With my over 20 years in the incentive industry one fact has been shown to be more prevalent than any other.  That fact is that EVERY client’s audience for an incentive and/or reward program (and I lump recognition in the “reward” category) is:

  • 50/50 split men and women in the age category of 25 – 55 years old
  • 20/80 split of women and men respectively with the age range of 25 – 55 years old
  • 80/20 split of women and men respectively with the age range of 25 – 55 years old

What this says is the client has no clue what their demographics are and simply doesn’t care.  And the industry, over the years has allowed clients to shortcut this step in the program planning phase. 

Because everyone has been lazy on this front one of the more important elements of an incentive program is completely ignored.  That element is “relevancy.”

Relevant Means It Matters

Any marketer will tell you that an advertisement needs to be relevant to the target audience.  Incentive and reward programs are no different.  In fact, I’d go as far as to say it is more important since you have a much smaller audience to influence and therefore have to be more targeted to get great results and return on the program investment.  Not as much wiggle room for being lucky.

Where programs miss when the demographics are lazily applied are:

  • Award choices have to increase to make sure the award catalog appeals the MOST number of people possible.  This way the program seller can be somewhat confident in the fact that anyone of any age, gender, ethnicity and wine preference, will find some award worth their energy in the “awards catalog featuring millions of name-brand merchandise” (as if there another kind of brand merchandise.)  This just makes it harder for participants to find what they want and to make any kind of decision when it comes time to redeem for their rewards.
  • Secondly, because the program provider really doesn’t know what the program demographics are, they have to drop to the lowest common denominator for program communications and use HTML emails and print mailings to the office and/or home.  They don’t have the ability to try any new communication channels because the provider can’t give them even a little hint about what medium is best.
  • And finally, the program messages – regardless of delivery method – can’t be targeted.  Everyone gets the exact same banal message.  Again – any ad agency worth their salt will tell you message targeting is critical to getting any type of response to your request.

Check Your Data

For most employee programs this is just pure laziness.  The data is in the HR systems and I’ve yet to see anyone say it is illegal or immoral to do a generalized breakdown of various demographic information found in a client’s system.  It is so easy to get and so easy to suss out the details.  Why aren’t you doing it?  Probably because it is more work on the part of your provider if all of a sudden they have to change up their “process” and start targeting their catalogs and their messaging.  But truth be told – this is one way to make huge impact on program results.  Do it.

Channel programs are a bit different since the audience is usually independent of the program sponsor and therefore the sponsor doesn’t have the information.  But… almost every channel program has an “enrollment” process to gather email addresses and home addresses, etc.  Why not ask a few demographic questions to complete the picture.  Even if you don’t get 100% compliance you’re much further ahead with a little more data than with none at all.

Work a Little Bit Harder for Much Better Results

The net-net is that targeting your program based on real information about your audience will make your program relevant to your target audience and that will increase its overall effectiveness. 

Don’t take the easy way out – don’t assume “average” is what you have or what you need.  None of us is average and we don’t respond well to being treated like just another face in the crowd.