Social Campaign Shows the Power of Contests

Contests and promotions have been a popular form of marketing on Facebook and other social sites in recent years, and a campaign by the Dockers clothing brand is a particularly good example of how to use such a contest to build a strong fan base and positive brand association.  Although this is a large-scale campaign for a well-known brand, it provides key takeaways that can mean the difference between success and failure for any business hoping to turn social site visitors into loyal customers and brand advocates.

Dockers launched its “Wear the Pants” contest in February to promote its line of khaki pants.  The contest awards a $100,000 post-tax prize for the best business plan submitted through its Facebook page.  Submissions were accepted through March 15, 2011, with the winner to be announced on May 2, 2011.  Entrants were asked to submit their ideas for a new business or project in 400 words or fewer, and community members and friends could vote on the plans.  A panel of judges selects five finalists, with the community again voting on the final winner from April 25, 2011 to May 1, 2011.  In addition to the $100,000 prize, the winner receives a year’s worth of Dockers khakis, and the first 500 entrants receive a free pair of Dockers.  Every entrant gets a shareable coupon for 30 percent off Dockers pants.

social media roundup

Over 200,000 likes and 1,800 entries were generated through March 15, 2011, and contestants spread the word on blogs and social and other sites to gather votes.  Dockers is also running a similar contest through November where $2,000 (in total value) is awarded to an entrepreneur every week for plans submitted through the Dockers Facebook page.  The $2,000 prize can be in the form of tools, products, services or cash, depending on the resources needed to put the plan into action (possible examples include software, consultation with an expert, equipment and so forth).  Winners receive a free pair of Dockers, and every entrant gets a sharable coupon for 30 percent off.

The “Wear the Pants” contest, in particular, offers many takeaways for any size business seeking to create a successful social media contest, some of which include:

  • It’s not the size of the prize:  While a $100,000 prize is nice, most small businesses won’t be able to afford it.  Small things can make a big difference, such as a discount or free shipping – the possibilities are almost limitless.  The best prizes, however small, positively impact people’s lives, which has the added benefit of creating a positive association with the company or brand.
  • Make the contest all-inclusive: Dockers made sure everyone got something for their participation. This not only encouraged participation but helped make everyone feel included in the promotion and that their efforts to enter the contest didn’t go to waste. It also encourages later sales with a special offer.
  • Associate with a good cause: Whether it’s offering the chance to start a dream business or helping people overcome life’s obstacles, this type of cause marketing creates a strong emotional appeal and provides a compelling reason to spread the message beyond just winning the prize.  For example, many entrants with disabilities received an outpouring of support (and lots of votes and word of mouth as a result).
  • Add “stickiness” to social destinations: The Dockers contest made its social presence “sticky” by running the contest on and through its Facebook page, keeping visitors there longer and interacting with the brand (and each other).
  • Mix commerce with messaging and contest strategy: Dockers was able to mix its branding and sales efforts with the contest seamlessly.  This type of strategy uses a “soft sell” approach, which is often more appropriate for social media (where it’s more about conversations) than for many other forms of marketing.
  • Align social efforts with overall goals and objectives: Whether it’s a contest or any other type of social media campaign (or presence), make sure it aligns with overall business goals and objectives.  Define how it fits into a complete marketing strategy and whether such an effort will be beneficial, and be sure the needed resources (including time) can be dedicated to ensure a successful outcome.  And perhaps most importantly, define what a successful outcome is.

NOTE:  The takeaways are solely the interpretation of the writer and are not intended to speak for Dockers in any way.


David Cotriss David Cotriss is a business, technology and new media writer, having published 500+ news and feature articles to date worldwide in magazines ranging from PC Magazine to The Industry Standard.

9 Reactions
  1. I would be interested in seeing some numbers on how many of the 30% off coupons get redeemed. Just wondering if the contest was able to at least come out cash flow positive.

  2. Martin Lindeskog

    David Cotriss,

    What did Dockers do with the business plan entries?

    I must say that I am a fan of chinos, so I would be happy to participate in a contest by Dockers. 🙂

  3. It’s nice to see small businesses get support, whether in $100,000 of seed money or tech support. I am a little concerned that those who earn the prizes are determined by general vote in that a good business and a good business plan require more than a heart-warming or quirky story. They require a product/service needed by a market large enough to support a business and a plan to reach that market.

  4. Many companies have successfully used contests between suppliers to uncover new ideas, as well as between internal teams to prepare high-performing employees for expanded responsibilities.

  5. Hi, Just a point for small businesses doing promotions on Face Book. Per Face Book rules, permission is required for a contest to be run. If you are not a serious advertiser on Face Book, permission is slow coming. FB may chose to not penalize you for an unauthorized contest, but they can. Be careful.

  6. I’m one of the top 5 contestants in Dockers Wear the Pants project.

    It’s nice to see a large corporation looking out for the little guy.

    Check it out:

  7. Thanks for the tips. I can really see how contests and things of that nature can help find friends! Great post