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Sweepstakes, as opposed to lotteries, require that no purchase is necessary. With the Reese's sweepstakes, you may not know that until after you've bought the candy. Stock photo
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Sweet sweepstakes could leave a sour taste

Score one for consumers, as another of the big guys messes up.

It seems Reese’s (the fun folks who claim to have married chocolate and peanut butter) violated a bunch of laws with its new sweepstakes on two-packs of peanut butter cups.

The packages read, “You could win $25,000,” and in smaller print, “See details inside.” The details inside include the fine print, “No purchase is necessary to enter the sweepstakes.”

Governed by state laws, sweepstakes require no purchase is necessary to participate. A contest requiring a purchase is a lottery, with different rules.

Reese’s owner, Hershey, says its website contains full promotion details, and some packages have QR codes for more information. The company also says there are display signs showing how to enter without making a purchase. Reporters spot-checking Hershey packaging and displays around the country found neither signage nor QR codes.


This seems to be a pretty compelling reason to have government regulation and oversight. Because, though I love Hershey’s products, the fact is their packaging for this effort is deceptive and suggests to consumers that they have to buy the merchandise to enter this sweepstakes.

In fact, just the opposite is true.

I share this story today because you, too, may be considering running a drawing, contest or sweepstakes to help promote your business. If so, you should know that there are a lot of rules and regulations that you’ll have to follow. Some are state guidelines, others federal. Some are simple, others complex.

You’re not allowed to selectively choose which ones you’ll follow. Sorry.

Sales promotions can do great things for any business, acting as a short-term boost to generate visibility, traffic and sales. But in addition to economic considerations and having the right offer for your audience, the key to making any sales promotion successful is knowing how the rules work and structuring your efforts to stay within the guardrails.

Because despite whatever you may have previously heard, there is such a thing as bad publicity. And the last thing you need is to have some consumer advocate publicly calling for you to have a massive recall because the type on your package isn’t big enough or in the right place.

With that said, I wish you a week of profitable marketing.

Get your details straight at

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