Straight to the Pool Room

If you’ve seen the classic Australian film “The Castle”, you’ll no doubt remember the famous phrase “This is going straight to the pool room”. Like with the central character Darryl Kerrigan, many people who have been given something incredible (like a reward) compliment the giver with this is going straight to the pool room.

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Taking something to the “pool room” is significant because it provides a continual reminder of the important milestones, achievements and special celebrations of your life. Having “trophies” on display allows you to share different stories with friends and family and reconnect with those happy memories and feelings, time and time again.

In the business world, gift-giving is a common practice. The wristwatch has long been a gift to recognise a significant achievement or milestone. Unlike a bottle of wine that might be consumed and discarded the next day, a watch is something likely to be treasured for years. At any point someone glances at their wrist, they’re reminded of the company’s experience and emotion that gave them the gift. This is known as the Halo Effect.

In many ways, the purpose of incentive programs is to build on this Halo Effect. A successful program can have a deep, positive influence on one’s relationship with the company they’re associated with.

Reward offerings are one way to build this. It’s a common belief in the incentive industry that the trophy value of tangible, non-cash rewards are the most effective way to drive performance.

When we talk about the trophy value of rewards, we refer to the emotional connection evoked every time someone sees, feels or talks about it (much like how a sporting trophy evokes memories of a big game or moment in a person’s life).

For example, “I got this reward from my trade store for the number of purchases I made over the last year”. In the same way, someone prides themselves over the reward, the perceived value of the associated company’s brand can increase tenfold.

While surveys often list cash as the preferred reward for many program participants, there are downsides to using money as the main reward. One of those is that there is very limited trophy value. When you reward someone with cash, you essentially give away money with little or no opportunity to be connected to a trophy’s value.

Most people don’t share cash rewards with peers or friends, and it usually doesn’t come up in conversation. Cash is typically deposited into savings or spent on everyday expenses like petrol, groceries, or school fees – things you never think about twice.

For a reward to truly inspire and engage your recipient, it needs to be personal and meaningful. Using a blanket approach with your reward offering won’t have the desired impact on a diverse target audience: two people of the same age and the same demographic can be interested in very different things.

Giving people a wide range of options can help overcome this and is one reason why point-based incentive programs (coupled with extensive reward catalogues) are popular.

Individuals get excited when they can choose rewards that mean something to them, and they’ll put in more effort to achieve those rewards. Ideally, your program enables participants to set and track reward goals, giving participants an even bigger personal stake.

The most successful programs use targeted communications to guide and nudge participants towards individual rewards, thereby helping to achieve program objectives. That’s the definition of a win-win for everyone!

Like merchandise rewards, incentive travel is another reward type that’s not only exciting but has huge trophy value. Travel might hold the ultimate trophy value. An overseas trip or resort stay embodies the main reward aim of creating memorable experiences and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

Ask someone what they spent their last cash reward on, and odds are they’ll have long forgotten. Ask about an incentive trip they took ten years ago, and they’ll still remember almost every minute of it, including the brand, who hosted it, other guests they went with and their favourite moments.

The long-lingering Halo Effect is a central part of the success of a travel incentive. While it’s not difficult to add trophy value into a B2B reward program, most of the best in class programs start from the beginning with communication and collateral.

Focus on communicating what’s required to succeed in the program and recognise changes in behaviour with rewards.

As a result, people will value the reward as part of celebrating effort and achievement. Or valued like a hard-won trophy that’s going straight to their “pool room”. To ensure the success of a reward or incentive program, you must connect with your audience on an emotional level:

1) Use non-cash rewards – research shows non-cash rewards are more motivating, memorable and have a more positive effect on long-term performance

2) Communicate – tell the story of the program and build anticipation. Help your participants visualise themselves achieving their goal and enjoying their reward –see, want and work to achieve the trophy!

3) Celebrate – make it a big thing. Ensure you celebrate achievements and make them memorable. Not only will it leave the recipient feeling super-motivated, but it also inspires and motivates those that may have fallen just short to work even harder.

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