Guest Column - January/February 2014

Why Luxury Brands?

The Importance of Luxury in Incentives & Rewards

By Joe Zanone

Luxury brands are still very important in every level of your incentive program to entice participation and truly reward the individual. Why? It is a basic human desire to want nice things, whether it is a handbag, jewelry, luggage, crystal, trips or cars. Luxury items do make a difference!

I have been offered many different items in incentive programs over the years that quite honestly did nothing to motivate me to achieve a higher level of performance. In one sales incentive program (company not to be mentioned), I was offered as the top-level achiever a trip for four to Disney World and a hotel package off site at a Red Roof Inn.

Not to diminish Red Roof nor Disney, but I traveled seven southern states extensively for this company and stayed at Red Roof all the time, so it was just a "yawn" to me. The Disney trip sounded fun, except that I was a family of one. Could I go four times? Did I really want to invite friends or family to a theme park for a long weekend? The following year, a Mercedes Benz three-year lease was the top prize, and by God I was hell-bent on winning that honor! (And I did, by the way.)

Defining Luxury

Let's take a look at luxury to better understand what it means, how it is defined and how it is perceived. Luxury is defined by as:

[luhk-shuh-ree, luhg-zhuh-] noun, plural lux·u·ries, adjective noun

1. a material object, service, etc., conducive to sumptuous living, usually a delicacy, elegance, or refinement of living rather than a necessity: Gold cufflinks were a luxury not allowed for in his budget.

Synonyms for "luxury" include: affluence, comfort, enjoyment, extravagance, leisure, opulence, gratification and satisfaction. Antonyms include: disappointment, dissatisfaction, misery, sorrow and unhappiness or upset. Right off the bat you can get a sense of how the right mix of luxury in your programs can motivate, from a simple look at the word in itself.

Luxury in Practice

Now to better understand how luxury applies to your targeted demographic or the program, we would have to ask the experts, my own friends and family, for their feedback on their own experiences with incentive programs.

I will start with my brother Patrick. Highly educated, he works in the financial industry. Washington, D.C., is his home, and he travels Europe extensively.

In asking him to tell me what he defines as luxury, he related it to wealth, travel items and, strangely, bedding. When asked what he had achieved in his company incentive program last year, he told me all about Frette Linens and how important it is to own them, sleep on them and have people know he owns them! He also told me about the program, the targeted demographics and associated prize levels. He was more than amused that he could have won a "Mega Store" gift card, which he related to winning the County Fair Pie-Eating Contest.

Next is my brother Brian. He speaks highly of one company he worked for that had several incentive programs. The company offered health, safety, sales, engagement programs and several more. First of all, he really liked the environment that the company offered, and he took all of the programs as a sign that the company really cared for him as an employee and thought that the general welfare of the company was evident by the people, programs and morale. His best achievement won his family a trip to Disney! That made me smile. His worst gift upon achievement was a gift card to a store he would never step foot in because he perceived it to be too high-end for him. I pressed on asking him what he did with the certificate, and he told me he re-gifted it to our Mom. Mom loves her some Niemans!

Now we can move on to my friend Shelly. Shelly and I have been friends since first grade, and she has always been the definition of luxury in my book. When her father took her to buy a brand new Camaro, she could not choose between the blue one or the brown one, so she got both!

Yes, I grew up in Dallas, and yes, the Camaro was luxurious. So, pressing Shelly to tell me about her work experience and any incentive programs she has participated in, she reminded me that she only married well and never worked, but that her second husband did in fact work for a company, and that they did earn incentive trips and merchandise. (Her first, third and current husbands all own their own companies.) I pressed on to have her tell me the best and the worst of her second husband's incentive programs offerings. She replied that the absolute worst was a trip to Dollywood in Tennessee, but the best was a custom fitting for her and her husband. He was awarded a custom-made tuxedo from Brooks Brothers, she was awarded a ball gown and custom fitting at Calvin Klein, and they were flown to New York for a New Year's Gala. That's my Shelly!

Luxury in Context

As you can see from these examples—and from your own experience, too—the items and rewards deemed most luxurious will depend a great deal on the recipient. Everyone sees luxury just a little bit differently. Working with incentive industry experts, and knowing your program participants, is the best way to ensure your luxurious offerings are right on the mark.

Joe Zanone is President of Zanone Sales, Marketing and Consulting, the official Agent for Movado Group Inc. He also sits on the 2014 Board of Directors for the Incentive Marketing Association. For more information, visit: