Web Exclusive - March/April 2017

What Is Trophy Value, Anyway?


You don't have to spend much time in the incentives and rewards marketplace before you come across the term "trophy value." Experts will tell you that trophy value is a crucial factor in selecting the most effective items—whether merchandise, travel or something else—to recognize and reward your top performers and program participants.

But what exactly is trophy value? And why does it matter?

On the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) website, "How to Develop an Incentive Program" leads you through eight steps to take you all the way from establishing your objectives through program implementation to analysis of your success. Once your budget is established, in Step 4 of the process, you get to the part of the process that involves choosing the right rewards, Step 5.

In this step, the IMA reports, "It is important to select the correct award because if the individual is not emotionally vested in obtaining the incentive award, he or she will not pursue the goal. Spend some time speaking with the target group and select an award within the framework of the budget that will be important to the group."

Now, while many people will tell you, if you ask them directly, that they'd like to be rewarded with cash, this is actually one of the least effective rewards. Why? It has no trophy value. No one whips out their wallet, shows off the money they received for their success and tells their co-workers, peers, friends and families about how they earned that cash.

Replace the cash with a coveted item—a digital camera, a watch from a respected brand, a stand mixer for the kitchen—and you end up with something the program participant can brag about.

"Non-cash incentives like a big screen television will serve as a reminder to the participant about his or her performance (and the firm) every time it is watched," writes Scott Jeffrey, Ph.D., in "The Benefits of Tangible Non-Monetary Incentives," which can be found on the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) website. "Vacation travel provides memories, pictures, etc."

He adds, "The utility of earning a non-cash incentive is enhanced by the visibility of the award and the absence of social norms against discussing them."

Why does it matter?

You want your rewards to have a lasting impression. Cash that gets spent on groceries, gas and maybe a meal out will be quickly forgotten. A physical reminder—a trophy—will provide a cue to the recipient over and over again, reinforcing the value of the reward, the recognition and your organization's appreciation.

What are some ideal rewards, then? What rewards confer powerful trophy value? According to Dennis Borst, who manages the B2B gift card program for Foot Locker and Champs Sports as a division of Patriot Marketing Group, some ideas might include small electronics like wireless speakers, personal luxury products like sunglasses, binoculars or watches, weekend travel packages, outdoor products like smokers and barbecues, and closed-loop gift cards for specific retail, entertainment, personal services and dining locations.

So, before you choose which rewards you will use to recognize top performers and important partners, be sure to understand how trophy value works, why it matters, and what will be the most coveted items for your target audience.