Web Exclusive - November/December 2018

The Power of Brands


A coalition of leading brands, master fulfillment companies, and travel and gift card companies has formed to promote greater use of brand-name products, gift cards and experiences in promotional products and business gifts, as well as rewards and recognition. The Brand Experience Coalition is founded by The Certif-A-Gift Company, Harco Incentives, Pulse Experiential Travel, and Bulova Corporate Sales, and is managed by the Enterprise Engagement Alliance. Industry veteran Barb Hendrickson will serve the coalition as Director of Brand Experience Consulting, and will oversee a new Brand Personality manual being developed for the coalition to help promotional product, gift, incentive, reward, recognition and loyalty buyers select the right brands for their gift and reward programs.

"There is now nearly 20 years of industry research of which few corporate practitioners are aware that demonstrate the importance of the gift and rewards experience and impact of brands for promotional products and gifts," said Andy Tobutt, CEO, Certif-A-Gift, Saro Hartounian, CEO of Harco Incentives, Adrienne Forest, vice president of Corporate Sales for Bulova, and Marc Matthews, president of Pulse Experiential Travel, in a joint statement. "It's time for providers of leading brands to work together to educate the marketplace and to promote more sales of brands in employee/event gifts, brand awareness and business gifts, the main three categories of programs sold through distributors, as well as sales, dealer and employee incentives and rewards.

"As leading master fulfillment companies, brands and gift card companies supporting our reseller partners in the market, we welcome all other master fulfillment partners, brands, gift cards and technologies to join our effort to take advantage of unprecedented opportunities in our market to expand the use of brands in all aspects of corporate gifting, rewards and communication."

The objectives of the Brand Experience Coalition are to:

  • Provide easy-to-use sales tools to the trade and organizational professionals involved with selecting promotional products, business gifts, rewards and recognition on the findings and implications of multiple research projects related to best practices.
  • Develop a Brand Personality manual to help all the brands and gift cards active in the marketplace tell their stories so that other companies can better select the brands to offer in their programs.
  • Encourage business practices that make it possible for promotional products distributors and master fulfillment companies to profit by becoming brand experience specialists.
  • Provide an online platform to make it easy to find master fulfillment companies able to provide customization and personalization for brands and gift cards.
  • Provide an online learning program for practitioners and a Brand Consultant certification on Rewards and Recognition and the Brand Experience on an online learning platform.
  • Provide content for business media and presentations at industry events on the use of brands.
  • Share extensive research on the benefits of using brands in promotional product and gift programs with the trade and end users.
  • Create guidelines for the better control of brands in promotional product, gift and reward programs.

"While incentive industry leaders have focused for years on educating distributors on incentive programs, we have overlooked the potential benefits of brands in their current business," Hendrickson said. "I am looking forward to helping all of the brands in this growing coalition tell their story, so that our partners in the promotional products, business gift, incentive, recognition and loyalty businesses can use brands not only as gifts or rewards, but as a medium to tell their own story."

"While brands and master fulfillment companies have invested decades in educating distributors on incentive program design, only 13 percent of total distributor business consists of incentives and recognition," Tobutt said. "Our goal is to address the top three business categories they already sell with a new high-impact solution."

Hartounian added, "We know that distributors feel they can make greater margins by using non-brand names for their promotional products and gift programs, but we do not believe this is true when the order sizes and customization costs are included and the fact that distributors can buy directly from the master fulfillment companies. The research and common sense confirm that brands have greater impact, perceived value and often produce greater volume than programs using non-branded products, which can often more than make up for that difference."

"This notion that distributors can't make good margins on travel or our travel certificates is wrong—given the average size of the order, the ease of customization and fulfillment, and the tremendous perceived value of offering brand-name experiences as gifts are rewards, the opportunities for distributors is significant and draws upon their natural abilities to help clients find create, high-impact solutions," Matthews said. "The average order size is way beyond the average promotional product order, and most distributors can buy directly from companies like ours so that there is no need to pay half of the margin to a buying group."