Feature Article - July/August 2009

Time Flies

But Watches Are Always an Effective Incentive

By Emily Tipping

There's a reason why watches have always been—and will always be—one of the most common items found in incentive and reward programs. Actually, there are many reasons, and one or more of them is sure to influence the people you aim to inspire.

According to Jim Keenan, senior vice president of special markets for Citizen Watch Company, there are plenty of reasons why watches make an impactful incentive, reward or gift. For one thing, even if someone already owns a watch, that doesn't mean they won't like another one.

"The days of our parents or grandparents who had just one watch are over," Keenan explained. "People have multiple watches now. They are a lifestyle item, and women in particular quite often will have multiple watches to wear for different occasions. The one that you'd wear to the office will not be the same one you would wear to the theater, and you'd wear yet another one to go hiking."

While retaining their functional appeal, watches have been transformed into fashionable accessories that can suit many occasions and moods, and that makes them appealing to every demographic. No matter who is participating in your programs—young professionals just entering the workforce, seasoned sales reps approaching their retirement, women and men of all ages on an incentive trip—you can find a watch that will suit their style, as well as their lifestyle.

A watch is jewelry, Keenan said, which makes it appealing for women. But it's also one of the rare pieces of jewelry that is appealing for men. "Men will not wear many pieces of jewelry other than maybe their wedding ring and a watch," Keenan said.

But a watch isn't just a pretty piece of jewelry—it's also functional. And these days, watches have plenty of functions, which only increases their appeal.

"From chronographs to countdown timers to alarms and multiple time zones, watches have features people can use," Keenan said. "I'm a runner, and I run every day with a watch and use the chronograph feature." He added that frequent travelers can use the multiple-time-zone feature on a watch to keep track of the time in the cities they travel to, as well as the city they call home.

All of this style and all of these features add up to an item that has a lot of value, and on top of that, watches have a very high perceived value, which is another reason they make such a powerful incentive. Any incentive merchandise you include in your program should feature a recognizable brand name to boost its value, but if you consider the margins on items like electronics and housewares, Keenan said, you'll see why watches are so effective. "The value the end recipient perceives on the product is much higher for the watch, because when they go to an electronics or housewares store, they'll see those products very close to cost," he explained. "There's a higher perceived value in a watch for the end recipient."

Add trophy value to that, and you've got the perfect formula for incentive and reward success.

"A watch is an accessory and a piece of jewelry," said Adrienne Forrest, vice president of special markets for Bulova Corp., "but it also can serve as a trophy."

That trophy can have a lasting impact. "In terms of passing it to your children or your grandchildren," Forrest added, "many of the watches are awarded and have a special message on the back, which adds to the value of passing it down from generation to generation."