Creativity is that extra push that catapults a promotion above its weight class.  I'd like to share five successful and innovative promotions that I have undertaken in the past together with innovation lessons for each.  It is my hope that these examples can inspire you to create and successfully execute your own exciting promos that will build your brand, drive sales and profit, and create customer goodwill and excitement.
 
1) A Fresh Twist on a Common Idea
 
In mid-2000, fresh became the battleground for differentiation for supermarkets. Key players would feature aggressive discounts on meat, seafood, and produce.  The supermarket I worked for at that time wanted its fresh categories to truly stand out from the rest. 
 
To accomplish this, we held a fresh festival which offered discounts, as the competitors did, on the various fresh categories.  However, we introduced a twist that generated great buzz and goodwill.  We launched the festival through the first-ever State Fair in the country.  State fairs are common in the U.S. where farmers, growers, and producers show off their wares to give that real farm fresh feel to visitors.
 
We rented a wide open space for our State fair.  Some of the highlights included competitions such as the heaviest pig contest, the biggest watermelon and squash, the tallest chicken, the "babe" award (prettiest pig). To add spice to the fair, vendors were invited to set-up booths within the fair grounds to create a festive environment.  Carabao and pony rides for children were also offered.
 
The festival produced double to triple digit sales growth for the targeted categories, but more importantly, it reinforced the supermarket's reputation as a fresh authority, while giving its customers an extremely enjoyable and unique experience.
 
Innovation Lesson:  Take a common idea and put an uncommon twist to it.
 
2) Brains = Bucks
 
Taking our inspiration from the popular game Jeopardy, we once conceptualized a promotion dubbed "Trivia Mania," in which qualified participants could answer trivia questions for cash. 
 
We created a game show set-up complete with a large board, which contained categories to choose from with corresponding cash prizes starting at P5 and capping off at P100.  In general, the harder the question, the higher the cash prize at stake.
 
The promotion was so successful that the lines of participants snaked around the store.  While the store was supposed to close by 11 p.m., the voluminous number of participants kept the store open up to 1 a.m. during the promo period.  The partner-sponsor of the promotion experienced triple digit sales growth on their participating products during the period.
 
Innovation Lesson:  Generate new ideas by looking outside your industry.  Look at other industries, T.V. shows, games shows, and other successful ideas and adapt these to fit your particular business.
 
3) Simply Saigon
 
Lea Salonga was at the height of her popularity when she was chosen as the female lead, Kim, in the hugely successful West End and Broadway play Ms. Saigon.
 
At one point, Saigon was brought to Philippine shores where most of the shows were instantly sold out.  Our company bought one night and gave away over 1,000 tickets to the play through a compelling promotion. 
 
The mechanics were simple, every P1,000 purchase gave customers a chance to win a pair of tickets by correctly guessing a randomly generated computer number between 1-100.  Chances of winning were very high.   Customer participation soared, as did sales, which grew by 12%.  For some of the winners, play night was a night that they would forever remember as they witnessed Lea Salonga in her once-in-a-lifetime role. 
 
Innovation Lesson:  Ride on the popularity of the latest trends in pop culture to generate attention and excitement.  However, ensure that there is a relevant linkage between the trend and your brand.
 
4) Love Your Own
 
Sales are down.  Competition is intense.  Budgets have been slashed.  Who are you going to call?
 
"Shop Where You Work" was an in-house promotion designed to encourage employees to do most, if not all, their shopping where they worked.  Employees and departments that shopped the most were rewarded with various prizes.
 
Prizes were given to top individual shoppers by purchase value, as well as departments who had the highest cumulative purchase value.  To ensure fair competition, individuals were segmented by rank and departments were grouped to be equal in number.  With almost 5,000 employees, the program generated significant increase in sales.  Advertising was minimal.  Competition was non-existent. 
 
The program successfully ran for many years.  Sales were spurred on by employees' competitive spirit and company pride.
 
Innovation Lesson:  When pressed for budget, look for the low hanging fruit that will give you the highest return for the lowest investment.
 
5) Lights, Cameras, Auction!
 
Auctions have become a popular means through which consumers are given the chance to own high-ticket merchandise at substantially reduced prices.  We once had a promotion in which customers were given the chance to bid for various, highly desirable merchandise of varying price ranges.  Prizes included appliances, electronics, gadgets, jewelry, trips, gym memberships and even a pet dog.  The bids began at 5% of the total retail value.
 
The activity produced so much in-store excitement as auctions were held everyday for 90 days.  Talented employees were trained and deployed as auctioneers.  Sometimes customers would get so carried away in the bidding that they would actually bid beyond the retail price.
 
Innovation Lesson:  Select unique, aspirational prizes.  Inject showmanship into your promotion.  Engage your customers in an interactive way.
 
 
There are many other ways to generate promotional innovation.  You can keep a database of good ideas and segment these ideas by promotional objectives.  When you see something that triggers an idea, jot it down and include it in your database.  Search online for interesting concepts.  Talk to your target customers to generate insights.  Be observant.  Ask a lot of questions.  Finally, learn to have fun and enjoy what you're doing.  Relaxed and happy minds are fertile grounds from which innovation springs.   


 
Learn live from Frances Yu in the new program Power Plays: Email info@mansmith.net for more details.