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Giving gifts to consumers: A blessing or a curse?

by Daniel Hagmeijer, Mirum / April 24, 2015

Note: This blog entry is available in English only.

“What’s in it for me?” drives marketing – and life – decisions


What’s in it for me (WIIFM)? That question drives almost every decision we make; it is the most fundamental principle of human motivation. The moment we open our eyes in the morning, our brain starts to subconsciously evaluate the world around it using WIIFM. It helps us choose what food to eat, what movie to watch, what clothes to wear, which people to hang out with, whether we should leave at 8 or 9 in the morning to reach the office on time, amongst many other decisions.

It’s not always about what we get in the physical space either; emotional gratification plays a large role. You are often motivated to do things to feel pride, security or excitement, or even feel part of something. Your daily decisions are made by your subconscious mind, based on experience, motivation and the perceived rewards and risks that come along with those decisions.

Why is WIIFM important in digital marketing?

Advertising has been around for ages. Commercial messages and political campaign displays have been found in the extremely well preserved ruins of Pompeii and ancient Arabia. Modern-day advertising arrived in the late 19th century, beginning with the famous Pears soap ads in the UK, and has always been a process that interrupts (or disrupts) a consumer’s attention in order for the brand to share its message.

With the advent of the Internet in the late 90s, and even more so with the birth of social media in the late 2000s, consumers got more choice; not just in entertainment, services and products, but also which ads (or brand messages) they chose to engage with. Consumers are now pickier and actively ask the question: What’s in it for me?

This means that the days of simply pushing out a piece of communication are gone, and the days of active consumer engagement are in. I often find that many brands entice consumers to engage them utilizing quizzes and prizes. How many times have you seen a submission-based campaign with a grand prize attached to it? These kinds of campaigns might generate sales, but they certainly do not generate brand love or brand loyalty. Let me illustrate an example.

I once had a client who wanted to make a big bang celebration for the 10th anniversary of his brand of iced tea called Sweet Tea (changed for confidentiality reasons). The client wanted to create a big party, invite people and celebrate together. The issue was that people were not consuming much of the Sweet Tea (only 2x per month max) and had limited affection with the brand overall. Nobody actually cared that it was Sweet Tea’s 10th birthday party. The idea for the campaign was to get people to buy a 500 ml bottle and share their special Sweet Tea moments on social media. In return, they could win one of five luxury trips to London, where Sweet Tea had roots. Besides that, there were other impressive prizes to be given out during the campaign.

Sweet Tea’s sales were positive during the campaign, but plummeted when it was over. People were buying Sweet Tea just to go on the luxury trip. The WIIFM did not have a strong emotional connection to the brand, thereby failing to create sustainable loyalty with consumers. In fact, because of the sales successes resulting from high investment for prizes, Sweet Tea was forced to repeat similar prize-based campaigns in the following years to reach Key Performance Indicator’s (KPI) set by management. In his most recent book, “Twitter is Not a Strategy,” Tom Doctoroff, CEO of J. Walter Thompson Asia Pacific, mentions three ways to create a WIIFM for consumers:


People are receptive to ideas that entertain, enrich or empower them. A brand could do this by providing something useful (e.g. Axe’s sexy “Wake-Up Call”) or simply providing a platform for individuals to show off their talent (PepsiCo’s “Get on the Can”).


Offer benefits to people who share common interest. Think about building engagement platforms where people can meet and share ideas around their passion points.

The World

People want to plug in to something bigger than themselves. The Internet has no boundaries; it beckons us to expand our worldview in ways earlier generations never dreamed possible. We can now all be part of history. Think about Adidas’s “adiThread” or The Times of India’sLead India.”

What Doctoroff’s three ways have in common is that none of them contain explicit prizes; they all strongly relate to an emotional benefit for consumers, which drive brand equity and create sustainable growth.

Gifts and prizes are not a blessing, sometimes coming closer to being a curse; once used to generate large sales volume, you might find yourself resorting to them year after year, significantly cutting into your budget. For your next campaign, whether you work on the agency or client side, consider the WIIFM of your engagement idea and how it will impact your short and long-term sales and profit.

Please feel free to drop me a line at if you want to discuss further.​




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