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by Leo Jakobson | October 01, 2014
The Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) Executive Summit in Philadelphia this summer was a successful but bittersweet affair, as word spread during the conference that Karen Renk, the IMA's founding and longtime executive director, had passed away (See Editor's Note).             

Sadness aside, it was a very successful conference with substantial education and networking opportunities. Sessions included a keynote focused on understanding Millennials and new research from the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF). George Delta, the executive director and counsel of the Incentive Federation, gave an overview of the association's success in lobbying Congress for preferential tax treatment of safety and length-of-service awards.

The most eye-opening session touched on this year's theme of collaboration. In it, Kevin Dougherty, director of special markets for Seiko Corporation of America, and president of the Incentive Manufacturers & Representatives Alliance (IMRA), joined Shaun Krusmark, senior director of business development at Transaction Wireless & Optimum Card Solutions and president of the Incentive Gift Card Council, to moderate a panel on how incentive merchandise and gift card sellers can find the common ground necessary to work together. Merchandise advocates have long claimed that gift cards are not effective incentive awards because they are too close to cash. Gift card advocates point to rapidly growing popularity and ease of fulfillment -- especially in the digital space. The panel was an attempt to begin an ongoing dialogue about an often-heated topic and judging from the audience response, it seemed like a successful first step.

A number of awards were announced at the summit, beginning with naming Rodger Stotz, principal of Delta Qi Consulting and chief research officer of the IRF as the recipient of the 2014 IMA President's Award.

Annual Circle of Excellence Award Winners were also announced. Schweppes Australia and incentive provider Solterbeck won for Employee Engagement/Recognition Program. Bayer Australia's Animal Health division and Synchro Marketing Australia won for Dealer/Distributor. Regal Entertainment, Aéropostale, and CashStar won for Consumer/Offer/Branding. An Honorable Mention for Employee Engagement/Recognition went to The Creative Group, Inc., which revamped four underperforming recognition programs by creating "Excelevate."