look, the incentive is huge over there!



Secondly, bad photo contests have the smell of a photo contest marketing. To customers, marketing stinks. Everything related to us as a business will stink and disgust customers. “At the end of the day, it’s all about selling the products.” said Mr. Always Right. We don’t want to remind that fact to our customers. We want to show ourselves as a brand, not a money-ripping machine who establishes that photo competition to make money at day end. Therefore, business, please do not set the contest criteria as “The photo must include the appearance of our brand or product”. It immediately prevents people from taking, not mentioning sharing that brand-included photo. Anyone wants a business brand to appear in your personal “stylish” moment? (There can be an argument against this point. Anyone?)

So, how to hide that marketing scent? I will take the example of Ben & Jerry, an American ice-cream company, who created a buzz on Instagram with their #CaptureEuphoria campaign. No mentioning about brand, no mentioning about business, no mentioning about money. It was just a campaign that inspired people to take photos of what “euphoria” means to them.


 #CaptureEuphoria Campaign

Last but not least, a photo contest could fail because of its failing “creative idea”. Take a look at this poster below from Highland Coffee.


The “creative idea” above sounds familiar, isn’t it? It seems every brand tries to claim using their products will allow you to express your style. I admit the trend towards Individualism is there, but …but… but… ( I don’t want to say it. And none wants to hear it again. YES, WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING UNIQUE. BE DIFFERENT! Oh my God!)

To be successful, whether it is a photo contest campaign, or a whole integrated campaign, the creative idea must be …creative. And this would lead to another long off-topic discussion if I continue. Stick with your brand value, express that consistency in every touch points, but always find new ways to communicate that. New please. Stop cliché.

This is the end of today’s discussion. Hope I and you could find something valuable here when we someday sit down with our social media plan again and think of organizing a photo contest.

Hold on! I have an idea of a photo contest for our Fascinating Marketing Blog. The participants need to take a photo that includes the word “Fascinating Marketing”, post it on Facebook and receive the most Likes to win our branded yellow-and-black underwear. They must also include a hashtag: #MyFascinatingMarketingMoment. And the winner will have to wear our prize on their head and post it on Facebook again in order to officially own it. I think it is highly creative!

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