Hi. New here? Click to learn about us

Promotional Products for Motivation

By Bruce Bolger and Richard Kern

Keeping your employees happy, healthy and productive is essential in today's "what-have-you-done-for-me-lately?" environment. Still, maybe you're a little gun-shy about mounting a full-scale incentive program – setting goals, selecting product, doing promotion, handling fulfillment, etc.

Well, guess what? Your promotional products counselor can do all this for you! Here's how companies like yours are using merchandise to motivate and manage better.

Despite the supposed allure of cash bonuses, a study by the Incentive Federation found that incentive users overwhelmingly prefer tangible awards. Sixty percent said merchandise and travel are more helpful than cash in creating an incentive program, and more than two-thirds feel these kinds of awards are remembered longer. Most believe that people prefer merchandise or travel because it's something they wouldn't get for themselves; 65% believe they can build a more exciting and memorable program around travel and merchandise than cash.

Why are we telling you this? With the high cost of replacing an employee these days, it's more important than ever to hang on to your best people – as well as keep them productive. And if you've shied away from incentive programs because they seem too complex and cumbersome, you should know that you've got an ally who can help you tackle this tough but essential task: your friendly neighborhood promotional products counselor.

What Are Incentives For?
Incentive programs have broad application; 82% of respondents to the Incentive Federation survey say they use them to motivate salespeople; 66% for consumer promotions; 61% for non-sales recognition; and 48% for resellers. Specifically, incentive users cited the following objectives as those most often associated with programs they've implemented:
  • Increase sales
  • Build morale
  • Gain larger share of market
  • Build customer loyalty
  • Promote better service
  • Increase employee loyalty
  • Open new markets
  • Foster teamwork
  • Promote safety
  • Develop referrals
  • Obtain ideas/suggestions
  • Improve attendance
  • Apparel Tops the List
As an indicator of the overlap between incentives and promotional products, apparel tops the list of merchandise used in incentive programs, followed by plaques/trophies, gift certificates, writing instruments, watches/clocks, desk accessories, electronics, food/beverages, sporting goods and computers and accessories – all of which are "business as usual" for promotional products counselors.

And what about incentive travel? Almost every meeting and incentive travel program is an opportunity for an affiliated promotional products program, and many of the same decision-making groups get involved with both.

Here's how five companies are successfully using merchandise incentives to motivate employees/customers and build business:

Rolls-Royce Corporation: Stores And Services
Clay Clark, manager of office services for Rolls-Royce's Indianapolis-based airplane, helicopter and military engine manufacturing facility, says the company is committed to attracting and retaining good employees, a job that gets harder every year. As part of that effort, the firm has developed a number of programs to provide employees extra benefits that help build pride and job satisfaction. One of these is the Rolls-Royce Company Store. It provides a corporate benefit that doesn't cost the company anything, and there's one in every facility.

Clark mostly stocks wearables, especially garments with the company logo, which are prized by employees and customers for casual Fridays. "You can't just give them a white T-shirt any more," he says, noting that much thought is devoted to the selection of even the smallest items. The stores also sell movie-ticket books and tickets for Indianapolis Pacers and Colts games, as well as postage stamps and greeting cards to save employees time.

Rolls-Royce offers several extras designed to improve productivity. For example, in cooperation with the Employee Services Management Association, it provides such on-site services as car washes, oil changes, and dry cleaning through the company Store.

Snap-On Tools: Recognition And Reward
Kristine Noble, human resources assistant of Snap-On Diagnostics of East Troy, WI, recognizes top performers with a monthly basket of gifts, from which they get to pick out a $25 gift certificate at a company get-together. They can choose from a variety of gift cards good at various stores.

Why doesn't Snap-On just give cash? "Aside from the tax implications of cash, this makes it more of a gift," says Noble, noting that it can't be used for mortgage payments or dental work, thus losing its staying power. "A basket full of stuff is more fun than money, It's exciting to get something in your hand ... It makes it more than just a thank-you. People know, ‘I won this!' If you get money, it's like you used it already. And our baskets are better than an award once a year." The gift cards are also used as awards at other events and as raffle prizes for the company recreation club.

Snap-On recently added a new line: clothing with the company's logo. At a recent company picnic, employees won clothing awards in a raffle. The firm also plans to sell the clothing items to its 5,000 dealers for use in their own awards programs, to re-sell to customers, or to offer as premiums.

For now, Snap-On isn't putting its new catalog on the Internet. Most of its production-line workers don't use a computer in their work, so the catalog will be mailed to their homes instead. But Noble looks forward to the day when more of them have home computers.

M&G Public Relations: Mail That Motivates
Yvonne Middleton, chairman of Middleton & Gendron Public Relations in New York, uses lots of premiums for impact – mostly in direct mail to motivate the media to give coverage to her clients. She also sends small items to travel agents and meeting planners to gain consideration for clients' destinations and properties. But the premium has to be something clever, catchy, original – a teaser. "We do use mugs and pens and other items," she says, "but basically we're always looking for clever, upscale items that fit a message."

Example: For a Mexican hotel promotion, she sent out the whole works – a bottle of tequila with special glasses on a Mexican tray. "We don't look for plastic premiums," Middleton says, adding that she constantly keeps an eye out for the right kind of items that can be adapted or customized by its in-house creative department. As for its own employees: "We have parties at the drop of a hat – no birthday, anniversary, or baby shower goes unnoticed."

Eveready Batteries: Catalogs And Customers
Joan Crawford is an Energizer Bunny Lady. As a project manager for St. Louis-based Eveready Battery Co., she's responsible for the internal merchandise catalog used to motivate every part of the company. Her "customers" are Eveready employees who buy mostly for business purposes, but also for themselves.

A manager will "buy" bunny lapel pins from the catalog for booth personnel to wear at a trade show. A salesperson might want a giant plush bunny for a new account. Someone in charge of a company event will buy Energizer T-shirts for everyone.

So close is Crawford's relationship with her counselor that if she tells him what her internal clients want and he doesn't think it's a good idea, he tells her without hesitation. If Crawford simply must have whatever it is anyway, he finds it.

What sells? Things with high-perceived value – especially items emblazoned with the Energizer bunny. "It's a brand thing," says Crawford. "It conveys who we are."

Staples: Teachers And Traffic
This past summer, Staples.com, the office superstore's online operation, unveiled a Web-based teacher registry to tap the back-to-school market. The registry allowed teachers to publish their list of "must-have" school supplies for parents and students, to buy either online from home or at special computer terminals in more than 900 Staples stores nationwide. The registry also let consumers print supply lists from the Web site that they could use when shopping at Staples' brick-and-mortar stores.

A key ingredient in luring teachers to register was a series of incentives communicated via direct mail. The program included: A first mailing explaining that teachers who registered at Staples.com would receive a basket of basic school supplies for their classroom.

The ability for participating teachers who registered to enter the Staples Teachers Sweepstakes for 100 prizes worth a total of $35,000, including $500 checks, $500 gift certificates and $250 worth of essential school supplies.

Teachers received a Staples Dollars credit of up to $50 for their classroom at the end of the back-to-school shopping season, plus a variety of other discounts when they purchased back-to-school items on the site. "The offers have done a really good job of driving qualified traffic to the site," says Debbie Hohler, a spokesperson for Staples.com. "The promotion has been working very well, and we've seen a lot of success based on the offers."

Tap Into The Expertise
If you're looking to set up a company store, reward/recognize top employees, increase your response from direct mail, drive traffic to your Web site, promote a safer workplace, or any of a hundred other goals related to incentives and motivation, call your counselor.

The many similarities between promotional products and incentives make them a perfect match – one that you can use to your advantage in today's hotly competitive labor market, binding your best people to the company by showing them you care.

COPYRIGHT © 2002 The Advertising Specialty Institute. All rights reserved.
Bruce Bolger is president of Selling Communications in Irvington, NY. Richard Kern is editor-in-chief of Imprint.

Search our Selection of Promotional Products - click here!