Guest Column - July/August 2014

Trophy Value & Its Importance When Selecting Rewards

By Dennis O. Borst


How many times have you stopped at an A on the way home from work on a Friday night to get cash for the weekend? After withdrawing $100, you head home to start 48 hours of fun and relaxation. On Saturday morning you get up, throw on a pair of jeans, and as you're placing your money clip in your pocket you make a quick count of the cash remaining from the previous day's withdrawal. All you have left is $22. Where did $78 go in less than 24 hours? You backtrack your expenditures in your mind from the past 12 hours, counting the 12-pack of Bud Light, the stop at Pizza Hut for the three-topping large for $8.99 and the Starbucks drive-thru for some ground beans for the morning Joe on Saturday and Sunday. But what happened to the rest of the money? It just went, but who knows where?

This example is the classic reason why one should never use cash as an incentive or reward. Any cash used in this manner will never provide the "trophy value" one desires from a "reward."

Trophy value is the lasting remembrance of receiving an incentive. Trophy value can be represented by a flat-screen TV that the recipient flashes back to what they did to earn it as a reward each time they enter a room and see it. Or trophy value can be represented by a gown your wife purchased with gift cards rewarded in an engagement program at work. Either way, studies have shown over the years that trophy value can last as long as 20 years. Now, think back to the original example, using cash; the memory of what cash was used for didn't last 20 hours.

Why is this the case? It's simple: None of us considers cash as a reward. We all consider it as compensation. In spite of this, when asked what we want as a reward, we all respond, "Cash." In reality though, we do not want cash, we want the things cash can buy. Think about it: If I give you cash as a reward, the likelihood you would buy a flat-screen TV or gown with it is far less than using it to pay bills, and buy Pampers and a tank of gas. Ironically, we also have read the studies from the past that proved people involved in engagement programs will work harder to achieve their target goal when tangible merchandise and gift cards are offered as rewards as opposed to cash. The answer is the same as before, cash is an add-on to their compensation and not viewed as a reward paid over and above their compensation

Enhancing 'Trophy Value'

This concept is far less difficult to accomplish than you might think. It all goes back to the design of the promotion, the incentive, the motivation, the engagement, the involvement and the behavior your program is looking to accomplish.

The two base issues involved are "The Target" and "The Carrot." By first determining the target audience by demographic and geographic, it then becomes much easier to determine the reward options you will be offering when one takes the desired steps to meet program goals. Although it may be difficult to establish the target audience, once completed it will allow for the simplification of reward selection. That is, unless you allow your preferences to get in the way of the selection process. If this happens, it will definitely affect the selection process. Please keep in mind that poor reward options that do not fit the target audience's lifestyle can limit the success of your program, even more than a less-than-perfect program design. The more you synchronize the target with the carrot, the more successful your program will be. And, more importantly, the more you take care in selecting rewards to fit the target, the better you will drive the target's behavior by having a selection of highly desirable rewards that will elevate the trophy value.