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EEA and RRN Launch New Brand Media Coalition to Promote Use of Customized Brand Experiences in Promotional Products, Gifts and Rewards

Certif-A-Gift, Harco Incentives, Bulova Corporate Sales, and Pulse Experiential Travel have joined forces to support the launch of the new Enterprise Engagement Alliance (EEA) Brand Media Coalition committed to educating promotional products distributors, incentive & reward companies and the corporate marketplace on the power of the Brand Experience in promotional products, event and business gifts, as well as rewards & recognition programs. 
“As leading master fulfillment companies supporting our reseller partners in the market, we welcome all our other master fulfillment partners, brands, gift cards and technologies to join our effort to take advantage of unprecedented opportunities in our market,” say Andy Tobutt, CEO, Certif-A-Gift Corp., Saro Hartounian, President of Harco Incentives Inc.; Adrienne Forest, Vice President, Corporate Sales, and Marc Matthews, President of Pulse Experiential Travel, founding sponsors of the EEA’s Brand Media Coalition, in a joint statement. “There is now nearly 20 years of industry research that very few corporate practitioners are aware of and a marketplace in search of more measurable solutions because of ISO standards and growing pressure from investors for more formal people management practices. It’s time to work together to educate the marketplace and to promote more sales of brands in business and employee/event gifts, brand awareness, and business gifts, the main three categories or programs sold through distributors, as well as sales, dealer, and employee incentives and rewards.” 

Barb Hendrickson, President of Visible Communication, a content marketing firm active in the rewards and recognition space, will serve the coalition as Director of Brand Experience consulting and will direct the development of the first brand personality manual developed for the promotional products, promotion, rewards and recognition field. She is director for the Incentive Marketing Association and was president of Design Incentives, a fulfillment and solutions company. 
Explains EEA Founder Bruce Bolger: “The Brand Media Coalition is Phase 2 of an effort launched two years ago by the Enterprise Engagement Alliance and RRN at RewardsRecognitionNetwork.com to create new opportunities for organizations that use promotional products, business gifts and rewards & recognition, and for the industry experts upon which they depend. The plan is to actively promote the nearly 20 years of research on rewards & recognition and industry certifications that most companies remain unaware of. This research and the industry certification programs suggest that incentive, recognition, reward and gift programs often fail to follow effective practices in terms of program design, selection and personalization that research almost unanimously finds are required to achieve the best outcomes. It also suggests that leading brands that are imprinted and customized have greater perceived value than non-branded imprinted products. While a small percentage of distributors can benefit by using brands in incentive and recognition programs, all can benefit by using more branded products in the promotional products campaigns.” 

Outreach Is Critical 

The primary goals of the Brand Experience are to:
Consistently promote through the Enterprise Engagement Alliance and other business media and EEA events to be announced shortly the importance of program design, both to the trade and end-users, and in particular the importance of certification programs offered by the Incentive Marketing Association, Recognition Professionals International, Enterprise Engagement Academy and other industry certifications. 
Educating promotional products distributors and other trade specialists on the importance of brands both as incentives and promotional products, and the stories they help companies tell through their promotional products and business gifts, as well as incentive, recognition and other reward programs. 
Providing the industry with the tools needed to educate end-users on the benefits of incorporating the findings of considerable research demonstrating the need for expertise in program design, brand selection and personalization to maximize the experience. 

Explaining the research underlying the Brand Media Coalition, Allan Schweyer, EEA Curriculum Chair, says “Nearly 20 years of research have made it clear that brands can be more than a reward; they can be an effective communication medium that enables almost any type of organization to tell a better story about its own brand through the brands with which they wish to reward and recognize people. Like-minded brands work together in co-marketing programs all the time. It’s time for companies to go beyond thinking about promotional products, gifts and rewards as carrots but rather view them as a powerful way to communicate key values and heart-felt emotions that energize people toward common goals and values. That’s another reason why promotional products distributors should consider brands as well.” 

The Importance of Program Design

In terms of design practices, says Schweyer, “In the same way companies select the right medium for their advertising, they can benefit by considering the right brands for their rewards. By selectively populating their loyalty, gift or other programs based on brand affiliation, and by then focusing on the actual reward experience and presentation, marketers and managers can potentially achieve far greater long-term emotional impact with key people than ever could be accomplished by mass advertising or direct mail. We don’t believe most business management is aware of the research supporting this approach to an industry that’s estimated to be as large as $50 billion a year.” 

As part of the Brand Media Coalition effort, the EEA will update its Art and Science of Engaging Rewards eBook summarizing the findings of nearly 20 years of research on the most effective practices, as well as create new sales tools to help distributors and others sell brands for promotional products and business gift programs, and expand the first online learning program specifically focused on Rewards and Recognition at EEA.tmlu.org
To Marc Matthews, President of Pulse Experiential, his company’s growth is proof that more companies understand the importance of the Brand Experience. “Our best-selling experiential offerings are for experiences at recognized events and venues that people trust and value,” he says. “We know from our redemptions that brands are valuable to people.” 

The Art of Merchandising

Saro Hartounian, President of Harco Incentives Inc., one of the largest master fulfillment companies in the U.S., notes that “The future of the rewards business lies in our ability to merchandise brands the same way it’s done in retail by understanding which brands are hot and resonate with people and what we can do to make the experience of receiving a reward unforgettable. The opportunity is to help the industry bring all the research it needs to demonstrate to clients how art and science can have a significant impact on the ROI of the reward.”  

Adds Andy Tobutt, CEO of Certif-A-Gift: “Since we do so much business with the leading master fulfillment companies and so many promotional products distributors, we know how important it is to be able to have an industry of experts who understand how to support the needs of clients in terms of the Brand Experience. We believe that offering brands in their gift and promotional product programs helps elevate the brands of distributors as well, and provides additional margins because brands have higher value and generally are not included in industry buying systems. We welcome all our partners into this coalition designed to help elevate the field because we believe it will elevate all our businesses. Our company has always been dedicated to helping promotional products distributors profit from the power of brands. We’re making a big investment in new ways to customize and package rewards so that they generate a lasting impact that supports your clients’ brand objectives, whether as promotional products, gifts, or rewards in surprise-and-delight programs or any type of engagement program.”  

Promoting Brands for Employee Gifts, Brand Awareness, Business Gifts, and Other Key Promotional Products Categories 

Explains Bolger, “We are pleased to launch this coalition with leaders in four of the key areas of the Brand Experience, and all of us look forward to welcoming all the leading brands, leading retail gift cards, and master fulfillment companies. With 65 years of doing business and supporting promotional products distributors, Certif-A-Gift, in addition to their Gift of Choice plateau collections and their CenterPoint Award Point Platform, also has a specialty division, IMF, for when lower-end point burner or filler items are needed for a campaign. Harco is a top 10 industry leader in providing desirable brand-name products in all categories and price points, and Pulse is an unparalleled leader in offering unique reward packages with certificates that can be easily personalized and that offer great opportunities for both promotional products distributors and their clients.” 

Bolger concludes, “While the incentive industry has tried to increase sales of incentive and engagement programs through distributors for decades, we believe there’s a much greater short-term opportunity to promote greater use of brands in all the key categories outlined in the latest Promotional Products Association International report, including the top 3: employee relations/events; brand awareness, and business gifts. The research shows that brands add perceived value to any product.”

For the perspective of a well-known promotional products expert, click here
For More Information:

Bruce Bolger, President
Enterprise Engagement Alliance
914-591-7600, ext. 230

Andy Tobutt, CEO
(847) 718-0300
Saro Hartounian, President
Harco Incentives 
(201) 894-8941 
Marc Matthews, President 
Pulse Experiential Travel


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For more information, contact Bruce Bolger at Bolger@TheEEA.org, 914-591-7600, ext. 230.
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