Optimal design of consumer contests

De Liu, Xianjun Geng, Andrew B. Whinston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


A consumer contest is a sales promotion technique that requires participants to apply certain skills as they compete for prizes or awards. This article is the first to employ a game-theoretical approach to investigate consumer contest design issues, including prize structure, segmentation, and handicapping. First, the authors find that both skill distribution and the number of contestants play an important role in determining the optimal prize structure in consumer contests. Specifically, if the skill distribution has the increasing hazard-rate property, it is optimal for a marketer to use a winner-take-all design. In large contests, for the winner-take-all approach to be optimal, it suffices to have the increasing hazard-rate property only at the high end of the skill distribution. Second, increasing contest size is beneficial to the marketer. Third, a less dispersive skill distribution leads to higher consumption by consumers at all skill levels and thus is beneficial to the marketer. The marketer may achieve less dispersive skill distributions by (1) segmenting or screening contestants according to their skill levels and (2) adopting a performance evaluation scheme that handicaps high-skilled contestants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)140-155
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Marketing
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2007


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