We've discovered that our customers go out and take action-buy more ice cream-when we use promotions. We've instituted a program of Sunday newspaper coupon inserts, freezer clings, and other similar promotions that have been highly successful.
But we've also found that nothing beats a sweepstakes or contest to get our customers involved and excited with our Velvet Ice Cream. In 2002, Velvet Vice President Mike Dager came up with the basic concept for what would become our incredibly successful 2003 and 2004 Famous Ohio Inns Sweepstakes.
Why a sweepstakes? A sweepstakes, game or contest excites consumers, offering drama, suspense, and prizes. They keep your brand in mind as they await the announcement of winners. They start to form a bond with your brand, if they didn't already have one, and the strength of an already-existing bond is strengthened.
We used the sweepstakes to generate publicity in the media. We also set up the sweepstakes so that people could enter via postal mail or online at our website; the sweepstakes boosted traffic to the site by 12%.
Visitors to the website were given the chance to sign up for an email newsletter, the "eScoop," which we still use to update customers with information about the company and our products. This has given us direct communication with more than 6,000 Velvet Ice Cream fans. We also used the opportunity to collect basic demographic data, giving us a clear picture of the entrants, who are an important segment of our consumer base.
Yes, managing and running a sweepstakes can be labor intensive. Luckily, our public relations firm made it a turnkey operation. Once we approved the theme and identified the Ohio inns we wanted to approach, all we had to do was oversee the project.
In 2003, we tied in the sweepstakes with Ohio's bicentennial. Our company has a long history, and our Ye Olde Mill headquarters has an even longer history. In fact, the Mill is home to Ohio's only ice cream museum. Using famous and historic inns as a basis for the sweepstakes was a natural.
We partnered with six inns around the state. Each provided a certificate for one night's stay for two. And each inn's head chef created a dessert recipe using Velvet Ice Cream, which we published in a recipe booklet given as a premium to every sweepstakes entrant.
In exchange for the certificate and recipe, we included the inns' names and brands on all promotional newspaper inserts, announcements, our website, and news releases. A picture and description of each inn accompanied its recipe in the booklet. And our consumer products spokesperson mentioned the inns when she demonstrated the recipes on local television news programs around the state.
The sweepstakes was such a hit in 2003 that we were encouraged to repeat it in 2004. Because we were celebrating our 90th anniversary, we added three more inns to the program, dubbing it "Nine for the 90th." Even more people participated that year, and the response has been positive.
Now that we've seen first-hand the power of promotions, we've decided to run another this year. We're trying a new twist-a recipe contest-but I'm sure it will be as great a success as the sweepstakes.