June 05, 2014
Case Study

Community Marketing: 1 million Instagram impressions via creative design contest

SUMMARY: When rebuilding a long-standing design contest for customers, Design Within Reach incorporated social media like never before. Hosting the contest on Instagram, the marketing team also wanted to engage consumers visually on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest.

The community-driven campaign saw 1 million impressions on the brand's Instagram profile, and increased followers by 32%.
by Courtney Eckerle, Manager of Editorial Content


According to Lauren Guerrieri, Social Media Manager, Design Within Reach, the brand's mission is to make authentic, modern design as accessible as its name suggests.

"We are very multichannel. We have our website and a call center, and we also have 40 Design Within Reach studios across the United States, Canada and Mexico," Guerrieri said.

Because of that, she added, social media plays an integral role across all departments.

Design Within Reach had been doing the "Champagne Chair Contest" for a number of years, encouraging customers to design a miniature chair using materials from no more than two champagne bottles. This was before digital and social media tools were prevalent, and Design Within Reach would have people physically send in their chair.

The contest was discontinued for a number of years, but was brought back in 2012. The most recent 2013-2014 campaign was a chance to incorporate all of the technology that had been absent from past campaigns.

"It was an opportunity to reboot the contest into how people were using social media today. It was an opportunity to make it easier and make it more effective," said Mark Simmons, Vice President of Marketing, Design Within Reach.

He added that heavily leaning on social media had the added benefit of entrants being able to share socially with friends without having them in the room constructing the champagne bottle chair together.

"We weren't necessarily sure if people were going to remember it, but it clearly made a huge impact on people, and they really came back and submitted it and talked about it and shared it," Guerrieri said.


Wanting to engage and interact with its audience in an innovative way, Design Within Reach challenged fans to participate in a unique campaign to prove not only their dedication to the brand, but also their creativity as individuals. The campaign ran from December 2013 through January 2014.

This contest fit the team's goal to constantly evolve and figure out how to leverage user-generated content, which Guerrieri said is a challenge for any brand.

"But for us, we continue to see our customers, our fans, our followers, anybody that aspires to buy from us, that they are really engaged and also willing to give their perspective and opinion. That's something that really excited us," she explained.

Design Within Reach encouraged fans to enter the Champagne Chair Contest, asking them to create and upload a photo of their own miniature chair, using only the foil, label, cage and cork from no more than two champagne bottles.

On the campaign's landing page, Design Within Reach was able to provide its fans with a way to submit photos for the contest via Instagram on their mobile phone or computer.

From there, the photos of entries were aggregated and displayed in a custom gallery on the campaign landing page. The team also used the opportunity to grow their email list through the campaign entry form.

Additionally, Design Within Reach received hundreds of unique and personally designed pieces of content to showcase to larger audiences and to share across marketing channels.

"We're blown away by how amazingly interesting and compelling and talented our designers are of the champagne chairs. And that is definitely something that we could celebrate this year and show off more than ever before," Simmons said.

Step #1. Don't just function on social media – manage and engage

The first rebooted contest ran in 2012 and was very effective, but "we knew we didn't really take advantage of all of the social aspects," Simmons said, explaining that the social aspects in 2012 were only functional — getting people to contribute and managing those submissions effectively.

For the 2013-2014 campaign, the marketing team was able to take advantage of the brand's social media platforms not just for functionality, but to really engage with the audience. This campaign, he added, was when the team was able to manage and promote content better through social media.

Customers submitted their entry on Instagram using #dwrchampagnechair, and the team was able to moderate and display the photos in a custom gallery on the campaign landing page.

"The promotion of the contest is really where you get the added benefit of people sharing to their friends, and to people who are also interested in these types of things, without having to force the communication," Simmons said.

Simmons said he considers this one of the biggest improvements made over the 2012 campaign, because the campaign lived longer and more organically on more platforms.

"One of the problems of social media is that it's just an instant, and … you can have that content live on and places for people to point to and look at and browse and enjoy them," he said.

A lot of people, he added, don't have the time or desire to participate, but by aggregating on the custom gallery and sharing across all the Design Within Reach platforms, all customers were able to participate without necessarily submitting a design.

Eliminate confusion

Having the campaign centralized in the gallery allowed the team to have the details and rules of the competition in one place, and clarified for fans.

"It's not a complicated contest, but it does have a lot of different portions to it. So we eliminated a lot of confusion, [and gave] clean rules and suggestions for how to make the chairs better," Simmons said.

Also, because the team was depending on photography to judge the competition, they really wanted to explain to people through the promotional assets how to take the best photo of their creation. The initial submissions were judged by the photography sent in, and only the finalists sent in their physical chairs.

"We don't want dark Instagrams, and a lot of people really understood that this year clearly," he said.

Design Within Reach is a visually aesthetic company, and being able to instruct fans on how to best photograph their chair is a useful asset, according to Kim Phillips, PR Manager, Design Within Reach.

"It really encourages them to participate and get more exposure as well," she said.

Step #2. Foster a cohesive community on all brand platforms

Encouraging the community aspect is vital, according to Guerrieri, because a lot of people don’t enter the contest, but are interested in sharing the contest content and enjoy following along.

"It's really a nice thing to look closely at the comments and see entrants talk to each other and say, 'Wow. I love your submission this year.' It's not crazy competitive. People really enjoy seeing what other people submit," Guerrieri said.

The campaign was mainly on Instagram, alongside the main contest page, but the team frequently posted on the brand's Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, the company blog and Pinterest pages. An email was also sent out to subscribers.

Design Within Reach has always put a strong focus on exploring in new visual spaces, and has a history being active on social media, Simmons said, but community is key.

"We were one of the first retailers to have a blog, back in 2006. We've had that ongoing, and so as we add other social channels, we're looking to make sure they all work together and connect, and that they're maximized for the audience that is there, and how we want to participate in that community," Simmons said.

While Instagram was the driver of this contest, "all the other channels are full of people who want to take part and participate in it," he added.

An aspect of that was taking the submissions coming in, and finding creative ways to share them on other platforms that encouraged interaction.

"Very likely, if you're engaged in one social media, you're engaged in more than one. So being able to get the word out and get people to communicate and talk about it was a big thing," Simmons said.

Keep up interest throughout the contest

Throughout the contest, the team was monitoring submissions and sharing the contest on all of the social media platforms, encouraging people to build their own chairs.

They were also sharing chairs that had been submitted, including ones that were the most "liked" by people. A New Year's message was also sent out regarding the contest so people could save their champagne bottles to use in the contest.

The message posted on Instagram read:
"As you and your guests ring in the New Year tonight, create a mini chair out of leftover champagne bottles. Snap a photo, tag it with #dwrchampagnechair and share it on Instagram. You'll be entered to a win a DWR Gift Card. Cheers! #champagne #dwr #celebrate #newyearseve #party"

The email also promoted the origins of the contest, which came about when Design Within Reach's founder, Rob Forbes, parlayed a champagne chair game he played with New Year's Eve guests into a public contest.

The team remained aware throughout the campaign that the more content they gathered this year, the more that content can be used next year to help encourage submissions.

Use the contest to grow the email list

A small goal of this campaign was to grow the Design Within Reach email list by capturing email addresses through the entry form.

The heart of this campaign, Simmons explained, was to "connect with our customers and our community. We know not everyone wants or needs to buy furniture all the time, but we have a good relationship with them, and we want to keep the dialogue going."

Keeping people engaged and interested, as well as driving email sign-ups, was a key point as well as securing more social followers.

Step #3. Give the contest real-world prestige

When Design Within Reach closed out the contest, the team had to pick the finalists, of which there were 20. This year, the judges chosen to pick the three winners had importance in the design world.

Two of the judges are real-world designers in furniture and lighting, David Weeks and Theo Richardson, and another is a top design writer and community member who wrote for The New York Times' KEY Magazine, Pilar Viladas.

The three judges came to Design Within Reach headquarters and physically looked at all of the finalists, which the team was able to promote and use as a content piece at the conclusion of the contest.

"People really loved that part because they're respected people in the design community. So we were able to also really round out the contest in that way," Guerrieri said.

"[The judges] looked at all the finalists around the table, critiqued and suggested and discussed and voted. That was the offline process that then, we were able to publish and communicate to the audience and the fans who weren't in the room and let them share in it through social media," Simmons added.

Simmons said he believed it added sophistication and quality to the event that was really useful both in not offending any of the entrants, and in making the contest as prestigious as possible.

"I do think it added a level of integrity and interest to the judging, but it also just made it a lot more fun," he said, adding that because "these are famous designers walking in, looking at these designs, and being blown away by the innovation of the people who submitted, the finalists, and all the entries."


"From a relationship and communications with our customers standpoint, they seemed more engaged than ever before," Simmons said.

It also excited the team, and "everyone had ideas for things to do better, differently, [and] improve for next year," although this is the "best run and most effective" Champagne Chair Contest Design Within Reach has run yet.

Metrics garnered from this contest include:
  • 20 Champagne Chair Contest finalists

  • More than 710 photos submitted via Instagram

  • 415 individual chair submissions

  • During the campaign, nearly 1 million impressions were generated across Instagram via Design Within Reach related hashtags, an increase of 108%, compared to 18 days prior

  • Total brand Instagram follower count grew by 32% during the campaign

  • Engagement on Instagram with Design Within Reach grew 238% during this campaign, resulting in an increase of 9,700 interactions (comments and likes) on Design Within Reach related photos, compared to 18 days prior

"We see other brands and what they do, and a lot of contests are very simplified now,” Guerrieri said. "So it's always interesting to be a contest that's complex. The fact that we start that conversation throughout our channels and then it spreads … that's fusion for us."

Design Within Reach has 40 locations across the country in design neighborhoods and communities, Simmons said, so the latest question for the team was, "How do we take this to those audiences and get more participation and more excitement and engagement at the local level?"

"This is a national thing. Anyone around the country can participate, but it's a lot more fun when you do them with your friends and people in your neighborhood," Simmons said, adding that in the future, the team will try to find a way to mix personal, local interactions among fans alongside social media.

"How do you take a social media phenomenon and put it back in place with people around a table, sharing an experience? It's what we think is the next exciting thing," he concluded.

Creative Samples

  1. Contest main page

  2. Customer tweet

  3. New Year's Eve Instagram post

  4. Judges blog post


Design Within Reach


Related Resources

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