Departments - March/April 2019

>> the last word on…
…Howard C. Henry

By Deborah L. Vence

Howard C. Henry will be remembered as one of the pioneers of the incentive marketing industry, having been the executive director for more than 40 years of National Premium Sales Executives (NPSE), which was later known as the Association of Incentive Marketing (AIM).

"As executive director of NPSE/AIM, the largest association in the incentive industry, Howard had a major impact on the success of members, both personally and professionally," said Norma Jean Knollenberg, a long-time incentive industry professional who is past president of the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) and recently retired as owner of Top Brands Inc.

"His dedication to the strength and growth of the industry, as well as the players within, was evidenced by the untiring hours he devoted to this cause," she said. "This included an awareness and involvement in legislative issues that could and did impact our business. Howard was a mentor to so many and a great friend."

He recognized early on that the incentive marketplace was fragmented among premiums, incentives, promotional products, manufacturers' representatives and promotions, such as sweepstakes and awards; and he knew that the incentive marketplace would need to have a more unified voice.

Henry's accomplishments in incentive marketing include the Incentive Federation Inc., which he—together with other leaders in the incentive marketplace—formed in 1984. The idea for the federation came about after the federal government began attacking premiums and incentives that were being given away by banks and other financial institutions.

Thus, the Incentive Federation was an umbrella organization that became the political, regulatory, promotional and educational arm of the incentive marketplace. It was an organization that included NPSE (then its successor, AIM), the Incentive Manufacturers and Representatives Alliance (IMRA), SITE and the Promotion Marketing Association of America. Later on, PMAA dropped out, AIM became the Incentive Marketing Association, and SITE was replaced by the SITE Foundation. The federation later included PPAI, the Incentive Research Foundation and Recognition Professionals International.

Henry, as its co-founder, was asked to serve as the executive director of the Incentive Federation, and did so for almost 25 years until his retirement. During that time, Henry achieved many political and regulatory successes for the marketplace. The work of the Incentive Federation, its members, especially the trade associations, and its directors defeated the proposed abolition of premiums and incentives by financial institutions.

The federation also worked with O.C. Tanner and Sen. Jake Garn (R-Utah) in 1986 to enact section 274(j) of the Internal Revenue Code. The "Code provision provides that if certain statutory requirements are met, safety achievement and length of service achievement awards would be tax-free to the employees who received them and deductible by the employers who issued them. Section 274(j) would not have been possible without the work of Howard Henry or O.C. Tanner, and it has been one of the major accomplishments of the Incentive Federation."

What's more, during his tenure as director of the Incentive Federation, Henry "fostered a long and productive association with Hubbell Erickson and then Peter Erickson of Hall-Erickson Inc., to expand the reach of incentives, promotions, and rewards and recognition."

He was dedicated to the success of the members of both AIM and the Incentive Federation as well, and facilitated successful educational seminars before each premium show--particularly in New York City. And, after the success of the show in New York, Henry worked with Peter Erickson to repeat that same success through the annual Motivation Show in Chicago.

While each seminar had a new chairperson each year, Henry worked behind the scenes, helping to ensure the educational components happened seamlessly. When Henry turned over AIM to Karen Renk as the executive director of the new Incentive Marketing Association (IMA), he also turned over a legacy of education and political success that Renk continued to build on.

In addition, Henry helped to fight "OSHA's efforts to stigmatize safety incentive programs as leading to the under-reporting of injuries and to help educate other entities on the benefits of premiums, incentives, rewards and recognition."

Henry, who was inducted into the IMA Hall of Fame in 2018, passed away in March 2018.