Kia Optima’s One Epic Contest or A Social Media Contest Cautionary Tale

My New Year’s Resolution was to start entering more contests, partially because I like to know what other agencies are doing, but also because I could stand to win a new car/trip to Costa Rica/year’s supply of Post-It notes. So when I saw that Kia had launched their One Epic Contest and were giving away five 2011 Kia Optimas, I decided to enter.

The contest is involved – each day for 5 days you must log in to a microsite, find a clue and enter the answer, which is saved in your profile. The final question was revealed on the site during the first quarter of the Super Bowl, and the first 5 people to correctly enter all of the answers and complete 10 puzzles are entered to win cars.

Kia is a solid brand with a committed following – a brand any agency would be excited to have on their docket. The MSRP for each car is $25,440, making the total prize package worth over $125,000, not to mention whatever contest costs were incurred. For that kind of money, an agency should be sure to tend to the details. That doesn’t appear to fully be the case here, which is unfortunate, since the website for the agency in charge touts the importance of seamless marketing integration.

After registering on the microsite, I couldn’t log in to my account, and was repeatedly given an “Invalid Login” error message. I clicked “Reset Password” and was told to look for an email in my inbox. Here’s what arrived:

An email with a link and Lorem Ipsum text. Yikes on those overlooked details. After clicking through and resetting my password, I still couldn’t login. I asked several of my coworkers to try registering, and only one could login, after which she couldn’t figure out where to enter her answer.

Curious to see if others were having the same problem, I turned to Facebook. After searching for a Kia fan page, what I discovered was they have fan pages for each car model, not the overarching Kia brand. In terms of leveraging your fan base, this isn’t the best idea, since you essentially have to start over each time, and you don’t give fans of one model a chance to discover other Kia models in which they might be interested.

The Kia Optima has its own fan page (which is categorized as a Local Business, for some reason), with a small number of fans, but many were complaining about not being able to make the contest website work. That kind of negative chatter on a fan page can be detrimental to a brand, spreading the negative sentiment each time that comment goes into someone’s feed and is read by their network. That isn’t the kind of social spread that you want.

When the people running the fan page did post a response, it didn’t address the issues people were having or offer support, and implied that the challenges people were having were part of the game. As a UX nerd, this bothers me. It’s our responsibility to create a website and campaign that is effortless for your customer to use, it isn’t their responsibility to muddle through a poorly functioning site.

The thing is, contests seem like a fun and easy way to encourage people to interact with your brand, but the devil is in the details. When choosing an agency to work with, make sure they have experience running contests. A good outcome is the result of a well-run contest, both in terms of functionality (the website), and outreach (how people find out about it).

If you’re going to ask people to be involved in a labor-intensive process to win, remember 2 things: first, the prize must be worth the barrier to entry, which in this case, it is. Secondly, you should have a excellently functioning site and an easy way to contact you with any technical issues.

Here are a few tips to ensure that the details are sorted before the contest begins:

  • Check to be sure that the interactive contest pieces function properly on various browsers and operating systems. You certainly can’t accommodate everyone, but choosing to create something in Flash, for instance, will rule out anyone with an iPhone.
  • Have a few people go through and actually enter the contest from start to finish. Try and get people who haven’t worked on the campaign so you can test both the usability of the contest, and the moving parts. That’s where you’ll catch details like poor formatting and forgotten copy.
  • If possible, include a support email where people can contact you. Typically the issues can be resolved quickly, and it saves your social profiles from having negative sentiment splattered all over them.

After answering all 5 questions correctly, contest entrants were taken through a series of 10 games that got progressively harder. They were pretty difficult, so my friends and I gave up after round 7, but you had to complete all 10 in order to be entered to win. Apparently, this was a source of major frustration for contest participants, as evidenced by their fan page.

This contest seems like a good idea, but the execution needed a bit more work. Now I’m afraid they’ve stirred up negative sentiment along with the positive, which is a shame, because I think everyone would have liked to see themselves in a new Kia this summer!

Ignite Social Media