February 14, 2023 Four Columns Marketing

The Brilliance of Brackets: A Winning Marketing Strategy

If you’ve been following along on our Instagram stories for the past couple of weeks, you know that we’ve been gearing up for Valentine’s Day with an interactive bracket of the best romantic comedies. Our office has taken this contest very seriously. Departments have been divided, shade has been thrown and opinions have been passionately (and loudly) expressed. But the people have spoken. The winning rom-com is…”How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days“.

We started with a free-for-all brainstorming session where our staff put forth every movie they thought should be included. We narrowed it down to 32 seeds, then invited our IG audience to do single elimination from there: Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final Four, Championship, arriving at our final winner. Our Instagram was more active than ever during our rom-com bracket with voting, DMs, reposting, etc. This heightened engagement is exactly what we hoped to see. Allow us to peel back the curtain. 

Why Does Bracket Marketing Work?

Using brackets in this way falls under the marketing tactic of gamification. This is where a brand incorporates game-like elements and incentives as an online marketing tool to increase engagement (achieving a 100% to 150% increase in engagement metrics). Brackets are a prime example of this. In our experience, there are a few tenets of this multi-layered marketing tactic that make it effective, largely having to do with psychology: 

  • People love to express their opinions. Inviting your audience to predict who they think will perform well serves a dual purpose of 1) letting people talk about themselves and 2) gaining user data. We like to offer our personal preferences; it’s basic human nature. 
  • Nothing wrong with a little friendly competition. There’s no shortage of studies showing that we are constantly measuring ourselves up against our peers. Even when we can’t participate directly in a competition, we enjoy watching from the sidelines (i.e. professional sports, the Olympics, dance competition shows, cooking competition shows, The Bachelor, etc.). Whether you consider yourself a “competitive person” or not, there is something about competing that piques our interest. As humans, we have a vested interest in finding out who wins. And as marketers, we gain knowledge when we poll our audiences to reveal their majority opinions.

The relationship component. Push marketing by itself does not suffice these days. Customers don’t want products just shoved in their faces; they want to form an emotional connection with the brand presenting the product/service/offering. This interactivity provided by gamification draws customers into the content (versus simply presenting it to them) and allows brands to forge a relationship with their audience.

Brackets aren’t a new concept. They’ve been around since an 1851 chess tournament in London. We have British chess champion Howard Staunton to thank for them. However, there are myriad new, creative, strategic ways to utilize brackets for your business. With March Madness right around the corner, brackets are already on the minds of your customers. What better time to employ this proven marketing tactic than now?  

If you’re into this idea but don’t quite know how to make it happen, we know a company that does. Our team can help you employ gamification to your benefit. Drop us a line at [email protected].

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