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Using Gamified Contests To Stand Out In a Competitive Niche

Author - Lorna Malja
Lorna MaljaSr. Manager of Global Digital Marketing
Company - Starburst
What you’ll learnWhat you’ll needThe ProblemThe Hypothesis The Solution
<b>Design an incentive that grabs your audience’s attention</b>
<b>Allocate resources to create stunning marketing materials</b>
<b>Gamify campaigns to encourage repeat engagement</b>
<b>Drive further interest based on performance metrics</b>
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What you’ll learn

  • How to design incentives that stand out to your ideal customers
  • How to run a successful contest that also drives real revenue
  • How to reduce paid acquisition cost with stand-out creative

What you’ll need

  • Design resources to create high-quality marketing collateral
  • Budget for sweepstakes and prizes
  • Deep customer research and understanding of customer persona
  • CMS and email platform for sending automated updates
Article Headline Icon - The Problem

The Problem

Starburst solves a big problem in data analytics: their platform removes the need to move or copy data, helping companies gather intelligence much faster. But their team struggled to stand out within a competitive and saturated market. Starburst is one of hundreds of companies in the data analytics and AI space. Image source: Matt Turk

AI Landscape

Lorna Malja, Starburst’s Sr. Global Digital Marketing Manager, knew that exceptional results would require exceptional tactics. “The data market is overcrowded by hundreds of brands competing on the same platforms with very similar messaging.”

In order to differentiate Starburst from the sea of other data tools, Lorna and her team (Emily Black and Anna Schibli) needed a campaign that would set their brand apart, while also driving meaningful results for their sales pipeline.

Article Headline Icon - The Hypothesis

The Hypothesis

Lorna’s team hypothesized that if they could develop a marketing campaign that looked different than anyone else in their market, then Starburst could set itself apart. By investing in a targeted sweepstakes contest, they could generate buzz with their ideal customers and hit critical business objectives.

Article Headline Icon - The Solution

The Solution

Design an incentive that grabs your audience’s attention

Lorna recognized that their campaign needed to be both original and valuable to their target customers.

Every single brand is asking for engagement right now and we are asking for someone’s time. So how do we make our ask worth it?”

Starburst gathered a cross-functional team for a series of brainstorms. Since their product serves data professionals, the marketing team then worked together with a technical consulting crew representing that customer segment.

Based on that research, they landed on a competition involving a series of data analytics related puzzles. This way the campaign tapped into the professional interests of their audience and related back to Starburst’s ideal customer persona.

Lorna also needed to provide a valuable reason for developers to take time out of their day. So she structured the competition as a sweepstake. Starburst’s engineering team then voted on prizes that would best appeal to data professionals like themselves, such as a 2-night stay at Disney’s new Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser hotel.

Allocate resources to create stunning marketing materials

From Starburst’s customer research, they knew that their audience loves science fiction and video games. So Lorna framed the campaign as a science fiction game called Space Quest League – a cheeky nod to the programming language SQL used by most data professionals.

Lorna wanted to step away from the overused aesthetics that other companies within their market rely on. So Starburst avoided stock photos and boring visuals. Instead, they appealed to data professionals on a personal and professional level with original 8-Bit graphics and music inspired by retro video games.

Contest incentive

Classic 8-bit designs and aligned incentives helped their campaign stand out from their competition.

Gamify campaigns to encourage repeat engagement

Next, Starburst needed to direct interest towards active engagement with their brand. To achieve this goal, they incorporated a variety of tactics to encourage participants to return to the challenge over and over.

Tapping into their audience’s love for video games beyond aesthetics, Starburst incorporated gamification into the challenge to organically drive further engagement.

Starburst game

Tasks earn you more entries into the competition. Each task builds more familiarity with Starburst and educates players on how Starburst can help them.

Since data professionals were interested in Space Quest League’s high-value prizes, Starburst built in a related incentive. Players can increase their chances of winning by participating in more challenges, and Lorna’s team reminded them of that mechanic with targeted email campaigns.

Lorna also gamified promotion by attaching a point system to certain activities, like following Starburst on social media. Participants can earn “Stars” by completing these tasks and then compare their score against other players on a leaderboard.

Drive further interest based on performance metrics

Lorna wanted to make the most out of her team’s limited resources, so she tracked performance metrics for all paid and organic promotion efforts.

Starburst allocated additional funds towards the best performing paid ads and pivoted certain campaigns entirely. If a creative asset was working on Facebook, Lorna would set up a campaign with the same asset on LinkedIn.

The Impact

By designing original marketing materials around the audience’s interests, Starburst attracted hundreds of new leads who were previously unfamiliar with Starburst.

In fact, this campaign dramatically reduced the costs of paid acquisition. So far, they have seen a 70% decrease in CPC on LinkedIn ads, getting their typical $26 cost per click down to about $6.

“The campaign is still ongoing, but we’ve already seen dozens of new deals attributed back to this competition and a huge increase in our brand awareness as seen by the increase in booth traffic at trade shows.”

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