A great way to get stuff for free is to enter loads of competitions on the web. Back when I was a kid, it was magazines like Take A Break that ruled the roost when it came to free entry competitions, along with promotions like Reader’s Digest contests that dropped through the letter box from time to time to tempt you with big cash payouts.
Today, there are a wide range of sites on the web, that keep you up to date with the latest prize draws on television shows that are frequently massive cash competitions or holiday give-aways. Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, those same TV programmes have chosen to make entering for free much harder, so you now have to send in your entry on the back of a postcard or envelope, rather than simply logging onto their website.
As we all know, nothing in life is free. Back in the days of the Reader’s Digest, they were looking to learn as much as possible about you so that they have a comprehensive profile on their customer list. It always struck me that customer is a very loose term in this sense, as I’d certainly never bought anything from them. This lifestyle data is, however, incredibly valuable. It allows companies to send marketing material to people who are highly interested in their products and services, which serves two important roles. Firstly, it’s incredibly expensive to market to the population as a whole, and that was even more true before the days of inexpensive email campaigns when you had to pay the Royal Mail to hand deliver flyers. The second benefit is that it helps to reduce advertising blindness. If you get too much advertising thrown at you, it becomes noise, and everything becomes less effective. Just like the TV channels limit their commercial breaks to three minutes, advertising companies are mindful not to bombard you with too much junk mail.
So, returning to the competitions that you see offering huge prizes, they act as a clever way to profile you into specific groups. You might be doubtful, as the free web entry forms don’t ask you much other than for your contact details and the answer to a very simple question. If you think about it a little deeper, though, they know what programme it is you watch, so for example if it’s the Loose Women competition, there’s a good chance you’re a female, and either a parent or retired, otherwise you’d be at work. Granted, it’s not the most scientific method of targeting customers, but on the scale of a national TV show, it’s surprisingly accurate.
Here’s a video of the Loose Women interviewing Zoe Sugg, who’s a YouTube sensation as Zoella, who also pops up in Topshop promotions:
So, next time you enter a competition, you’ll know why they’re offering such a big prize, and where the money to pay for it comes from. It all comes back to advertising, and most likely a big company and their marketing budget.
There’s nothing wrong with getting involved, and you won’t find many of the winners that complain that they entered which they’re enjoying spending the cash, driving their new car or travelling across the world on a free holiday. Let’s face it, pretty much everything we do today is monitored in some way, and while some conspiracy theorists panic about it, it’s probably actually a good thing, as it saves us a lot of hassle compared to the amount of junk mail that would come through the door every day if companies didn’t use more intelligent profiling techniques!
You can find more competitions posted regularly here at Norsad, so we’ll see you soon for more updates.