Expand your existing promotional products business with incentive programs

Employee turnover is expensive—costing as much as six to nine months’ salary in recruiting and training expenses according to the Society for Human Resource Management. That’s why successful companies know how important it is to keep employees engaged and motivated. Besides providing a great culture and good benefits, an important part of the employee engagement puzzle is an effective incentive program.

From the recruiting process, to onboarding and length-of-service programs, to wellness programs, thank-you gifts and job-well-done rewards, the opportunities are there for promotional products distributors to help their clients better engage their workforces. According to the Incentive Research Foundation, 75 percent of U.S. businesses use non-cash rewards and recognition to motivate and engage their workforce, spending more than $77 billion annually.

Brand-name products can be an especially effective way to recognize or incentivize employees, something that some distributors avoid due to a lack of knowledge. “Sometimes, I feel we make our channel more complicated than it needs to be; we talk about incentive programs or this program or that program, when it can be as simple as someone is looking for a nice gift and a brand name item would just work better,” says Gary Slavonic, president of Top Brands, Inc. (UPIC: topbrand) in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. “Just as it is in the traditional promotional products space, it’s important to align the branded product with the opportunity,” he adds.

Slavonic’s company recently participated in an event where the audience was comprised of women professionals, and the gifts handed out were Vera Bradley business card cases. “Certainly a traditional promotional product could have worked, but having a brand name item such as Vera Bradley to hand out to the recipients added to the overall quality of the experience,” he says. 

And don’t forget about the presentation of your product, says Jennifer McFadden, communications director at BAG MAKERS, Inc. (UPIC: BAGMAKRS). “If you aren’t talking about packaging, you are leaving money on the table.” She says that the easiest way to transform a product from a giveaway into a gift is to package it nicely. “You can use a printed gift bag with tissue paper, or wrap the giveaway and add ribbons and bows that are printed with your logo,” she adds.

Products For Any Program

Scully Briefcase web

This lambskin satchel briefcase from the Aero Squadron Collection has a padded center gusset with a removable laptop shuttle. The roomy rear gusset includes a 13-inch inside zip pocket. Carry the satchel in comfort with the removable and adjustable shoulder strap with a faux shearling pad. The cotton lining shows schematics of aircrafts.

Scully Leather UPIC: SCULLY www.scullyleather.com

wrist pedometer web

Stay on trend with a focus on fitness and wellness when you customize this silicone wrist pedometer for your next marketing campaign. Both a watch and a pedometer that can record steps, calories burned and distance, the pedometer comes with batteries included and is packaged in a white gift box. These wristbands are great for marathons, gyms, and reward and wellness programs.

Essef Distributors UPIC: 7414140 www.lincolnline.com

Bluetooth Speaker web

The RoxBox™ Duet Bluetooth Speaker is a sleek and slender speaker that can fit into virtually any space. It turns any mobile device into a portable sound system with a built-in subwoofer that provides exceptional quality sound. This speaker allows you to use it as a hands-free phone and is perfect for conference calls. Make your client’s logo multicolor with TruColor™ imprint.

Starline UPIC: STAR0009 www.starline.com

Solar Charger web

Charge multiple devices on the go with this portable, water-resistant solar powered charger. The shockproof 8000 mAh power bank features a LED torch light, dual USB output, indicator lights to show battery level and carabiner that can attach to your backpack, purse or bag. Its silicone shell makes it shatter resistant and perfect for outdoor activities.

Makana Line UPIC: MAKANA www.makanaline.com


Gallery Tray web

The 13.5-inch pewter gallery tray is the perfect piece for gifts, awards or recognition. Handcrafted in the U.S. by local metal crafters, the mirror finish makes it ideal for engraved logos, sentiments, years of service or award details. The optional addition of a diamond-tipped engraving pen allows you to make the award or gift extra-special by giving you the ability to sign the piece or add many personal messages.

Salisbury, Inc. UPIC: SALPEWTR www.salisburyinc.net

Proximity Watch webSunrise watch web

Powered by light, the Eco-Drive Proximity is a smarter watch for tech-savvy consumers. With Bluetooth compatibility to iOS and Android, it has a perpetual calendar chronograph, dual time, alarm, power reserve, light level indicator, time and date sync. Additional capabilities include phone search/filter and visual/vibration alerts. For women, the Citizen L Sunrise watch features soft gradient dials draped with seven diamonds and three additional diamonds floating along the bezel. Other features include a stainless steel case and bracelet, white mother-of-pearl dial with blue gradation, sapphire crystal, a deployment clasp and water resistance up to 50 meters.

Citizen Watch Company of America UPIC: CITIZEN www.citizenwatch.com

Fujifilm Intax Share Printer

Wirelessly transfer photographic images from any iOS or Android smartphone for instant prints in seconds with the Fujifilm Instax SHARE™ smartphone printer. This little printer produces two- by three-inch instant prints on the spot. Special features include multiple prints of the same photo, a black and white photo option and special messaging options on each print. Includes a 20-exposure pack of film, lithium batteries and photo album.

Indigo UPIC: INDIGO www.indigowatch.com

The Bose SoundLink Mini Bluetooth Speaker web

Small and compact, the Bose SoundLink Mini Bluetooth Speaker gives big sound with deep bass for a full-range listening experience. A built-in speaker phone allows you to take calls out loud with clear sound. The rechargeable battery plays up to 10 hours and charges with most USB power sources. Choose from carbon and pearl.

Beacon Promotions UPIC: BEACONP www.beaconpromotions.com

special blend blanket web

This warm and cozy 58- by 84-inch single-layer blanket is made from an eight-ounce cotton/polyester fleece special blend. Colors include carbon, nickel, black, midnight blue, Pacific blue, pomegranate and sea green. A natural-colored draw cord with an antique-finish metal tip is included with each blanket and can be tied around a rolled blanket.

Independent Trading Co. UPIC: Trading www.independenttrading.com

Everest_Black web

Once you’ve found the right gift, make sure to pick the right packaging. The Everest Reverse Trapezoid™ Eurotote is a 157 GSM premium weight matte laminated bag with matching 16-inch macramé handles, a reinforced fold-over top and a cardboard bottom insert.

BAG MAKERS, Inc. UPIC: BAGMAKRS www.bagmakersinc.com


Lamzac Carrying_Case_Only webLamzac_lifestyle3 web

Create the instant comfort of a sofa virtually anywhere. Lamzac™ the Original easily inflates with a few swings in the air. Then, once deflated, it rolls up and fits into a handy carrying case. Take it on a trip or just lounge by the pool.

Fatboy UPIC: F620443 www.fatboyusa.com

Incentives In Action

Q&A with Johanna Gottlieb, senior branding specialist, Axis Promotions

Johanna Gottlieb Headshot preferredHow are generational differences affecting the types of premium and incentive products you suggest to your clients? When I started at Axis (10-and-a-half years ago) I sold a lot of padfolios. It was a great item and a staple piece; it still is. However, the world has changed. We live in a world of startups and where the tech industry is booming. Many people do not wear suits and ties to work these days. Many go to work in jeans. We have to cater to current audiences. Sometimes selling a hoodie is more relevant than a padfolio. If someone is set on a padfolio, I like to suggest that it include an iPad holder in it so it is functional for many audiences.

What are some current trends you are seeing in the premium and incentives space? A bigger trend we are seeing is not about product but more towards how we work. Our clients want lower quantities and they want them faster. Everything is on demand these days. People want and expect instant service.

Can you give an example of a successful program you’ve been a part of recently? Axis was recently part of the rebrand for TIAA, a 98-year-old financial services company. One of the most memorable projects was producing hundreds of custom Vineyard Vines ties, bow ties and scarves with new branding. They turned out beautifully and CEO Roger W. Ferguson, Jr. has worn the ties during interviews on CNBC.

Do you have any tips for small distributors just entering into this arena? All that trends in retail and fashion makes its way to the promo world. Keep your eye on what is trending in retail to be one step ahead of the game for your client. Be aware of what colors are hot in fashion and the latest styles in bags.

Promotional Or Brand-Name Product?

Choose A Promotional Product:

  • To convey a message
  • To reinforce the brand name and generate awareness
  • To bring a theme to life in a clever way with a target audience
  • When a goal is to get someone to an event—having the event name on the gift increases response rates

Choose A Brand-Name Product:

  • To motivate people to do something
  • When a primary goal is to have awards and recognition with high-perceived value
  • If you want people to share the recognition with their family and friends
  • When the budget supports a higher price
  • When being associated with brands will reinforce the brand of the sponsor company

Source: Incentive Marketing Association

Want to learn more? Check out the on-demand webinar, “Expo 2016: Incentives 101: An Overview For Promotional Products Professionals,” by Sean Roark, CPIM, vice president of Spring, Texas-based distributor PromoPros at PPAI.org/education.

Julie Richie is associate editor for PPB.