I was thinking about the concept of digi-prizes last month, during the annual Disney Sweepstakes, where you can enter online once a day for the entire month of February. There are four chances to win a vacation for four to Disney, and in the second year I've entered I haven't won yet!
But, that's not really the reason why I enter; rationally, I know that there isn't a snowball's chance in heck that I'll win, but I do like the "digi-prizes" they give you each day you enter. Shown here is the Sleeping Beauty Clock, which you download for either mac or pc as a zip file, and then it opens up on your desktop. It's cute and there's also a Muppets clock and a Pinnochio calculator.
Then, of course, there are also the lame-o prizes out of the 28 possible digi-prizes, like the three different versions of the Ratatouille recipe cards, or the 101 Dalmations photo frame (these are basically just .pdf files), but for the most part, seeing what I'd get when I entered each day was definitely an incentive to keep coming back.
In my adventures in Second Life, I've also collected "freebies" from various organizations and groups. For instance, my avatar has a Science Friday t-shirt you get on Science Friday Island when everyone gathers to listen to the show. I also have WWF virtual briefs and sweatpants.
So, my thought is this: Instead of sending umbrellas, plushies, or tote bags for memberships to Sierra Club or World Wildlife Fund, why not give people cool downloads? I think the generational gap between old school, tote bag-wanting members and new guard, iPhone application-using members has closed up significantly. Why not offer a desktop tool, like a clock, a computer game, or some other application? I really think the possibilities are endless, and it would save on landfill space, because we all know that's where the broken WWF umbrellas and Sierra Club plushies are going once we get bored with them.