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The Psychology Of Successful Sales Promotions

McDonald’s Monopoly is the biggest sales promotion in the UK, with 12 million prizes given away in only 6 weeks. A customer-centric approach has been critical in its success and the sheer scale of Monopoly creates the perfect conditions to study and influence human behaviour.

Despite its huge successes, McDonald’s Monopoly faces two key challenges – believability (I don’t think I can win) and redemptions (once I win, I don’t redeem). By looking at these challenges from a customer behaviour perspective, we were able to find a single solution for both challenges.

Challenge: Believability

Our research showed that the greatest barrier to playing McDonald’s Monopoly was that people didn’t believe they would win. Yet, even when the 1 in 3 chance was disclosed in research, it had little impact on believability perceptions.

Through further research, we found that there was an underlying sense that customers had no control over the outcome. The perception was that McDonald’s decided who would win, what they would win and how often.

Challenge: Redemption

Monopoly has three ways to play – collect-to-win, instant-win and an online ‘enter code to win’. But even the easily redeemable instant-win stickers weren’t being claimed, as they were frequently ‘saved for the next visit’ and then forgotten about.

The Marshmallow Test is a study which gives children the choice between eating one marshmallow immediately or waiting a short while and receiving two. Most choose to eat one immediately. This need for instant gratification is hardwired into our psyche. We needed to make sure every winning player received their ‘marshmallow’. That every instant-win became an instant redemption.

The Psychological Insight:

We studied the psychology of the Endowment Effect – the observation that people who own something value it more than people who don’t. For example, participants first given a chocolate bar are generally unwilling to trade it for a coffee mug, whereas participants first given the coffee mug are generally unwilling to trade it for the chocolate bar.

The Solution:

How could we apply this thinking? By giving players a sense of ownership over the outcome it would hold more value. We achieved this through a choice mechanic, allowing customers to choose their prizes, from ‘fries vs soft drink’ to ‘holiday vs car’.

This gave players the greater sense of control that lay at the heart of the believability challenge. Once we implemented the choice mechanic, all brand affinity metrics rose, with Brand Closeness rising by 59% and positive Brand Image by 32%.

And, as soon as somebody chooses something, they own it. This creates a much deeper emotional connection. So free fries became their free fries, driving up the value of the win. Leading to a 17% increase in game satisfaction.

If you would like to understand more about Monopoly, and how psychology could be applied to your promotions to increase their effectiveness, please get in touch.