Just as it’s now de
rigueur to have dozens of choices when picking up a
morning cup of coffee, incentive providers are rolling out
experiences that can be as customized as a half-caf vanilla latte
with soy milk. Experts say personalized rewards are more motivating
to a top-notch producer.
“Why give the same gift to everybody?
In this world, people aren’t as loyal to their employers as they
used to be,” points out Christi Gibson, executive director of the
National Association for Employee Recognition. The solution, she
says, is to tailor rewards to recipients’ interests and
“We were running into situations where
recipients have everything,” adds Dana Slockbower, director of
marketing at Pine Brook, N.J.-based Rymax Marketing Services Inc.
By adding one-of-a-kind experiences to the company’s catalog of
merchandise and gift card rewards, Rymax is able to help incentive
managers continue to motivate top performers who might not be
thrilled by another run-of-the-mill trip or gift.
“What you’re seeing is a reflection of
the whole area of what consumers are looking for. They’re all
looking for experiences above and beyond the traditional,” says Don
Schultz, professor emeritus at Northwestern University and a
While the extremely customized nature
of these experiences makes them impractical for the masses, major
incentive suppliers such as Maritz Inc. and Carlson Marketing also
are making it possible to customize travel incentives for larger
groups by offering a more varied selection of activities to
participants. (See “How Big Firms Do It.”)
Read on for details about some of the
newest and most popular experiential incentives suited for top
performers whose passions run from Grand Prix to Grands Crus.
Give winners with
a sweet tooth
a hands-on chocolate
While Karen Herbst, founder and owner
of The International Kitchen in Chicago, affirms that her most
popular getaway is still a hands-on culinary tour of Tuscany,
Italy, she sees a growing demand for more exotic places and
flavors. Herbst recently launched an adventurous, weeklong culinary
journey through the souks and spice markets of the Moroccan city of
Fez. “Marrakesh is more well known, but Fez is a jewel of a city,”
she notes. “You’re able to do a lot of walking tours to get a real
sense of the history.”
For those whose competitive spirit is
as sharp as their cutlery, Boulder, Colo.-based experiential reward
supplier Cloud 9 Living offers an interactive experience inspired
by TV’s Iron Chef. A small group is divided into two
teams, and each has to create a meal around a secret ingredient
under the tutelage of a professional chef.
Geri Schultz, vice president of
business development at Great American Days, a Decatur, Ga.-based
company that sells experiential rewards to corporate clients, says
culinary experiences that focus on a single ingredient are popular,
such as the hands-on chocolate workshop the company just added.
Individuals or small groups looking to
work off their indulgences can be accommodated, too, Herbst says.
For a small group of Nike executives, she worked in tennis sessions
every morning; for an individual client, she arranged daily
horseback rides at his request.