Electronics rock, says Scott Siewert, region director of Atlanta-based USMotivation. That's what incentive winners want these days — and he doesn't see that trend slowing any time soon.

“Plasma TVs, DVDs, home-theater systems. The world of high definition is also coming quickly. And we're seeing tons of iPod stuff — the Shuffle, the Video, and everything that goes along with it, like the Bose SoundDock and headphones.”

Leigh Roberts, director of client services for Dittman Incentive Marketing in New Brunswick, N.J., says her company is updating its incentive catalog and making choices about what to keep. “Techno toys,” as she calls them, are the most popular merchandise for incentive programs. “iPods, iPods, iPods — and all the other less-expensive MP3 players — are the biggest seller. Electronics always come out on top, while jewelry and collectibles are dying out.”

One reason for the continuing popularity of electronics is that people want to stay connected when they are away for business and pleasure, says Allyson Krichman, senior director of fulfillment, Rymax Marketing Services Inc. “Even when they are on vacation, people are always plugged in and in communication with the office. One of our newest partners in the incentive industry, Monster Cable, creates and produces an extensive line of charging devices called iTips, which work with 99 percent of all mobile products, from cell phones to PDAs, to make sure that these essentials are never out of power.”

Krichman is also seeing a lot of interest in portable audio and video products. “Travelers always want to have their favorite music with them,” she says. Popular right now are Toshiba's second generation of music players, the 30GB and 60GB Gigabeat Audio/Video player, as well as the JBL On Tour and On Tour Plus, which complement any portable audio/video device.


Mike Horn, merchandising director at Hinda Incentives in Chicago, reports a growing interest in add-ons and accessories. “People will redeem one item, and look to accrue points for an accessory.” A popular option is for companies to bundle like items as gifts. “We put together barbecue grills and covers, digital cameras with printers, a fishing boat with a trailer, built-in coolers and the motor.”

Rymax is also seeing an increase in accessories — for example, a Toshiba 8-inch portable DVD player with a Monster mobile portable DVD case to store the player, DVDs, battery chargers, and other accessories. Dittman has seen companies bundling three- or six-month TiVo packages with a Panasonic TV.

Award winners are so savvy today, says Siewert, that if they don't see an accessory they want, they will ask the incentive house for it. “People are scouring the Internet and telling us what they want. We had one winner who redeemed points for a Nikon D70S digital camera and came back and asked us to get a particular accessory for it.”

Home Bound

As a result of rising gas prices, incentive pros are also reporting a spike in home items. “We're seeing the Emerilware [cookware] from All-Clad and the Tagine — a Moroccan pyramidal cooking tool — both gaining steam,” says Tim Houlihan, vice president of recognition services for BI in Minneapolis. Horn says people are redeeming their points for the total kitchen — range, refrigerator, microwave. And according to Siewert, “the big barbecue grills are also doing very well.”

What will the future bring? “More advanced GPS receivers with real-time traffic reports, MP3 players, phones that will challenge the iPod, the Nintendo Wii,” says Roberts.

Rymax's Krishman predicts a shift to HD DVD players, Blu-Ray DVD players, and the new Toshiba HD DVD player. “Another item that works hand-in-hand with the HD DVD player is the flat-panel television. As the prices of flat panel televisions [LCD and plasma] go lower, I believe that LCD and plasma will be huge this holiday season.”

In other words, more techno toys.

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