Feature Article - March/April 2011

Make It Matter

Working With IMRA Members to Ensure Your Incentive's a Winner

By Emily Tipping

Brand Matters

It's not just any merchandise that can do the trick, either. Branded merchandise is key to the success of your program.

"Branded goods already have a perceived value to the public at large," Martocci explained. "Companies work diligently on their image and how their brand is perceived. Quality and style of the product, as well as the social and economic status of that brand's customer base are perceptions that marketing departments and public opinion have formed. There is a definite difference in a Movado watch versus a generic offering, or even amongst other brands, although they all tell time. Any pair of speakers will play music, but add the name Bose to that product, and the interest and desire to own immediately changes. Given that company's quality and commitment to sound, the brand adds value and the product is automatically perceived as better than a lesser-known set of speakers one would need to hear before making a personal judgment."

For most people, recognized and respected brands carry their own flavor of motivation. Whether you prefer Canon or Nikon, you definitely get a stronger sense of what it means to earn a digital camera when it carries one of those names, versus just "digital camera."

"Let's face it," Mitchell said, "we're all consumers. And every day we're bombarded by messages from brands that say, 'Buy me!' 'Consume me!' And we develop preferences, and those are often established fairly early in life. Brands motivate people because we know what it is. We understand not only that the product has a certain quality and performance level, but an aspirational level. I can give you a pen, but if I give you a Mont Blanc pen, that's different. If you have the opportunity to get brands you know and trust, it will be far more meaningful."

Brands create excitement, Mitchell added. "A golf club might get you fired up, but if I say it's a Taylormade or a Titleist, it's different. This is particularly true of luxury goods. … Brands provide an enhancement to the experience that the giver is trying to create. Brands do that better than anything else."

On top of that, there's the positive effect that you get when you associate your company brand with brand-name merchandise.

"Upon viewing a reward group of branded product a participant is likely to have a favorable reaction to a product or to the company that brought the program forward," said Charley Mann, current president of IMRA and vice president of Sales for Professional Marketing Associates, based in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. "Essentially, using the right match of quality branded product reinforces the 'quality' image of the original organization."