Taking Luck Viral: Internal/External Social Marketing for Businesses Via Games of Chance

Colors flash brightly in a spinning circle. Slowly, the noise of the crowd lessens as the clicking of the wheel grows slower, ending with an “oooh!” as the prize is revealed. Everyone laughs and cheers. “Hey, I just won a free dessert!”
“I just won a t-shirt!”
“I won two days vacation!”
“I won a car!”
“I got a mug!”
“I get a 50{d7041c4e6afa026de24506851a219ca5610a5f906e2b398ac18672c13da8fb92} discount!”
Granted, most people won’t be nearly as excited about the mug as they would about the car, but on some level the initial excitement – before the prize – is the same. As is the thought that, perhaps next time, that mug will stay on the table, and they’ll drive off in the car. They’ll remember it every time they look at that mug.
Games of chance are becomingly increasingly popular as both internal and external marketing avenues for businesses. Part of the attraction is the stress relief inherent in social group activities, particularly games. In times of situational stress (economic turmoil, natural disasters, election years), people look for release and/or relief – from stress, from fear, from worry. Shared emotions, both positive and negative, are easier to bear – misery isn’t the only one that loves company. Happiness likes a crowd, as well. Social media outlets tap into this human need to share, and now businesses are taking advantage of it as well.
Games of chance are, first and foremost, fun. Psychologically, they tap into several facets of human nature: the desire/hope that things will improve, and the urge to get the most value for the least expenditure. There is also the “risk factor” element of chance, which always has an element of attraction, especially in situations where there is literally nothing to lose, only to gain. And then there is winning.
Long before Charlie Sheen made it a catchphrase, “winning” was a powerful word. So many phrases use it: “play to win,” “everyone loves a winner,” “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” People like to win. Granted, most people don’t really plan for a mystery inheritance or lottery win, but the idea is there throughout our society, lurking in rags-to-riches stories and reality TV shows alike. Hope is an incredibly powerful force.
It’s also true that people love a good deal, love to feel that they’ve gotten more value for something than they paid. “I got it on sale,” is usually followed by a price, to share the feeling of accomplishment. The greater the savings, the greater the positive feelings induced by the purchase. Vendors throughout the centuries have understood this; haggling is a fine art that continues today, and although it has recently returned to higher prominence, “couponing” has long been a staple of the shopping world.
All these forces: hope for situational improvement, risk, love of winning, and love of bargains, tie together neatly in games of chance. Social aspects are invoked by a shared need to see that not only is success possible, but that it can happen anytime, anywhere, to anyone. More and more, businesses are seeing that they can also tap into this phenomenon by incorporating games of chance into both internal and external marketing efforts.
As in the example at the beginning of this article, Prize Wheels never fail to attract attention. Sight and sound combine to create a perfect storm of instant gratification with this colorful prize spinner. Long seen at carnivals, the prize spinner has been a staple of trade show vendors for years as well. Increasingly, however, businesses of all kinds are using them for more than just drawing foot traffic to a convention table.
Tabletop models are used at checkout counters in restaurants and retail stores to determine discount amounts by chance. Free-standing models are used in company meetings for incentive wins. The wheels bright colors and signature sounds really do make people come and watch, and the incentives are limited only by the imagination of the marketers. T-shirts, discounts, free drinks or desserts, vacation time, branded gear, the list of potential incentives is nearly endless.
Plinko began its existence as a sub-game on a game show, and has since spread widely into marketing use. Plinko games make great prizes for completing “calls-to-action” events: registering for a service, joining a mailing list, completing a project or homework assignment, anything desired action has a positive reaction when there is the chance of a prize attached to it. The action complete, the player simply inserts a disc into the game board and watches while it makes its way down the board to the prize slots. Simple but effective, Plinko games are generally very portable, coming in free-standing or tabletop models and requiring little to no setup and minimal space.
When it comes to games of chance, instant gratification is the name of the game. However, some games, like Raffles, can also go on over long periods. Long used for fundraisers and at trade shows, Raffle Drums can function either as long-term incentives, raffles and drawings based on completed calls to action, or as immediate incentives. Retail stores, companies, even food service establishments are using raffle spinners for building morale and engagement through “random” giveaways. Companies can use them as incentives for attendance or performance, with entries given for each perfect project or time period. Conference attendees at conferences can drop in contact information for instant rewards as well as long-term drawings.
Multiple levels of prizes have long been used to build customer engagement, which ties in nicely with multi-tier marketing efforts. Anyone who has won a kewpie doll then looked longingly at the giant stuffed bear hanging far above it knows this intuitively. Prize spinners like raffle drums and game wheels also work wonders when used together with each other. Was your name or number pulled out of the spinner? You’re eligible for the larger raffle drawing, but have already won a discount on your purchase today… just take a spin of the wheel to determine how much.
Games of chance are innately attractive. People will gather to watch, and become engaged, and want to take their turn. It ties into basic human nature, into social behaviors as well as societal ones. The size of the prize is almost unimportant, as the social bonding will be the much the same for each level. And, in fact, for the marketers as well as the market-ees in many cases.
Games of chance are fun for those running them as well as those participating. Keeping marketing activities lively and enjoyable means that employees will be happier and more productive, and therefore more likely to be, in their own right, engaged. And when employees “buy in” to the marketing efforts, it is that much easier and effective to engage customers and clients in a similar manner. In social-oriented marketing activities, everyone is part of the group dynamic.
It is human nature to want to succeed, to want to win. From employee bonuses to prize raffles to trade-show or conference giveaways, games of chance are an inexpensive and exceedingly effective way to build customer and/or employee engagement. In true games of chance, there is no adjustment for skill, age, experience or any other criteria. The playing field is truly even, making these simple games very effective at engaging people’s attention.

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