Imagine having all the people who affect your organization – employees, your distribution channel, customers, vendors, etc. – focused on your company’s best interests. It’s a valuable, but difficult task to achieve. People typically focus on what they think is important. Especially if they are rewarded in that manner.

What if you could reward your audience in another manner, using differing rewards? What if you could connect with your audience to build a collective mentality instead of an individual one?

Reward Type Influences Brand Relationships

Most corporate rewards program designers include various rewards options when people demonstrate a behavior or hit a goal. These typically include cash, debit cards, gift cards, points redeemable for merchandise or individual travel, or a group travel award. All of these have a place in a well-designed influence portfolio. The problem lies in relying on one over another. Specifically, relying solely on cash or debit/gift cards.

“What’s in it for Me?” Rewards

Cash and gift cards are singled out because when included in a program, their “value” is expressed in dollars. This creates a transactional relationship between the program and the rewards. Participants start thinking of all the things the company is asking them to do in terms of “what’s it worth to me.” And, you don’t want that. Instead, you want to build a culture of brand advocates. Which is why points-based programs exist.

If you think about it, different reward types follow a continuum that is all about “me” to rewards to those that are more about “us.” As you move to the right on the chart below, the rewards tie participants closer to the company and they become more focused on company goals versus individual ones.

And, it makes sense. In a cash-based program, you send a check to an individual, who due to social norms, doesn’t share it with anyone (except maybe a significant other). It’s a “me” award – all about what they did, without sharing with a broader audience. It would be taboo for someone to hold up a bonus check at a party and announce how much they got paid extra as a result of achieving x, y or z.

“What’s in it for Us” Rewards

As you move down the line, you can begin to share the reward. Take debit card deposits. You can pull out the card at a restaurant and say, “I’m buying! My company rewarded me for hitting a goal.” A little more socially acceptable, but still tied to money. And, if it’s a gift card to a specific retailer, they’ll likely say they “got this grill at Lowes,” rather than from their own company. So much for connecting behaviors to the rewards!

Now, once you get to points-based award programs, you’re a couple of steps removed from money. Participants can show off their new TV, lawn tractor, or Coach purse – and share the story about how they “earned” it in a company program. No money – no worries.

Lastly, as you move into the experiences category – it’s almost impossible to keep it to yourself. Dining, music, travel, and other experiences are shared with friends, family, and on social media.

At the pinnacle of collective rewards is the group travel award. The conversations during these experiences center around how great the host organization is to “provide ‘us’ with this experience.” It would be very difficult to sit in a 5-star hotel, woofing down king crab and sipping top-shelf scotch in the company of other top performers and not have the “warm and fuzzies” for the sponsor.

The Exception to the Rule

There may be some people out there who no matter what the award – will look at it through “me”- colored glasses and only want the cash. But remember, these programs are designed to maximize both the company goals and the participant goals. And believe it or not … research shows that even those that scream “give me cash” – choose experiential rewards more often when given the opportunity. 

Let us help you develop award structures that deliver results.

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