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Managing your risk landscape


Why do so many brands run promotions expecting so few people to respond?

Wed 8 Mar 2017 @ 15:10

I have been asking myself that question for years.

Why is there less promotional activity going on out there? Is there a thirst for promotions from brands and consumers? How good are promotions at getting people to buy share and try?

At first, in the doom and gloom of the Credit Crunch I presumed that brands had much less money to spend, but today I’m not so sure the answer is quite that simple. I decided to do some research and where better a place to start than my own company?

Each year PIMS-SCA receive hundreds of enquiries from the Promotional Marketing community and our customer’s first question is always what will be the response level to my new campaign? So, I reviewed our data from the early noughties and compared the results with those from a decade later.

It made for a very interesting read.

In 2003, the promotions we evaluated with a stated expected response rate of greater than 3% exceeded 80%. By 2013, that figure had fallen to less than 40%. Digging deeper I discovered that a staggering 50% of the promotions on our database now were expected to generate response rates lower than 2%.

Remember, as a Promotion Risk Manager we are supposed to review those promotions pushing the boundaries of creativity and “financial risk”. And if we are mainly seeing the cutting edge “risky” stuff – then day to day promotional activity must have an even lower expectation of response levels.

Why have things changed so dramatically?

I believe there are several factors that have combined to produce this current state of affairs. Certainly, Client’s promotional marketing budgets appear to be a fraction of what they used to be. And of course, we have a proliferation of URN and Web Check Promotional Mechanics in the market – campaign management tools that whilst making life easier from a brand perspective are clearly a “put off” to most consumers, as inputting URN codes into Promotional Micro Sites is a major barrier to entry.

And while trying not to sound too much like a grumpy old man, the Marketing World’s ongoing “love affair” with Social Media as a promotional channel is another major issue. I recognise it may have its good points, such as delivering brand awareness and raising engagement in a new channel but generating good responses to promotional campaigns is not one of them.

PIMS-SCA are at the “coal face” of response levels every working day and we know what works and more importantly, what doesn’t. We all know that more people than ever are looking for instant gratification, whether that’s in promotions or anything else.

Driving people to a social media platform for spurious reasons is simply adding another level of complexity and driving down response levels for what should be straightforward, compelling promotions.

Both business and audience needs seem to have been forgotten in a rush to employ new techniques and channels as an end in themselves or to employ safe fixed cost techniques such as a Money Back Guarantee, Web ‘Check and Win’ or a Prize Draw in the knowledge that it won’t cost them a fortune.

Real objectives seem to be taking second place to budgetary constraints and the fact that hardly anyone can be bothered to participate doesn’t seem to be important anymore. Any pretence at innovation by locking on a Social Media mechanic is simply wallpapering over the cracks in a campaign.

It’s not where an idea comes from, it’s where you take it

We need to remind ourselves that just because a great, proven, promotional technique has been run before doesn’t mean it can’t be adopted, adapted and advanced with just a little creative thought. Thirty years ago, the award winning Andrex Puppy campaign was launched and yet what else is the current, hugely innovative and creative Meerkat campaign other than a twist on that great, original idea?

Surely promotional campaigns must be about generating real customer engagement like Andrex and They should be about getting customers to do something (buy, try, share) they otherwise wouldn’t have. If there is any rationale to what we are all here for, then it should be about generating a positive customer response, and if not that, then what?

Mark Kimber MD, PIMS-SCA


£1 million prize funds are here to stay

Thu 15 Sep 2016 @ 9:50

Raising the stakes for bookmakers this summer, BetVictor has pushed the jackpots for football prize funds further than most with a £1 million offer.

As part of its Million Pound Goal competition, the betting mogul is looking to outshine its competitors amongst the multitude of promotional offers that are being advertised left, right and centre during the early weeks of the tournament. In a nutshell, if you wager £5 or more during Euro 2016, you can take a stab at the correct scorer and minute of the opening goal in the final for a chance to win the prize fund.

It’s a tempting and quite frankly generous proposition no doubt, but it’s not that surprising to see for anyone who’s been following the gambling market in recent years. Jackpots of or around £1 million are where the market is heading for major prize giveaways and – in the case of BetVictor, at least – is where it’s sometimes already at.

In a sense, this is somewhat reviving an age-old tradition in the UK that existed decades ago. Back then, the football pools – and especially the Treble Chance option – offered the biggest single prize fund in the country. Typically cheap to play, a syndicate of players were the first to scoop £1 million in 1986, and others took home enormous amounts from their lucky bets. Its dominance went downhill after the National Lottery entered the market with even bigger jackpots on offer, but the rise of football-related prize funds today suggest that they’re making a comeback.

So how high will they go? £5 million – maybe even £10 million? It’s difficult to pinpoint an exact figure, but they will undoubtedly be heading in one direction over the coming years. Major events such as the World Cup attract attention from punters worldwide, and the desire to extend further into foreign markets will entice many bookies to see the prize giveaways as investment opportunities.

It will also be interesting to see whether such jackpots rise in correlation with other skyrocketing costs in the footballing world. As transfer fees appear to be on a never-ending upward trajectory, some have speculated on the possibility of jackpots’ inflation staying in line.

But whether they’re £1 million, £2 million or £10 million, having enormous jackpots such as these is important for your average football gambler. It gives them not only hope of an escape from the 9 to 5 drudgery, but a chance at actually winning a life changing jackpot prize.

Want to give away your own £1 Million cash prize? Get in touch to see how PIMS-SCA can help you do this, call 020 7255 7900 or email


Have brands over invested in digital?

Thu 15 Sep 2016 @ 9:43

Is it enough to be liked?

The dramatic growth in spend in social media marketing over the past decade, in both B2B and consumer, has been something to behold. We have all been busy learning and trying to use social media as effectively as possible, blogging here, tweeting there, Facebook likes are real currency one day and then apparently worthless the next depending on which expert you speak to. The UK digital media marketplace has been referred to as the ‘Wild West’ of marketing, where hip young gunslingers shoot it out with metrics designed to send the more traditional diving for their Kotler, and their thesaurus.

But for many of us, for many years, the argument has been around the elephant in the room.

More than 5 years ago I was judging marketing awards in the UK, the Irish Republic and across Europe and for about three years we were awash with campaigns claiming successful commercial results based solely upon the number of Facebook likes and retweets they had, almost regardless of user context or commercial uplift. I don’t know about you but my clients couldn’t afford to reinvest in the business if all they had to spend was ‘likes’ and ‘followers’.

Now it’s clearly just as churlish for me to suggest that these metrics are without value as it is for the entrants to claim they were all the demonstrable value that was needed.

Just what is minimal engagement with a brand through social media actually worth commercially?

The hugely respected CEO of WPP, Sir Martin Sorrell, raised the question last month in an interview with Marketing Week. ‘Brands are starting to question if they have over-invested in digital’ he said, echoing many industry voices including ours that have been saying much the same for years. We have been urging brands not to let social media spend take over their marketing strategy for quite some time, so we welcome Sir Martin’s words, but can’t help thinking that for many the appetite was always there.

If anything, many offline campaigns, such as on-pack promotions and competitions, direct mail and face to face marketing, now have more of an impact than they ever did, such is the saturated state of the digital sphere. The time has finally come for social media to have to fight on its own commercial merits, which is all we’ve been after. When building a strategy for any brand in any market we all need to know the likely commercial impact of any media or communication initiative. One perfect, clear example of the shift towards accountability is Omnicom’s recently announced deal on the McDonald’s account, with ROI built in as part of the arrangement.

Sir Martin’s voice is a strong one to add to the many looking at Google and Facebook’s means of measurability, “we can’t have the players being the referees”. This protest against the lack of independent measurability for Google and Facebook’s marketing platforms is one which could become louder as time goes on.

The reality is we’re in a digital world. But we’re also in a physical world. Social media just as with traditional media has a part to play, let’s just be sure that we’re getting enough bang for our buck from being liked.


Why Pokémon is a Go, Go, Go for all of us

Thu 15 Sep 2016 @ 9:41

Quite apart from the fact that Nintendo shares are already up an astonishing 10% or $17 billion since the launch of Pokémon Go last week there are many more reasons for every one of us involved in gaming or promotions to sit up and really take notice. This isn’t something we can just leave to our 8-year-old kids, engaging with the beasts first time around, or even our 25-year-old kids taking second swipe at their collector youth. Thus is something that is impacting on every generation and its impact is here to stay. Vox culture reported on 14th July that more than 40 percent of the adults who downloaded the mobile app are older than 25, and about one in three adult users are women. This is according to data from StartApp, a company that tracks 600 million users for downloads and social usage.

By the same token we have to recognise that some adults are taking the game a little too seriously with disastrous results, NBC 7 in San Diego reports that a pair of men were injured while playing Pokémon GO when they fell off a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Apparently the men broke through a fence to catch a Pokémon, despite posted signs warning people that the bluffs they were climbing onto were unstable.

So we have the young and the old, the bright and the less than bright, but what of the great and the good out there in gaming land and promotional marketing world?

Social Media experts may need to rethink their strategies, because in case we had any doubt whatsoever that Pokémon GO is destroying all mobile competition, Similar Web has confirmed that the wildly popular augmented reality title has managed to surpass Twitter’s daily active users, “and if the trend continues, it is poised to take on Snapchat, WhatsApp, and other popular social apps.” Here in the UK Marketing Week tells us that the average iPhone user, meanwhile, spends 33 minutes and 25 seconds a day on Pokémon Go, which is greater than Facebook (22 minutes), Snapchat (18 minutes), Twitter (17 minutes and 56 seconds) and Instagram (15 minutes).

So social media planning will be impacted. What about gaming? Well the impact will be big and it will be powerful. Seth Fischer, founder and chief investment officer at Oasis Management, is one of Asia’s best known hedge fund managers and has long been a small but loud shareholder in Nintendo. Encouraged by the success of mobile games like “Candy Crush”, he has campaigned for years for the Japanese console maker to develop and sell games for platforms run by Apple and Google.

“I hope they will now understand the power of smartphones,” Fischer told Reuters. “And as a result, I hope this means there is a whole change in strategy. [The next] focus with Nintendo is for them to focus on monetizing the rest of their 4,000 patents for mobile gaming, multi-player gaming, et cetera. I think they could be making 30 to 60 billion yen ($290 million to $570 million) annually from licensing.” So, strong competition for other players in all gaming markets.

As for brands, historically they’ve developed their own augmented reality games but many now feel the moves by Nintendo and others are so far ahead of brand budgets that there will be a shift in how they engage. In Marketing Week, again we read that Antonin Lhuillier, managing director of North Europe for mobile gaming developer Gameloft, believes the success of Pokémon Go will stop many brands from creating their own AR experiences and instead look to partner with bigger games.

“Historically, brands would release native gaming apps of their own in an attempt to gamify their brand. What we see more of today is brands working with apps that already have massive audiences, integrating their brand in a natural way,” he explains. “This might be through sponsoring in-game tournaments, or providing bonus levels and content.”

And for the more commercially minded promotional brands out there, this reminds us at PIMS SCA of Cadbury’s treasure hunt promotions from days gone by, when consumers were digging up national monuments in a bid to find a Cadbury’s stunning solid-gold. The egg itself was won in a Cadbury’s competition which had to be called off when people started digging up the countryside. The 22-carat, 3 inch-tall egg was one of 12 commissioned by the chocolate company for the promotion, cryptic clues were meant to guide contestants to one of a dozen secret locations across the British Isles. There they could dig up a certificate entitling them to the valuable prize but the whole thing proved so popular that thousands of people ended up digging up private land and protected sites in their hunt for the gold.

Maybe we will have learned something this time around but we’d bet it won’t be long before we’re all following our smartphones looking for the 2016 or 2017 equivalent of the real Cadbury’s Crème Egg. Hopefully we’ll be steering clear of cliff edges, motorway networks and national treasures.


Changes to the Euromillions Lottery: good news or bad?

Fri 2 Sep 2016 @ 12:39

From 24th September, Camelot are bringing in some big changes to the Euromillions lottery. They say it is time to “re-energise the game” and take it “to the next level”. So, what are these changes, and crucially, how will it affect the odds of winning a life-changing fortune?

The cost of playing will rise from £2 to £2.50 a line. The 50p increase is a mixed blessing. It comes with less chance of winning, but for those who do, the prizes will be bigger. Along with the price hike, there is an extra number to play with. The main numbers will still ask players to pick five numbers between one and 50, but there is another lucky star. The three lucky stars reduce the odds of scooping a jackpot from one in 117 million, as it is now, to one in 140 million.

Camelot are promising that jackpots will start at 14 million and that they will run twice as many worth 50 million every year. A new feature is going to be the European Millionaire Maker, which will start this October. 25 lucky winners will become millionaires overnight with this new game. As well as this, the UK is to be guaranteed two millionaires for every draw. This will create 208 freshly minted British millionaires each year. More frequent big “spectacular” promotions are also on the way, with prize money around £100 million.

Although Camelot say that it will result in bigger prizes; if the price hike and lengthening odds drive players away from the game, the amount of money going into the prizes might not be enough to hit those forecasts. But time will tell, whether people continue to play or not.

PIMS-SCA’s advice would have been to alter the game so that it gives players the choice on whether to pay a higher price for a higher jackpot, that way they would have avoided some of the twitter backlash. We would change the pricing so that there is a Euromillions Gold, Silver and Bronze option – plus this would fit in really well with the buzz around the Team GB Olympics success. The odds could still change, but players could pay £2 to try and win the amounts in a Bronze prize table, £2.25 for a Silver prize table and then £2.50 for Gold.

Something else that Camelot could have done but have always been reluctant to take advantage of, is to leverage the power of Prize Indemnity Insurance to boost the jackpot and secondary prize levels. By using insurance, they would not necessarily need to increase the cost of the ticket by such a significant amount and still be able to offer bigger jackpots to the customer.

With all the changes set to arrive, Camelot say that the overall odds for prize winning in the Euromillions lottery stands at one in 13. This is the same as the current odds. The bookmakers, Ladbrokes, are unimpressed with this statistic. They have put the odds of England footballer, Wayne Rooney, becoming UK Prime Minister at a higher likelihood than winning Euromillions. The announcement of the 50p price rise and the subsequent reduction in the chances of winning also caused a public outcry on Twitter, with many players threatening to play different lotteries in the future.

But despite around 70% of respondents in the UK ticket agency poll expressing their dislike towards the changes, Camelot are still set to start the new deal off with a bang. Friday 30th September will see a super draw night with a spectacular jackpot of £100 million.

While some are unhappy with the changes, there will be mega-money pay-outs and the chance to become a millionaire for those who continue to play and are lucky with their numbers.


Latest news…

Why do so many brands run promotions expecting so few people to respond?

Wed 8 Mar 2017 @ 15:10

£1 million prize funds are here to stay

Thu 15 Sep 2016 @ 9:50

Have brands over invested in digital?

Thu 15 Sep 2016 @ 9:43

Why Pokémon is a Go, Go, Go for all of us

Thu 15 Sep 2016 @ 9:41

Changes to the Euromillions Lottery: good news or bad?

Fri 2 Sep 2016 @ 12:39

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