Loosely defined, incentives are any program that rewards a desired behavior with cash, points or prizes. While many salary and executive bonus programs are classified as incentive programs, today I am going to focus on incentives where a prize is featured as a sales promotional tool. The prizes people work for, from most motivating to least motivational value, are: experiential prizes, travel rewards, branded gifts, trophies, gifts, and money.  Here are some reasons why some incentive programs pique our interest and how to make every incentive an experience.

Experiential Rewards

As humans, we fancy ourselves as unique individuals with no limits to our potential. We strive for a better existence and to be fully alive.  More than anything else, a shared experience excites us and lives on in our memories. We all fondly remember those best times of our life; that great family vacation, the wild concert weekend event or other fond memories. Different experiential rewards and expectations make up our individual internal incentives, and we are driven by a different set of stimuli. When creating an experiential reward promotion, research your target segment and what experience is most improtant for them. I developed a sweepstakes promotion targeting the Hawaii inter-island traveler. Research indicated that the top travel destination for our segment was Las Vegas.

Las Vegas Experience

Las Vegas Experience

It makes sense, when you live in paradise; where else would you need to go? Offering all-expense VIP trips to the coveted destination exceeded our expectations. Using a combination of advertising, public relations and special event marketing, word spread and nearly every local traveler signed up for our sweepstakes and an automatic free membership into our loyalty club. Involve people in the experience and they will transform your marketing campaign.

 

Travel Rewards

Travel is one of the best ways to transform your audience. Just the thought of taking us away from our familiar, day-to-day surroundings and placing us into our dream destination and sought-after experience, evokes our imagination and releases endorphins.  The popularity of airline and hotel loyalty travel rewards is testament to this desire. Customizing travel rewards motivates the target segment even more. A trip to the Superbowl for football fans, a  wine tour to the South of France for the gourmet cook or a trip to Las Vegas for the Hawaii local traveler, enhances the experiential value. A little research and psychographic data go a long way in creating a travel experience as a prize promotion.

 

Gift Cards

Creating an experience through a gift card promotion is a good way to enhance value in the mind of the customer. Mere money as a prize is not as exciting as receiving a gift card for an elegant restaurant dining experience, or a shopping spree to trendy retailer. With the right positioning, a gift card can transform your customer to the experiential level. With so many gift card options available, the opportunities to tap into the aspirations of different segments are almost limitless.  The beauty of the gift card is the monetary value is secondary to the experiential image you can create for people to take notice and reinforce their desire, whatever it may be.

Branded Gifts and Trophies

As humans we are impulsive and competitive. Have you ever participated in a “team building” event where people practically knock over co-workers to win a branded gift or trophy featuring the company logo. Setting up a competitive situation, even if your participants are competing with themselves to earn a coveted prize, makes a promotion exciting and motivating. Everyone loves the sensation of winning. What a great way to extend your brand message, too. Sourcing an ad specialty featuring your logo and awarding it as a prize or a type of trophy will increase response and contribute to building a positive affiliation with your brand.  Children especially love earning a prize. I have fond memories of the free gifts that came inside a product I pleaded with my Mom to buy.

MOM, Buy Me This!

MOM, Buy Me This!

Saving box tops to earn a free item that came specifically to me in the mail really made me feel special.  A lifetime of brand loyalty is established by perfectly tying together a prize that promotes a positive brand image, creating a fond experiential memory and  reinforcing the habit of repurchase. Same principle works for adults. After all, when it comes to free stuff, we’re all kids at heart.

Money as the Prize

The $600 Million Lottery jackpot does gets noticed. I have been known to participate in the office lottery pool and share with coworkers what each of us will do when we win. Alas, at least in my office, we are all losers when the numbers are announced. What a let down. It’s counter intuitive, but money as an incentive is not as popular as other prizes. Money is what we work for and when it’s gone, most of us don’t remember what we spent it on. It’s a means to an end. Like my office lottery pool experience, fantasizing about what the money will do to make feel fully alive, gets our attention. Fifty-thousand dollars for a kitchen makeover prize as part of a kitchen remodeling campaign, combines a monetary prize with the experience of transforming a dated, greasy kitchen as the incentive. While a large sum of money does get our attention, taking the extra step to transform us by creating a new future reality has increased motivational value.

 

Kevin Danaher

Kevin’s career spans over 30 years where he worked for New York Sales Promotion and Advertising agencies such as Ventura Associates, and BBDO developing promotional campaigns for some of the world’s leading brands including VISA, General Electric, Kraft/General Foods, Fidelity Investments, and Chrysler. Read More