With consumers becoming increasingly bored with, cynical or indifferent towards advertising, engaging your customers in a unique way is important to building a good relationship with them. A growing trend in retail is ‘playsumerism’, a type of consumerism that focuses on offering customers something more. Something more than the usual, the expected, the uninvolved. Brands engaging in playsumerism put together campaigns that offer customers life-enhancing experiences, ones that are fun, engaging, unique, surprising, off-beat, or even challenging.

Consumers enjoy a challenge

One particular approach to playsumerism is ‘sweat equity’, which is where a company creates a campaign or activity that requires real participation on the part of consumers. For such campaigns the public are invited to take action, such as engage in physical or mental exertion, collaborate with others, or take on some sort of other task like a dare.

Here are a few examples of companies that have engaged in successful sweat equity campaigns:

Russian Olympic Committee

In November 2013, as a lead up to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, the Russian Olympic Committee installed a ticket machine in a Moscow subway that allowed commuters to pay for their ticket by doing 30 squats within two minutes. You did the squats in front of the machine’s camera, and once completed you were issued with your ticket.

This is a great example of sweat equity, as one will literally sweat, having a fun and challenging experience to boot.


In 2013 Mattel, the American toy manufacturer, offered free Wi-Fi to Parisian consumers who played its online Scrabble game in certain areas of the city. Your score determined the number of free minutes you were awarded.


Milka’s 2013 Dare to be Tender campaign saw the company install a vending machine in a public square in Argentina that dispensed free chocolate whenever you placed a hand on the machine and also one on the brand’s purple cow placed nearby. The catch was that the cow was too far away for one person to touch both, so people had to engage with others – perhaps strangers – to form a human chain and so touch each pad at the same time. Every time a chocolate was given, the cow would move a little further away.

The sweat equity here is participation in a quirky, fun, collaborative affair. And the reward of a chocolate is a universally appealing motivator!

Sweat equity can, as seen in the examples above, be offered both on- and offline. However if done offline, be sure to get photos or videos you can use online to promote the campaign and your brand.

The reasoning behind Sweat Equity

The ostensible (and promotable) motivation behind sweat equity endeavours is the creation of a fun experience. Consumers like being given the opportunity to engage in the once-off, the amusing, the oddball, the challenging, and the collaborative.

Other goals – the ones that make such campaigns worthwhile to business – are, among others:

  • the establishment of positive brand-consumer connections,
  • the accrual of participant info (e.g. contact details), and
  • promotion of the brand.

When consumers are given the chance to properly or meaningfully impact or engage with a product or service, they’re afforded a real sense of connection with the brand. Participants will moreover often relate the story of their sweat equity experience to others, organically increasing brand awareness. This can also lead to an improvement in brand sentiment and enhanced brand status.

Case study: Varsity College Challenge Accepted

In 2013 we at DigitLab pitched the idea to Varsity College (a nationwide tertiary education institution in South Africa) of a Challenge Accepted campaign. A consummate sweat equity idea, the campaign invited prospective students to take part in various fun – and quirky – dares in order to win a prize.

The way the competition worked: individuals could undertake any of a number of dares listed on the website, each of which they must record on their mobile phones. The difficulty of each dare was reflected in the number of points attached to it: easy dares earned you 10 points, medium ones 20 points, and the most challenging ones 30 points. You only earned points once each dare had been uploaded onto your social media profiles. A real-time Leader Board on the Varsity College home page allowed everyone to track their own scores as well as those of other competitors.

Good sweat equity campaigns offer a really great prize – especially if they require much exertion or effort – and the winner of the Challenge Accepted competition was promised a R100,000 bursary. Participants therefore felt encouraged to spend what was a good deal of time and energy to complete the dares.

Jump on the sweaty bandwagon

The obvious question at this point is…

What opportunities are there for your company to offer its customers sweat equity?

Analyse the demographics of your clientele so you can work out what sort of challenge would appeal to them most: showing off their mental prowess? flexing some muscle? engaging in a community-building activity? taking part in something zany?

These are the days of imagination, innovation and celebrating the alternative, so don’t be scared to think out of the box – in fact, it’s a requirement! This is the chance to have some fun, both in house and ‘out house’, and who knows – your sweat equity campaign could be the very thing to make your site go viral.