It’s become common practice in the incentive industry for award and recognition companies to say that they are award neutral.  This should mean of course that they have no bias toward what award you use in your incentive and recognition programs.  Unfortunately for most of them that is completely untrue!  It’s like the politicians telling us anything they want us to hear; they always spin the story to their bias….always!  Do any of them ever tell you the whole truth?

Anyone selling awards has a bias toward what award they are trying to sell.

When you are trying to determine what recognition award to use, the best position you can be in is finding out what awards your employees really want, not what you think they want, or what an award company tells you they want, or frankly what you want them to have.

The success of award programs is often in direct proportion to the motivation appeal of the award that the participants can earn.  When it’s not what they want, they won’t do much to attain it.

So take the time to choose the right combination of awards.  The success of your program will depend on it.  Here’s a paper on What Incentive or Recognition Award to Use that will provide some good food for thought.

gift cards2

According to recent research on gift cards published by Incentive Magazine 97.6% of all incentive users reporting felt that gift cards were effective, very effective or extremely effective.  Actual research results were:

The diversity of today’s workforce demands something different from the same traditional merchandise awards that were used for their parents and grandparents.

Total Effectiveness of Gift Cards as Employee Awards  

% of Responses

Effective 17.6%
Very Effective 48.85%
Extremely Effective 31.2%

By any measure, gift cards are the most effective recognition award for two simple reasons:

  • They provide the greatest choice and value for the award winner
  • Unquestionably they give the client the most cost effective means to recognize performance

gift card generic

Gift cards as we know them started in the early 1980’s and actually started to be used in employee award programs only a few years after that.

The development of the gift card has been a blessing for anyone who wants to award and recognize employees.  If you think you can find the perfect award that fits every employee you can’t. Unless you only have a handful of employees, you won’t know each of them well enough to offer an award that suits them, at that time.

Employee award gift cards have grown in popularity faster than anything else in the award industry.  In the retail world the growth has been exponential.  In 2004 we spent $20 billion in gift cards and that has grown to over $100 billion annually.  Today it is hard to find company that doesn’t use gift cards somewhere in their recognition mix.

Gift cards have gone from being considered impersonal gifts to being the most thoughtful gift of all. The gift card is a sign of the times – tastes change quickly, options should remain open, and when you use gift cards for employee awards, you’ll always be giving them the award that they want.

Research shows that:

  • 93% of U.S. consumers purchase or receive a gift card annually
  • Consumers spend an average of $213/year on gift cards
  • 83% of corporations use gift & prepaid cards for employee incentives

Please let us know if you would like some strategies for including gift cards within your employee recognition or years of service programs.

mouse click

Today, low price is the name of the game.  Sales abound in virtually every product you see advertised and it is rare to find anyone who paid “retail” for anything.

If nobody wants to pay retail, isn’t it reasonable to assume that no one would want to be presented with a service award that was actually priced higher than retail?  Even as much as 100% or more than retail?  But it happens every day in the award industry.  Clients pay substantially more than retail for the traditional merchandise awards they purchase for their employee and recognition and service award programs. Shouldn’t the majority of your budget go to the employee?

We recently read on a service award vendor’s traditional merchandise site that “the price of the merchandise is known only to the buyer.”  Good thing, because if employees ever found out what their companies really paid for these traditional awards, there might be a rebellion.

But why hide the price?  Are you ashamed of what you paid, or is it that you feel the value you are showing is small in compared to the effort to achieve it?

With access to the internet, employees can easily determine the value of a traditional merchandise award.  You might as well post the price, as it is naïve to think that they can’t find out with what the value is with just a few clicks of the mouse.


While the rewards industry has argued long and hard about their value as suppliers of incentive awards, the bottom line of whether an item is overpriced or not is up to the buyer.

We have been analyzing the merchandise pricing in the incentive industry for over 40 years.  Believe it or not, at the beginning of the merchandise catalog industry, companies tried to price their items at retail to appear reasonable to buyers.  After all, they didn’t have the same kind of overhead that the bricks and mortar retail stores had, did they? In some cases they actually priced some items below retail to appear competitive.

Today even the most novice buyer would have to see that they are paying more than retail for these items.  Strangely many buyers don’t take the time to do even a cursory comparison of the pricing and believe the salespeople when they say that the overall value of the infrastructure behind the awards is worth it. That’s too bad, because not only does the sponsoring company pay too much for the item, but the employee doesn’t realize the true value of the money you spend.

Don’t you owe it to your employees to compare some pricing?  Don’t you want to know  if the items are priced substantially over retail?  And you need to determine if there a value in the infrastructure provided by the supplier to offset the higher price?

Research by the Incentive Foundation clearly states that nearly 80% of the client respondents didn’t use outside incentive companies for anything other than for fulfillment of the award.  That would seem to indicate that a buyer shouldn’t pay anything more than retail if the vendor is not providing any other service.  If you could wouldn’t you want to be in the position to legitimately ask for a 10%-20%-30% decrease in pricing to lower your budget, or add that value to the program and give it to your employees.

If you don’t have time for a price comparison, let us know we will be happy to help.


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