Everyone that I know or may know me in a 6-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon-kind-of-way has already heard of this contest during one of my numerous pleas on Facebook, Twitter and pen-related outlets. Early January, I decided to enter a contest held by Vertical Response, an e-mail marketing company that I use for both personal and business e-mail newsletter management. In one of their company e-mails was advertised a contest for creating an e-mail template that customers will actually be able to use. Apple Store gift card prizes were pretty nice, too. I’m usually not into doing design work on “spec,” and hoping to get paid for my time at the end, but this seemed like a great opportunity for someone who is as familiar with creating e-mail marketing templates as I am.
One snowy weekend shortly after the New Year, I decided to throw my hat in the ring and come up with a neat idea for a design that pays homage to my passion for writing, journaling and fine pens. I called it “Hand-Drawn Moleskine,” which is the brand of notebook that I use to write in. It’s very popular with the creatives and wanna-be Starbucks novelists. The idea behind it was to lend an air of intimacy to the otherwise impersonal e-mail.
My design was selected as the top 8 to be voted on for a whole two weeks starting Jan 14th until the end of the month. TWO WEEKS!? The voting was done by Facebook “likes,” which meant that the person voting had to be logged into a valid Facebook account in order to have their vote cast. This is where the true hustle came in. I thought to myself, now that the contest had got to this point, that this was going to be in my hands and that I have the knowledge and skills to market myself for the maximum number of votes possible.
My one true foe was a competitor simply referred to as “Blue Burst” – the name of her template design. Voting was neck and neck for the first few days. Then, I sent out a mass e-mail to my work list of several thousand e-mail addresses and was able to pull ahead by 70 or 80 votes. My lead was pretty steady for the most part until the final weekend – the home stretch.
Despite my best efforts and the pressing of my friends and family, we came up short by a total of 18 votes, finishing at over 800 total for the two weeks. It was truly a monumental effort that I believe ultimately came down to being in an earlier time zone than my opponent. Although I finished in second, I truly felt like a winner, as I still received a nice gift card from Apple, along with heaping amounts of praise about my design. People have remarked that it was the only one that had originality, that the others looked canned and lacked the personality that my work had. Ultimately, it was up to the voting and, if it had come down to quality judged by a third party, I believe mine would have won outright.
Although I was greatly disappointed to come up short, I did receive a lot of praise and exposure, which already has earned me a commissioned artwork gig. Would I consider entering more contests in the future? Sure! But never any contest that requires me to panhandle for votes during such a long span of time.