The Somewhat Unsuccessful Giveaway Event

Failures are not failures if you learn from them. This is not a story about success, but about one of our many failures. In an attempt to encourage word-of-mouth and to promote our Education Subscription, we decided to pursue a giveaway strategy. This meant that students had to post a picture of TOPDOX on social media with the hashtag #Topdox, they would get a free slice of pizza and beer. This strategy was targeted to Erasmus students located in Porto, Portugal for them to raise awareness about TOPDOX in their home countries.

Facebook event created in the ESN page

We created an event in the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) page on Facebook three weeks before the event, to increase the probability of Erasmus students showing up. In the ESN page, we indicated the location, time, and instructions for the event. We posted a reminder once a week with a little hint that they should visit our website. Over six hundred students said they were interested and over a hundred students expressed that they were going to attend the event.

On the day of the event, the weather was not on our side. It was dreary and rainy; we had low hopes. Thankfully, at the time of the event, it had completely stopped raining. However, to our shock, none of the students that agreed to come were there. We had a hundred and twelve slices of pizza cooling down and a hundred and fifty redeemable beer tickets ready to be given away. We kept our optimism and convinced ourselves that it was too early for people to come out on a Thursday night (9:30pm) so we waited. We were shielding ourselves from the truth.

The location of the event couple hours after the promised time

We waited until midnight standing in the cold windy evening. After hours of waiting in the open, our bodies shrivelled down to reduce as much surface area exposed to the numbing wind. During that time, only a handful of students who agreed to come had shown up to receive a free pizza and beer. With our hearts down to our feet, we stood there looking at people passing by us as if we were just a mural. So, we took a different approach; rather than waiting for them, we went to them. There were some people around us, but none of them were interested in getting a free beer and pizza. They would rather buy their own beer than get one for free.

In previous experiences, whenever people were handed free food and alcohol, there would certainly be an endless line for it. This was in the US in a small town in Ohio. However, I learned that in Europe people are more careful about what they are given for free. It is not uncommon to have events where they have giveaways; however, it is very challenging to succeed with them. They really take the “don’t accept candies from strangers” thing seriously. This miscalculation left us with many cold slices of pizza and unredeemed beer tickets. We were running out of time because the bar was about to close; therefore, we went around and handed out pizza slices and beer tickets with no social media posting required.

Keeping in mind that these categories came from our own personal experience. The lessons we learned from trying to raise awareness at our event were:

  1. The weather: Maybe not the biggest factor to be considered, but we believe it made people more inclined to stay home. It’s good to have a backup plan.
  2. Culture: Many people will make assumptions that their behaviour is the norm. Nonetheless, every country has its unique culture and each person has its own personal views and beliefs. For this reason, it is beneficial to research a target country’s culture and behaviour to attain a general idea of how people would react to certain events.
  3. Customer engagement: Posting regularly on the event page was an excellent reminder, but the invitees were not directly engaged so they did not felt obligated to go. The more input they have in an event, the more attached they would be to the event since it creates a sense of ownership. According to Ashley & Tuten, an engagements approach switches the message from transactional to interactional, making the brand form part of the “consumer`s own identity.” This increases their willingness to attend.
  4. Timing: The following day at the same time and location, the place was packed with Erasmus students. Apparently, there was an event for Erasmus students that ended in Adega, the same location of our event. Therefore, be aware of events and situation that relate to your target market.
  5. Clarity: People kept asking if we were selling pizza. We had to explain the event and once they found out it was for free, they would immediately post a picture with the hashtag.

These were some of the things we noticed in our attempt to create a giveaway strategy. It was a lesson we learned by failing, but we are glad to share it for others to take these factors into consideration when developing their own giveaway event.

Ashley, C. & Tuten, T. (2015). Creative Strategies in Social Media Marketing: an Exploratory Study of Branded Social Content and Consumer Engagement. Psychology and Marketing, 32(1), 15–27. DOI: 10.1002/mar.20761