Really great promotions Monopolize share of mind

It all started when I drove by a McDonald's en route to a weekend promotions conference. With my eyes fixed on the road, I was suddenly drawn to a bold blue-green banner. It carried an irresistible call to action play McDonald's...
June 1, 1997

It all started when I drove by a McDonald’s en route to a weekend promotions conference. With my eyes fixed on the road, I was suddenly drawn to a bold blue-green banner. It carried an irresistible call to action play McDonald’s Monopoly.

My heart pounded with anticipation, thinking of the tactile experience of holding game pieces in my hand and skillfully plotting them on the self-adhesive game board. Then, reality stopped me in my tracks. Not now. No time.

But desire conquered reason. My urge to participate overpowered my professional responsibility and I hung a left and steered into the McDonald’s parking lot. I reached the counter, proudly asked for some game pieces, made a modest purchase and ambled over to a nearby booth. The fun was about to begin. Within minutes, I beamed at the colorful segments before me, proud to be in possession of Marvin Gardens, Atlantic Avenue and the venerable B&O Railroad.

I began to seriously question my infatuation. Was I alone in my fixation? The answer lay no further away than my office. Two co-workers and friends were equally enchanted and obsessed. Soon, it was time to gather and conquer.

We agreed to pool all of our game pieces to beat the odds and claim our rightful spoils. If we worked at this together, we could surely win either our dream home, a brand-new Jaguar convertible or, just as good, two Monopoly collector’s cups. In fact, so sure were we of winning that we calculated a three-way division of prizes, with one exception the cups. Those little babies would be mine, it was agreed, because of my love for board games and an already established collection of McDonald’s glasses (featuring characters from The Flintstones and Batman Forever).

We ate alone. We ate together. We made lunch trips to McDonald’s. We took other co-workers, with the understanding that they would forfeit their McDonald’s game pieces to us on site.

‘Why shouldn’t they?’ I justified. ‘After all, we did drive them here!’

We bartered and traded. We cajoled restaurant employees into upping our quota and pleaded with diners to give us their game pieces, since they didn’t really seem to be playing.

After numerous attempts, three almost-filled game boards (with duplicates) and weeks of seeing the commercial with the two grocery clerks checking to see if they had left the lights on their newly won Jaguars, our day of reckoning came.

WE WON! Kinda.

An occasional hamburger, regular-sized drink and small coffee.

But never once did our enthusiasm waver. When the promotion expired, it was as if Christmas vacation had come to an end.

Hands down, this is my all-time favorite promotion, from a personal as well as a professional point of view. It fulfilled the McDonald’s objective to drive traffic to their restaurants and kept us happy and full of hope while guiltlessly eating hamburgers for nearly a month. This value-added trance overcame myself and all of America. And why not? The world loves to play Monopoly, in all forms.

The promotion achieved every marketing executive’s goal: to tie in with an established partner or property that truly relates, and translates best, to the target consumer.

To cut through the clutter, promotion licensors are re-evaluating their promotional plans and making sure that their programs are more adaptable to a variety of venues. Multipartnered and multi-tiered promotions are making inroads in the industry. These programs help turn modest ideas into enhanced events.

There are many different components that can be included in an integrated promotion, including media partners, retailers, family restaurants, packaged-goods companies and existing licensees. It’s to the benefit of any program to try to incorporate more than one of these components; extending the exposure into many different outlets is what makes a promotion effective.

Licensing today has grown into a phenomenal business at an exponential rate and, as a result, there’s a lot of saturation out there, which leaves something of a flatness and no clear ‘top dog’ license. To help a property differentiate itself and find its own space among the many, promotions have not only come to be accepted, but also expected. Because of this, promotions are finally stepping into the spotlight and getting some long-overdue respect as a key component.

Once a separate effort somewhat outside the marketing mainstream, promotions are now an important determinant of the validity of an entertainment property.

A promotion is part of every licensor’s sales pitch. If it’s not, it should be. An effective promotion helps launch, sustain and potentially boost a licensing program and, better yet, sales. It can potentially build brand loyalty, as well as win new customers. Think McDonald’s here. Even if you prefer, say, Burger King or Carl’s Jr., the fun of a Monopoly game at McDonald’s along with the possibility of winning something, even if it’s just a large order of fries will most likely bring you over to the Golden Arches at least once.

As a promotions executive, I love the fast-paced nature of the business and the diversity of the exposure it gives to different companies and techniques, which you collect and apply to improving your next promotion. The most difficult aspect of promotions is the long lead times that often limit the elements available. A company that wants to fully utilize a promotions department should take this into consideration and bring its promotions people in on a project right from the beginning.

Not every promotion can promise free hamburgers or whip the consumer into a frenzy, but every promotion executive should try!

George Leon is vice president of promotions at Saban Entertainment.

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