yukai chou gamification

Power of Unpredictability & Curiosity: Sweepstakes and Raffles

Extrinsic Motivation

(Below is a manuscript snippet of my book, Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards. Please subscribe to the mailing list on the right to order the book when it launches. This post may be moved into a Premium Area after a certain period of time).

Sweepstakes and Raffles in Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity

In Chapter 5 on Epic Meaning & Calling, I mentioned how I started my first business because of a small raffle held at a UCLA barbeque. Raffles are fairly popular because they add an element of “fun” to an event, as people are drawn by the possibility of winning a prize. Most of the time, the “Desired Action” is for people to stay until the end of the event, and therefore the results of the raffle is announced towards the end of the schedule. Though primarily driven by Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity (in the Octalysis Framework), these events draw power from CD5: Ownership & Possession (the desire to win a prize), and a bit of CD8: Loss & Avoidance (if I leave too early, I’ll lose my chance to win…)

As you remember when I first recounted my story, when I drew my own name out of the hat, I was also hit by a strong sense of *Calling* (from Core Drive 1) as I felt I was destined to start my own business.

My perceived *calling* compelled me to be persistent in the face of some dark days and difficult challenges throughout my entrepreneurial career. Many times at the brink of failure I felt like giving up, but because I believed that I was meant to walk this path, I pressed on and became more convinced that I could persevere in the startup world as a young entreprenuer. As you can see, being “lucky” in a scenario of chance can install a higher sense of mission and purpose. The same goes with the effects of Beginner’s Luck (Game Technique #23), where people who are extremely lucky the first time they do something feel that they are somehow destined to do it.

As you can see, the power of the raffle is more than the value of any individual reward. Beyond the prize itself (which is extrinsic in nature, stemming from Core Drive 4), the intrinsic motivation behind the “will I be lucky?” thought plays an important role in ensuring people remain engaged with the process.

Companies that use Sweepstakes and Raffles

On a larger scale, many companies that utilize social media marketing are now successfully deploy techniques such as sweepstakes to engage users with their brand and message.

Often times, these companies will give out a quest where those who commit the Desired Actions will have a chance at winning some promotional prize. Sweepstakes can vary quite a bit. The Desired Actions can be as simple as “liking” the company website on Facebook (an example of such a campaign is Macy’s marketing campaign where “liking” their Facebook profile gave fans a chance to win $500-$1,000 in gift cards.

Kellogg’s The Great Eggo Waffle Off Sweepstakes

The Desired Actions can also be something more complex, such as Kelloggs’ “The Great Eggo Waffle Off!” challenge, where entrants submitted their best waffle recipes for a chance to win $5,000.

They also utilized Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness by incorporating the Social Treasure game technique into their sweepstakes. The odds of an entrant winning the competition could either be entirely based on, or at least partially affected, by community voting.

In that way, an added Desired Action of “promoting our brand to all your friends!” comes into effect. This works great for a challenge like The Great Eggo Waffle Off since users are sending images of guilty-pleasure waffles to their friends, asking the friends to vote up their submissions. Eye candy works like a charm.

Some Sweepstakes are theme-based, tying in some Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession or even Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling.

Dove’s Real Beauty Should Be Share Sweepstakes

Dove applies a theme-based sweepstake that is visually appealing to users. In their “Real Beauty Should Be Shared” contest, Dove asked their fans to share why their friend “represents Real Beauty.”

Instead of receiving monetary prizes, the winner gets to be the new “Faces of Dove” at various local Shoppers Drug Mart.

Dove Sweepstakes


This is a great design, because the campaign involves photos of beautiful/confident women that attract attention, a cause that contestant friends can all get behind and support contestants on, and a prize that appeals to status while giving users a higher sense of ownership.

Tires Plus Father’s day Clock Giveaway Sweepstakes

Another example of a theme-based sweepstake is Tires Plus’ *Father’s Day Clock Giveaway*, which used an essay contest asking contestants to write about who they think qualifies as the best dad. Then participants voted for their favorite dad to determine who would ultimately take home a Michelin Man clock.

The good part about the sweepstake’s design was that its theme fit Tires Plus’ target demographics- guys who like cars. The slight flaw in its implementation was that the Desired Action required significant effort: although they used the same gamification techniques as Dove, the writing and reading of essays is a Desired Action that requires a lot of time and non-car-related effort just for a simple extrinsic prize. Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance prevented many people from participating. This is known as an Anti Core Drive in my framework which we will cover in detail in Chapter 16.

Coca-Cola’s Chok Sweepstakes

Some brands decide to double down on Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity by making everything about the sweepstakes unpredictable. Coca-Cola is one of those brands that has been at the forefront of developing creative and innovative product promotions.

You can often see that Coca-Cola commercials often try to turn simple acts of drinking carbonated sugar water into a Core Drive 1: Epic meaning and Calling experience through using magical kingdoms, promoting happiness, and using friendly polar bears.

Coca-Cola launched an especially appealing sweepstakes contest for teenagers in Hong Kong. Users are offered a free app called “Chok.”

During each evening, a television commercial will run, asking fans to open the app and shake their phones to catch virtual bottle caps and earn mobile games, discounts, and sweepstakes entries.

This prompted users to enthusiastically shake their phones in front of the television screen, hoping for prizes that may or may not pop out. Because the time of the activity, whether one will win or not, and what the winner will get are all unknown, there’s a strong sense of excitement. Even in the campaign’s Discovery Phase (the phase where users decide to first try out a product or experience, which works hand-in-hand through marketing and so-called *growth hacking*), if you are watching TV with a group and you see someone suddenly shake her phone when a commercial comes on, your curiosity will surely be piqued and perhaps compel you to join.

Coca Cola strategically aligned this campaign with its brand strategy and Chok received 380,000 downloads from Hong Kong users alone within a month of launch. The beverage conglomerate claimed this campaign was their most successful marketing effort in Hong Kong for 35 years.

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3 thoughts on “Power of Unpredictability & Curiosity: Sweepstakes and Raffles”

  1. When I have participated at an event with a raffle, I must admit that I often stay to the end because of Loss & Avoidance.  For me, it’s less about the surprise and more about missing out by leaving early.

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