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Not just for bodybuilding or barbeque competitions anymore, contests seem to be everywhere nowadays. The most popular contest is probably American Idol where the winner is decided by millions of voters. The list of contests could go on infinitely, but one rarely considers what makes a good contest and why there are so many of them.

Contests – Why They Are More Popular Than Ever

Some of the most common contests nowadays include writing contests, photo contests, video contests, sales contests, mega-millions lotteries, business plan contests, and model competitions. Contests are often used to increase brand awareness or reinforce what a brand stands for. They are also used to provide incentives. For example giveaways often encourage people to sign up for something like a newsletter, or respond to surveys.

The first step to a successful and profitable contest is to have specific goals, and to consider what type of contest will produce the best results. For example should the contest require pure chance, a high skill level, or more general population entries? A second criterion in making a good contest is structuring it so that the rules are easily understood. Finally, the prize for the winning entry should be compelling enough to achieve a good number of entries for the contest.

Viewers generally like to see three kinds of entrants. Those that are really good, those that are really bad, and those right on the borderline of being great where the decision to vote for that entrant to advance is difficult to make.

Encouraging audience participation is a good way to generate buzz for the contest.

  • The key factor in American Idol’s success has probably been the fact that anyone in the US can vote for a winner. The contestants themselves contribute to the appeal of the contest as well. They are everyday people who happen to be talented singers and have not yet been discovered. Through their singing and interviews the audience feels as if they are getting to know the entrants.
  • Online, allowing the entrant to promote themselves helps increase awareness for a contest, especially if voters help decide the winner. Sconex.com, a social networking site for high school students, recently conducted a contest for unknown musicians. It found that bands entered the contest and then promoted themselves on MySpace, leading to thousands of new visitors to the site.
  • In the past few years, the internet has enabled companies to conduct contests cheaply while gaining wide exposure. Doritos made a big splash in 2007 by having a contest where amateurs could submit a commercial for the company and the winning ad was shown during the Super Bowl. Not only was the ad widely considered to be a good one, but Doritos received a great deal of buzz due to the promotion.

Many people love to participate in contests – they even create their own competitions where there is no prize to win. One of the original websites for ranking people’s looks was HotorNot.com. Users were encouraged to vote on peoples’ looks and submit their own pictures to see who was the best looking. MySpace.com has been characterized as encouraging users to compete to see who has the most friends and deciding which friends get into their top 8 friends list. XuQa.com parlayed users’ interests in contests into a business. According to MSNBC.com “Xuqa (is) a social-networking-site-cum-contest, Contests – Why They Are More Popular Than Ever ,where users compete for popularity points by accumulating virtual kisses and hugs, winning poker games, spending ‘peanuts,’ and even filling out surveys and looking at ads, all to attain status levels.” Sugarloot.com is website devoted solely to contests such as photo and video contests for various categories like cutest pet, best tattoo, best spring break video, best magic trick, and more.

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