by Leo Jakobson | July 28, 2015

The Experience of Giving Back
One way to give cash awards that get around the many problems they create -- notably winners coming to see these awards as part of their pay rather than something special and winners putting the money to non-memorable uses like paying the electric bill -- is to provide funding for an experience of the recipient's choosing. This isn't to be confused with standard individual incentive travel awards.


Maritz Motivation Solutions helped
one incentive winner use points to
book a ride on The Pickled Pedaler
in Indianapolis

One automotive client of Rosemont, IL-based Marketing Innovators ran a Super Bowl-themed incentive promotion for its dealers last year, says Cindy Mielke, the incentive house's vice president of marketing. The fourth quarter 2014 program awarded one dealer principal in each of five regions $5,000 worth of funding for a Super Bowl party or any other event.

One winner hosted a party in the dealership for his employees, including a DJ for the pre-game party and a rented giant screen to show this year's Super Bowl XLIX, Mielke says. Another used it to buy gift cards that were given to the sales associates. And a third used it to purchase laptop and tablet computers that were donated to residents of a Navajo reservation in the Four Corners region of the United States.

He told Marketing Innovators that from 2010 to 2012, he had an economic development job in that part of the country, where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah meet. "While doing so, I came across numerous people on the Navajo reservation in need of technical assistance," the winner said. "They lacked both hardware and training on how to utilize that hardware in order to improve their lives. The needs ranged from small businesses needing accounting assistance to individuals who had Internet availability but no reliable means of connecting to the Web." All told, 20 new laptops, 12 used laptops, and nine new tablets were donated by the winner and his family, along with appropriate software and training.

Plan Your Own Adventure
Individual incentive travel awards take many forms, from hotel gift cards and airline certificates, to prepackaged trips, to truly customized trips created by incentive company specialists to the winner's specifications.

"Travel rewards can be as unique as the imagination, but it's the experiences that seem to stand out even more," says Maritz's Randall.

One program winner recently turned to Maritz's individual travel specialists to help her use her incentive program points create a memorable weekend in New York City for herself and eight family members on her niece's 16th birthday. Along with a dinner cruise and tickets to a Broadway show, Maritz helped the winner surprise her niece with a "Dance with the Radio City Rockettes" experience, a two-hour dance class taught by a Rockette that includes learning the choreography to the famous Christmas Spectacular.

Dittman Incentive Marketing's Adams notes that her company arranged a two-week Hawaiian vacation for the winner of a client's lifetime achievement award this year.

It was not for the beaches or resorts, Adams says. "He and his wife have close relatives who fought in World War II, and visiting Pearl Harbor was an important lifetime aspiration for them," she adds. "Their personal connection to the destination made the trip deeply meaningful, and was made possible as recognition for the winner's contribution to the company over time."