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    Products Inspire in Albertsons’ ‘Best Road Trip, Ever!’ Contest

    Participants write road trip-themed stories based on sponsors’ products

    Albertsons LLC has updated its "Best Road Trip, Ever!" online contest with an innovative format in which products are used as the basis for creating road trip-themed essays which can be shared and voted on for the chance to win a Ford vehicle.

    This year’s contest, which ends Sept. 4, is an enhancement of last year’s Best Road Trip, Ever!, in that the products take center stage in the content that is created and judged.

    “For this contest, we’re having participants use sponsors’ products as the muses for their stories,” Karl Meinhardt, VP of social and digital marketing at Albertsons told Progressive Grocer in an exclusive interview. “When you think of top-of-mind marketing, it’s one thing to see a brand on a page, where someone might click on it and remember it later. But when you use that brand to create a story, the imprint on the brain is going to be much deeper. Whenever you create around something – whether that is an idea, a concept, or whatever – it sticks in your head.”

    Once a person registers for the contest, they are directed to the caption page, which consists of four boxes, each showcasing an image that includes a sponsor product. Above and below the product images are drop down menus with phrases – the top menus are phrases for beginning the caption story, and below are ending phrases. According to Meinhardt, with these types of contests, participants find the most difficult parts to be creating the opening and closing sentences, so to make things easier Albertsons supplies 10 choices of each.

    Four images are displayed, each containing a sponsor product. Participants have the option to change the image selection by clicking a “spin” button, which causes the product images to spin much like images on a slot machine, revealing a new “almost-random” selection. (The images displayed are determined by an algorithm that is weighed relative to the level of sponsorship, so larger products from larger sponsors will appear more frequently). The spin button can be clicked as often as desired until the participant finds a product mix for which he or she would like to write captions.

    “We shot all of the product pictures ourselves, and stylized them ourselves to have a cool feel to them – sort of like you would see in someone’s Instagram or Pinterest post,” said Meinhardt. “We didn’t want just a simple product shot of a soda bottle, for example. This way it also helps participants create their captions.”

    Once the starting phrase is selected, each participant writes a caption (of up to 250 letters) for each image, ending the essay with a selection from the drop-down endings menu. Once the story’s finished, it’s added to the leaderboard, and the entrant can share the post via Twitter and Facebook. Points are accumulated for each sharing action -- if the story is shared on Twitter or Facebook, if it’s "liked" or retweeted on these platforms, etc. -- and as the points reach increasing levels, the level of the prize increases in value, starting with the Ford Fiesta and progressing up to an Expedition.

    While the contest has been live for just over a week, its leaderboard already contains thousands of entries which have received tens of thousands of votes and shares, jumping the prize to a Ford Focus and only a couple hundred votes shy of the next level, a Ford Fusion.

    Viewers of each post can cast a vote, and participants are encouraged to share their entries as widely as possible for the chance of attaining as many votes as they can. Five finalists will be chosen for each of Albertsons’ divsions based on total number of votes their entries receive. A panel of judges will then choose the winner based on the content of the entries.

    “Some of these entries are great,” said Meinhardt. “Some were almost written like haiku poems, and those are interesting in their own way, and then others are just simply amazing. It’s an interesting break from the usual ‘enter to win’ sweepstakes.”

    The contest also impacts participants’ path to purchase behavior even before their path to purchase starts. “If you look at the classic path to purchase, there is a whole planning stage ... before they go to the store,” said Meinhardt. “We have another stage before that one, and that is engagement and connectivity. If we can get [consumers] to connect with us and our brand and our products and our sponsors' products before the path to purchase, then we have a better chance that when [they] get [to] the planning stage that they will plan with us and our products. Affinity to a brand happens because you have something for consumers to connect to, and through the contest, this affinity is happening because it’s part of the creative process.”

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