‘Instant win’ games could stand a little speeding up

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It might not seem like a big deal to most people, but whenever I buy a bottle of soda from Entropy or one of the strategically placed vending machines on campus, and I see on the label that “X” beverage company is using an instant-win promotion to draw consumers, it makes me slightly annoyed.

Back in the days when “instant win” really meant that you could be the instant winner of a bottle of Coke, a free song from iTunes, or even nothing at all, you could open a bottle of soda, simply look under the cap, and know in that instant whether you were a winner or a loser.

Since the advent of the Internet, much of this has changed. Instead of letting you know immediately if that particular bottle of soda you bought will win you the right to another free drink or even a car customized by your favorite celebrity, now you have to go through the process of saving your bottle cap, getting access to the Internet, registering on “X” beverage company’s website, and then finally entering the excruciatingly long alphanumeric promotional code from the bottle cap that you’ve been carrying around in your purse or pocket for the past week. All of this work is required because a group of marketing specialists decided that it was perfectly all right to lure unsuspecting customers into a wild goose chase that more often than not proves fruitless.

What is most disheartening is that this new type of “instant win” promotion deprives consumers of the euphoric rush one gets from being an “instant winner.” Of course, in most cases the winner doesn’t get much beyond a free bottle of soda. But still, those three seconds in which a person experiences instant-win gratification may be exactly what he or she needed to get through a difficult day filled with stress and frustration.

Imagine how different the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory would have been had Willy Wonka decided to replace the Golden Tickets with pieces of ordinary paper containing long alphanumeric codes that made no sense to the undiscerning chocolate eater. Instead of carefully unwrapping a Wonka bar, hoping to catch a glimpse of something golden inside, the whole process would have been quite different.

Based on what we know about Charlie Bucket and his family’s limited financial circumstances, he may not have had access to a computer. Even if the slip of paper contained within his bar of chocolate had the winning code, chances are Charlie would have just given up on the whole ordeal. Unless we had the emotional intelligence of a rhinoceros, we couldn’t possibly let such a tragedy happen, could we?

What these marketers seem not to realize is that people are lazy. They don’t want to go through the hassle of saving a bottle cap, going online, registering, and typing in a unique code just for a chance to win. Since most people just assume that their chances of instantly winning something are slim, they see no point in putting in so much effort into an endeavor that will most likely result in nothing.

Nowadays, everyone is preoccupied with careers, families, and friends, so when companies decide to send their customers looking for the Loch Ness monster, everyone loses. The customer who has the bottle cap containing the winning code forgoes his or her prize because of laziness or time constraints, while the company that decides to use this type of campaign wastes effort on a useless promotional ploy that reaches only a limited number of their customers.

The only real remedy to this issue is to put the “instant” back in the instant win promotion concept. If you’re going to refer to something as an “instant win” game, then for the love of all things that are good and pure, make it so that people know immediately whether or not they are a winner or a loser. Even if the game piece contains the simple message “Sorry, please try again,” at least they will thank you for being direct. They will thank you for telling them the truth. But most of all, they will thank you for not wasting their precious time.

Since time is money, with that extra time they save by not going on a wild goose chase, they might even go buy another bottle or two of your company’s product.