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When a company thinks about its next promotion, everyone likes to talk about the potential positive outcomes such as increasing sales, trending on social media, or growing brand recognition. Nobody necessarily wants to focus on potential promotion problems and what could go wrong with your promotion. So it is important to account for the possible downside of running a faulty promotion or risk unforeseen expenses or a potential public relations nightmare. Look at what happened to Ubisoft just last week.

Ubisoft is a large video game publisher. They have released such games as Assassin’s Creed, Just Dance and Far Cry.  Last week, E3, the premier expo for video games, was held in Los Angeles. All of the biggest companies in the video game industry use this event to hold press conferences and announce new upcoming games including Ubisoft. They announced Beyond Good and Evil 2.  As part of the announcement, they asked fans to contribute art and music to the new game. This was a good promotional concept that excited the fans and got them involved in a game that they love. Plus, it generated additional buzz about the game. Ubisoft partnered with hitRECord so fans could submit artwork and other fans could comment and remix their submissions. The submissions would be evaluated by hitRECord and ones deemed good enough would be sent to Ubisoft to be included in the game.

Sounds like a great promotion, but the backlash was almost immediate from industry professionals and fans alike. Why not just hire developers to do the work? People could spend hours working on art and it doesn’t get selected nor are they paid anything. What are the criteria for art and music? Does the artist retain ownership of their art if it isn’t selected?

This is definitely a promotion but not a contest. A contest has official rules, a judging mechanism, and defined prizes. This promotion requires people to submit “spec” work for free. No one is required to participate but there were negative stories about the promotion that Ubisoft may not have anticipated. That is why you need to consider all the good and possible bad possibilities before you launch your next promotion. You may even seek professional advice or think about hiring a promotions company. It is very easy to get excited about all the upsides of your next promotion, but you need to take a minute to ask yourself a few questions before you start.

How will your core customers/fans thing feel about this?

Will it be seen as fair?

Is it legal in all states?

Are there any hidden costs you haven’t considered?

What is the plan if there is any negative publicity?

There are many things to consider and there may even be questions that are unique to your business/industry. As it is with most promotions, taking a few extra minutes to consider all the outcomes, good and bad before you launch a promotion can make all the difference in the world and allow you to foresee any promotion problems before they occur.