Spare No Expense


Luxury never goes out of style. Savvy marketing professionals understand this and know that there are times when a traditional promotional product may not fit the bill. Brand-name premium merchandise may better express appreciation, recognize excellence and encourage employee behaviors to improve safety, attendance or productivity.

Incentive and recognition programs can be a vital addition to a distributor’s arsenal, better positioning them as a full-service partner who can provide solutions outside of promotional programs. In addition, they are often a dependable source of income due to the likelihood of multi-year renewals.

Although the correlation between rewards and performance is widely accepted, conventional wisdom for years has identified cash as the most compelling incentive. However, there is increasing evidence that tangible non-cash prizes are more effective than money. In its Award Program Value and Evidence white paper published in April, the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) examined the psychological reasons for this surprising finding.

Since money is closely aligned with pay, cash recipients normally use their gift for utilitarian purchases such as groceries, which fails to create a lasting emotional response. Tangible gifts—particularly if they are luxury items—are subliminally perceived to be more thoughtful and more meaningful. Chosen correctly, they are highly-coveted, decadent items that would normally be considered a splurge for the recipient.

“For premiums or corporate gifting, the idea is to give someone something they would really appreciate and would not necessarily go out and purchase on their own—something aspirational,” says Gary Slavonic, president of supplier Top Brands, Inc. (PPAI 113144). “The need for a corporate logo decreases because the brand name of the product is so appealing.”

The IRF paper also concluded that tangible gifts provide more status, ongoing recognition and positive reinforcement for the recipient—a phenomenon known as “trophy value.” 

“There is a trend nowadays toward personalization,” says Adrienne Forrest, vice president of corporate sales for supplier Bulova (PPAI 133171). “Recipients are looking for unique experiences and ways in which to make their gifts special and memorable. For example, we offer sizing of our watches onsite for added excitement.”

Premiums are also on the rise as high-end marketing tools. Eileen Lucky, promotional department supervisor for supplier Picnic Time Family of Brands (PPAI 143980), says, “We’re seeing an upswing in consumer willingness to pay more for a higher quality product. I’ve been told by various distributors that their clients are paying close attention to retail brands because they can be assured that the items will provide a more complete experience than a traditional promotional giveaway.”


10 Trends That Are Influencing The Rewards And Incentives Marketplace 

1. Corporate brand, culture and reputation are increasingly important to employees and customers.

2. The positive economic outlook will continue to drive consolidation and business spending.

3. Regulatory issues will require more resources.

4. Costs, particularly in travel, are rising.

5. Employee safety and data risk management are top of mind.

6.  Predictive analytics will be increasingly utilized.

7. Wellness, health and anti-anxiety programs are expected and desired.

8.  Unique vacation destinations are in demand.

9. Recipients want meaningful (personalized, of unique origin) gifts and incentives.

10. 10  Gift card use is growing in popularity.


Case Studies

A Cheeky Promotion
The Northwest Promotional Marketing Association (NWPMA) was hosting a weekend retreat for board members to plan and organize upcoming events. Each board member received a plush robe to be used on the retreat and back at home. The robes are soft, lightweight and luxurious, and ideal for both men and women.
Source: Pro Towels





A Box That Ticks All The Boxes
To celebrate its upcoming 10-year anniversary, a client wanted to send upscale gifts to board members and high-profile customers. Distributor Axis Promotions recommended champagne and chocolate truffles decoratively packaged in a wooden crate. Rather than branding the items directly, the truffle boxes were adorned with custom belly bands, and hang tags featuring personalized notes from the CEO thanking recipients for their part in getting the business to its milestone moment were placed on the champagne bottles.
Source: Axis Promotions



A Whale Of A Promotion
TIAA, a Fortune 100 financial services provider, was going through the process of a rebrand. The company asked Axis Promotions for help perfecting its new logo on branded merchandise.
For its new brand launch, the CMO requested a large order of hundreds of Vineyard Vines ties, bow ties and scarves incorporating the new logo. Axis worked with Vineyard Vines to create these unique and stylish apparel items. They were so well received that TIAA added the pieces to its company store program. In addition, CEO Roger Ferguson has worn the ties during interviews on CNBC.
Source: Axis Promotions 



Terry Ramsay is associate editor of PPB.

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