To find out, we asked Howard Trilling, vice president of marketing for American Identity, which provides corporate identity and incentive merchandise. The company counts more than 300 of the Fortune 1000 among its clients. Here are his top trends:

  1. Peer-to-peer recognition programs

    More employees are using incentive merchandise to reward their peers. Incentive merchandise distributed by company management is expected, but receiving a gift from a fellow employee builds a strong corporate culture.

  2. More innovative branded merchandise

    Corporate branded merchandise has moved beyond basic T-shirts and ballpoint pens to brand-building products that motivate. Today you'll see branded leather jackets, retail dress shirts, and high-end gifts being used to create excitement and position brand identities.

  3. Incentives for everyone

    Constantly rewarding the top 10 percent with costly incentives only motivates a portion of the employees. Companies have discovered that incentive merchandise provides affordable options to motivate the remaining 90 percent. Getting more people involved in working toward corporate goals lifts the entire organization.

  4. Continuous recognition

    Merchandise is being used beyond a single meeting or incentive program. Continued recognition systems, which may include real-time leader boards and staged rewards, are providing community acknowledgments before, during, and after an event.