Guest Column - May/June 2008

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Customized Gift Cards Add Value

By Chris McGee

ift cards have become an integral part of many incentive programs. It is fairly common for an employer to offer employees gift cards from a variety of retailers, restaurants and service providers to incentivize specific behavior and reward achievements. It is also common for companies to offer gift cards as incentives to their prospects to encourage a purchase, either leading up to the sale or as a rebate or reward following the transaction.

To ensure these companies are getting the most out of their incentive programs, companies that offer incentives measure their programs' success against set objectives. If the incentive program is focused on driving specific employee performance, objectives typically include achieving measurable results such as sales quotas and specific employee performance. Gift cards allow the recipient to subsequently purchase exactly what he or she wants. Many companies also offer on-the-spot rewards, which usually include giving the employee a lower-value reward closer in time to the performance being rewarded. Gift cards have become a top choice for these types of incentives because their value can vary based on a company's specific requirements, and gift cards can be either kept on site or quickly shipped to the intended recipient.

Incentive programs can also have more encompassing goals such as building brand awareness, corporate and product positioning, and instilling employee and consumer satisfaction. A typical gift card displays the logo and messaging of the store, restaurant or credit/debit card association that issued it, whereas customized gift cards enable companies offering the incentive to add their own logos and messaging to the gift card. Gift cards that are customized to a specific company or a specific program through their design, production or packaging can serve to reinforce the incentivized behavior as well as achieve additional corollary objectives expressed in a more comprehensive incentive program.

Promote Your Company

When a store or restaurant gift card is given as an incentive, the recipient can spend it with that specific merchant. If a prepaid debit card is given, the recipient can spend it wherever that debit card is accepted. Either way, when the gift card is presented for payment this is a prime opportunity for the company to build brand awareness, as the recipient, the recipient's companions and the employees of the redeeming merchant will see the company's logo on the gift card. These people will likely inquire about the gift card and the company on the card. Because the recipient is enjoying the benefit of purchasing goods or services with the gift card, there is a very good chance that this discussion will be favorable. If the gift card was given as an incentive or a reward for a purchase, this discussion will promote this purchase to a new audience. If the gift card was given by an employer to an employee, the discussion will cast the company in a positive light as a potential employer to a new audience.