Editor's Picks: Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Roman Samborskyi / Lana Veshta / Shutterstock.com

 

From gift cards to luxurious pens, premium merchandise and reward programs demonstrate an appreciation for excellence without having to say a word. According to the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), 34 percent of incentive programs, including corporate gifts, wellness programs and loyalty programs, continue to operate with minimal or no changes to budget despite companies dramatically cutting costs in the face of the pandemic.

Incentive programs create positive economic value for businesses apart from “soft” outcomes such as engagement, morale and loyalty. While industry companies look for ways to bounce back during the pandemic, employers should refocus recognition programs to help drive recovery.

Within a business improvement strategy, incentive programs are one of very few tactics that offer a direct correlation between costs and outcomes. According to the IRF, 75 percent of U.S. businesses use non-cash rewards and recognition to motivate and engage their workforce, spending more than $77 billion annually.

According to PPAI Research, almost eight percent of annual industry promotional product sales are related to employee recognition programs, more than five percent are for customer incentives and four percent are for employee incentives.

Support of incentive programs has increased significantly among top-performing companies, according to IRF’s “The 2020 Top Performer Study.” Top-performing companies, which are identified as companies that saw more than a five-percent growth in sales over the past year, reported major increases in “excellent ratings” in key areas such as participation (81 percent), alignment to corporate goals (54 percent), manager buy-in (52 percent), budget (26 percent) and executive support (29 percent).

During difficult times, employees need to feel appreciated more than ever, and incentive programs can help lift the mood. IRF’s report found that incentive programs change behavior, leading to greater perseverance at work. When people find a reward more psychologically attractive, the report explained, they want it more, so they are motivated to work harder to attain it. This emotional attachment leads to a behavioral change: employees enjoy being recognized with a tangible reward for their performance, so they continue to work harder for it and, as a result, performance increases.

Research shows that tangible, non-cash prizes are more effective than money. In its Award Program Value and Evidence whitepaper published in 2018, the IRF examined the reasons behind this, and found that recipients typically use money for utilitarian purchases such as groceries, which fails to create a lasting emotional response. Non-cash rewards feel more like gifts and are inherently more social in nature, inciting feelings of appreciation rather than entitlement.

A preference for cash is also negatively correlated with the reward-earner’s salary: the more people earn, the greater their preference for tangible, non-cash rewards, especially experiences, including travel and merchandise they would consider a splurge. Tangible gifts, particularly if they are luxury items, are perceived to be more thoughtful and more meaningful. If chosen correctly, highly coveted, decadent items are ideal ways to honor and motivate recipients.

Logoed brand-name merchandise and electronics remain the most common rewards for corporate respondents, given by 76 percent and 67 percent of companies, respectively, according to a study. Electronics and sunglasses are the most popular items given by third-party providers, and the average merchandise reward value is $160, according to IRF's “Industry Outlook for 2020: Merchandise, Gift Card and Event Gifting.”

Tangible rewards shouldn’t be given at random, but for a specific behavior or accomplishment. Gift cards from exclusively online retailers, like Amazon, were the most popular type of gift cards last year (65 percent), ahead of coffee (61 percent), the most popular type of gift cards given in 2018. An explicit “thank you” maximizes appreciation while most recognition comes with no tangible rewards. Consistent verbal thank-yous, notes, peer recognition, etc., are imperative to effectively engage individuals.

Employee engagement is crucial to businesses and also enhances employees’ personal well-being. Recognition is so important that nearly 80 percent of employees who quit their jobs do so mainly because of a lack of appreciation in their workplace, according to research by O.C. Tanner. Nearly 95 percent of employees who report being happiest at work say that their managers excel at giving feedback and recognition, according to a Gallup poll.

In June, the U.S. unemployment rate declined to 11.1 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, from 14.7 percent in April. With employee turnover costing as much as six to nine months’ salary in recruiting and training expenses, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, showing employees they are valued couldn’t be more vital.

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With some states reinstating stay-at-home orders, connecting with end users and clients while they work from home is a constant challenge. According to data from the U.S. Postal Service, 98 percent of people check their mailboxes daily. Instead of making another call or sending another email, marketers should rely on what 69 percent of people say is more personal than the internet: the mail. Distributors can utilize direct mail campaigns to deliver promotional items to employees, virtual event attendees and end users.

In July, the United States Postal Service, ravaged by the coronavirus, appealed to Congress for an $89 billion bailout. The recent plummet in mail volume, down nearly a third compared to this time last year, presents a unique opportunity for marketers as the competition in the mailbox disappears. According to the American Marketing Association, the volume of mail going through the USPS decreased by almost 30 percent between 2006 and 2017. But according to the Data and Marketing Association’s “2017 Response Rate Report,” response rates to direct mail marketing have significantly increased despite the decrease in mail volume.

Although digital purchasing has risen, about a third of U.S. adults are still making purchases through direct mail and catalogs. With more people responding to marketing messages received through the mail, the effectiveness of direct mail marketing is attributed to the design of the mailed item. If a recipient feels they are being marketed to as a collective or if the item looks “spammy,” they will be more likely to throw it away. However, if the direct mail piece looks like a genuine letter from a brand that personally addresses them, and sincerely seems to know their wants and needs, then end users can begin to feel like they have a personal relationship with the brand or client.

For example, distributor Run2Promotions created this promotional box to recognize and congratulate high school scholar athletes in the state of Ohio. Formerly an in-person event, this year’s event went virtual, and the ceremony was broadcast on July 11 where the scholar athletes were announced. Each student received a box with a video congratulations from former football running back Archie Griffin and a custom, personalized molded medal on a full-color ribbon. A video screen was mounted on the inside cover of the box, and the box also contained a yard sign and a gender-specific event poster. Premium items with sponsored logos such as a power strip, a four-port hub charging cable and a mask completed the gift.

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The Muggo Mug keeps your coffee at just the right temperature, anywhere from 95 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, until the very last drop. With LED display lights and touch technology, the Muggo is simple to use. Muggo has a revolutionary, magnetic, detachable battery that keeps the heating element warm for four hours. There is also a convenient charging coaster with a USB port that can be used in an office or at home. Set the Muggo on its coaster to keep it fully charged and warm for hours. The battery module is detachable and can be charged separately.

Powerplay Incentives  /  PPAI 746472, S4  /  www.powerplayretail.com

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For those who love capturing memories through photos, this Aura digital photo frame with rose-gold trim displays pictures directly from a phone. The high-resolution screen across the 9.7-inch display means the details from the digital files won’t be lost, and facial recognition will help create albums featuring the same people. The Aura connects people around the world through a brilliant photo sharing experience. Snap, share and display pictures through the easy-to-use app and beautifully designed Wi-Fi frame. Aura is a high-end, handcrafted product with a superior quality display and unrivaled smart features.   

Powerplay Incentives  /  PPAI 746472, S4  /  www.powerplayretail.com

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Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 deliver everything end users expect along with a few unexpected features. Access Google Assistant with the simple tap of a button or access the world of Amazon just by saying, “Alexa.” This unrivaled microphone system hears your commands with unmatched accuracy and makes your voice sound crystal clear on calls—even in noisy environments. Choose from 11 levels of noise cancellation that range from eliminating noise to ambient sounds that are so convincing it's like you're not wearing headphones at all.

Incentive Concepts  /  PPAI 212912, S10 /  www.incentiveconcepts.com

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The Broil King REGAL™ Pellet 500 Smoker and Grill is ready for hosting, with 625 square inches of primary cooking surface, 200 square inches of secondary cooking surface and heavy-duty cast-iron cooking grids. The Wi-Fi and Bluetooth®-enabled digital controller provides enhanced temperature control to smoke, roast or sear, and the controller display panel is easy to read while grilling. This product comes fully equipped with a powerful auger, 22-pound capacity pellet hopper, removable grease management system, unique ash management system, deluxe rotisserie kit, two electronic meat probes, base storage and side shelf.

Incentive Concepts  /  PPAI 212912, S10  /  www.incentiveconcepts.com

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For your next incentive program, reward your employees for their hard work with this fun and funky Instamax Mini 11 camera. With a selfie mirror and adjustable lens for close-up shots and selfies, this sleek camera with a new body style is the perfect companion. This camera has a simple operation for instant pictures with automatic film feed-out that automatically calculates brightness and adjusts shutter speed accordingly. The flash ranges up to nine feet and includes two AA alkaline batteries, a wrist strap and a one-year limited warranty.

FUJIFILM North American Corporation  /  PPAI 274752, S10  /  www.fujifilm.com

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Be prepared for your next outdoor event with the Bluetooth BEAST Rolling Cooler. This cooler has two speakers, a detachable trolley and a rechargeable Bluetooth power pack that lasts up to four hours. With a large leak-proof removable liner and a thermal foil-insulated compartment, your food and beverages will remain cold for hours. Stuff snacks in the thermal-insulated front and side pockets for additional storage with easy access to the top panel and bottle opener. Although this cooler has heavy duty, all-terrain wheels and an extra-long handle that extends to 36 inches, it can also be removed from the trolley, carried by the shoulder strap and folded flat. Holding up to 48 cans, this cooler will be the hit of any get-together.

Picnic Plus  /  PPAI 240870, S4  /  www.picnicpromo.com

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Looking for a gift that will stand out? This Nava Cheese Board Set with Gourmet Cheese Tools will elevate any meal and dining room table. Available in black or green marble, this large, rectangular, acacia wood cheese board with brass inlay and a black marble insert makes for a stunning presentation of cheeses, meats, appetizers or desserts. The hidden slide storage drawer houses three full-sized matching gold-tone gourmet cheese tools.

Picnic Plus  /  PPAI 240870, S4  /  www.picnicpromo.com

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Forget rummaging around in a disorganized toolkit—the Leatherman® WAVE®+ has every tool you could possibly need while easily fitting into your pocket. The WAVE+ features 18 tools and includes a nylon sheath. This best-selling multi-tool even adds replaceable wire cutters and is made of durable, premium stainless steel. Recipients will appreciate this reliable gift when solving life’s little problems.

BIC Graphic NA  /  PPAI 114187, S13  /  www.bicgraphic.com

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Give recipients a gift they will want to use every day. This classic two-piece Leather Roller Pen is simple luxury that can easily go with any campaign. Complete with a velvet-lined, two-piece black gift box, this pen has a leather barrel and a polished chrome-plated cap with laser-engraved imprint.

BIC Graphic NA  /  PPAI 114187, S13  /  www.bicgraphic.com

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For a no-spill experience that’s perfect for sipping on the go, the Contigo Luxe 24-ounce Tumbler is the perfect cup for clients to promote their brand or logo. The insulated tumbler has a fully sealed lid, and the straw has an inner valve to ensure liquids won't spill even if the tumbler is accidentally tipped or dropped. With a double-wall vacuum insulation, drinks will stay cold for up to 18 hours. This cup perfectly fits in most car cup holders, cleans easily and is top-rack dishwasher-safe. Choose from colors Biscay Bay and licorice (shown). This cup is BPA-free and comes with a limited lifetime guarantee.

Coleman Company  /  PPAI 272552, S4  /  www.coleman.com

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The HEX Technical Messenger is the perfect workbag. With a front flap that includes an easily accessible, zippered pocket with access to the main compartment and the front organizer pocket—an added safety component—end users will have no worries about carrying around their belongings. At the top of the bag, there is a zippered pocket to store smaller items, such as a wireless power bank, phone or sunglasses. The adjustable shoulder straps also have hidden Velcro® stash pockets where the shoulder strap meets the bag. The spacious interior contains a 15-inch padded, faux fur-lined laptop sleeve, and all exterior buckles are metal. The interior lining is 100-percent recycled polyester, and the exterior shell material is infused with HEX anti-microbial technology to repel the transfer of bacteria. Lastly, the bag’s zippers are built to last: YKK EYL Woven zippers provide 15 times the abrasion resistance compared to common coil YKK zippers.

HEX  /  PPAI 709117, S1  /  www.hexbrand.com

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This dazzling and feminine classic, the Kendra Scott Ari Heart Gold Pendant Necklace in gold iridescent drusy will surely stand out on any wearer. With an asymmetrical heart accent in fine rock crystals, this gold pendant necklace is made to be a one‐of‐a‐kind accent piece that can be worn every day.

Stark Enterprises, Inc. /  PPAI 521359, S2  /  www.starkpremium.com

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Samsonite's Opto PC Hardside Carry On combines scratch-resistant textures with lightweight 100-percent polycarbonate construction, ensuring the luggage looks as great on the 100th trip as it does on the first. This line offers heavyweight protection riding on effortless 360-degree spinner wheels. TSA locks are included. Available in five colors, shown in electric blue.

Samsonite / PPAI 348999, S1 / www.samsonitespecialmarkets.com

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Kristina Valdez is associate editor of PPB.

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Comments (1)
Swire Ho
September 17, 2020
During the pandemic we have experienced a increase of digital ads, sponsored message...etc, to the point that we are able to tune out of those messages automatically. However, snail mail is the new "cool". A lot of us are working from home for over 6 months now and some of us (myself included) have figured our mail schedule. Everyday we will look forward to receive our mail & packages. It could be a new sample or catalog sent by our suppliers, or a nice care package from a virtual event we have just signed up.
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