#Esurancesave30 is a marketing win!

I'm pushing Agency Lessons to Wednesday this week so I can bring you a timely post that might actually win you some money.

The Superbowl was a blowout, leaving Peyton Manning, I mean, Denver fans with nothing to enjoy but a great halftime show and the now famous Superbowl commercials. The general social media consensus was that the commercials weren't that great. At the party I attended no one was really blown away by any of them. Until the game was over. And Esurance did this.

#Esurancesave30 immediately started trending on Twitter, beating out the day long Phillip Seymour Hoffman tribute trend. The Esurance.com site was basically shut down with an overwhelming amount of activity. It took 13 minutes for the home page to load on my computer, an hour after the commercial aired.

Now, you could assume that any time a company offers to give away $1.5million dollars they are going to get this kind of action. And that's probably true. But here are a few good reasons why this campaign is made of awesome and what you can learn from it without giving away millions of dollars.

1. The pitch matches their brand
Any company can give away money. It actually happens a lot. But Esurance made sure this wasn't just a giveaway. They turned it into a branding opportunity. Esurance touts their ability to save the average driver 30%, they saved 30% by waiting until the game was over to air their commercial, they are giving away 30% of what it would have cost them to air during the actual game. The number isn't pulled from thin air. 30% is their brand.

Marketing lesson: Big prizes will get attention, but it's more important to make your giveaways work for your brand. If you write romance, make your prize a romantic basket of candles, chocolate and fuzzy handcuffs. Write police procedural? Giveaway a DVD box set of Law & Order. Picture books more your style? What about a DIY picture book kit. Whatever it is, make sure that the prize is not only desirable, but also matches what you want your readers to think about when they think of you.

2. They direct contest entrants where to go
The home page is a huge win. I don't know what it normally looks like, but this is what you got when you visited esurance.com on Sunday night.

They didn't try to hide the contest. That would only have led to people clicking all over the site looking for the information. Instead they put it right on the front page, clear as day. They also put the very basic contest information there so customers don't really need to click off this page to participate. Instead, they provided a two box form, allowing visitors to get more information about the product they are selling. It is simple, visually appealing and drives site visitors exactly where Esurance can maximize the exposure from the contest.

Marketing Lesson: Don't hide your contest. Regular site viewers are going to be okay with a contest home page for one week. Also, outside of the contest information, drive your readers where it makes the most sense. For you, where can they buy your book. What if readers input their zip code and a "within x miles" option to direct them to the closest store they can buy your book. If there isn't one close by, it could direct them to the Amazon buy page. Or, offer a "How do you read?" button that directs customers on how to buy the book for Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc. This might mean a little extra work or hiring someone to create the tool, but it also means capitalizing on contest entries.

3. Focus on delivery
Esurance could have put this contest everywhere. With an audience as large and diverse as the Superbowl, they could have allowed for entries on every social media network out there. Instead, they have it limited to Twitter. I don't know what the demographic of their average customer is, but I'd guess they tend to run young and single. They probably aren't targeting soccer moms, teens, or retirees. They recognize that their target audience lives on Twitter.

Marketing Lesson: Don't try to be everywhere at once. This is where it pays to know who your target reader is. Which social media site do they use the most? How are they likely to share your content? Spreading out across too many outlets can dilute your message and cause confusion. Stick to one platform, two at the most, and really make a push.

4. Make the entries work for you
Esurance could have put an info collection form on their site that required folks to enter their personal info and sign up for the mailing list in order to get an entry. Here's what they would have gotten: a whole lot fewer entries and very little organic promotion. By organic promotion, I mean people sharing the link to enter the contest on their own, without an additional benefit. Instead, the only way to enter is to promote the contest. By including their brand name, Esurance, in the required tweet, they guarantee more visitors to their site and more eyeballs considering buying insurance from them.

Marketing Lesson: Think long term when it comes to entrants. Sure, you can require folks to sign up for your newsletter. But what's going to happen? They sign up, wait for the contest to finish, and then unsubscribe when they get your first email. Instead, think about the long game. Contests should help you spread the word about your book. Create an entry that requires contestants to tell others about you and your books.

5. Keep it simple
The commercial was easy to follow as evidenced by the immediate trend on twitter. The homepage is clear and simple. If you click on the link for more contest info, you get the same spiel on saving 30% along with a reiteration of the only way to enter, a deadline and when the winner will be announce. Entry to the contest requires nothing more than a Twitter account and a single tweet. The FAQs are provided on a separate, easy to find page with straight forward answers and a phone number to ask additional questions.

Marketing Lesson: While I doubt your contest will need an FAQ hotline, it's best to avoid any confusion with simple rules, eligibility requirements and details. Make this information easy to find, but keep it separate from the main contest page so your readers aren't distracted. Remember, you want them to click on a buy link, not a list of overly complicated answers to questions they don't have.

Giveaways by big name companies are pretty common, but by using simple techniques and staying true to your brand you can find success no matter how small your slice of the internet pie is.

Now it's your turn to get in on the action. Share this blog post on Twitter. You'll share valuable content with your followers and earn an entry into the Esurance giveaway*. It's a win-win for everyone.

*I'm not an affiliate or anything special. Tweeting a link to this blog earns you an entry because the title includes the required entry hash tag. This is not a magic entry and should not be traded to Jack for his cow.