When it comes to premiums, it’s all about the brands—those brand-name products, such as Bose, Bulova and Tumi, used primarily in incentive campaigns such as loyalty programs, sales incentives, rewards and recognition initiatives, and for corporate gifting. Whether these programs aim to increase employee engagement, sales, customer satisfaction, market share, or some other metric, they are likely to feature high-end products to strengthen the marketing message.

Some distributors may shy away from selling premium products, defined as high-end, brand-name products, because of the potentially higher price point. But that sentiment may be changing in today’s market. Adrienne Forrest, vice president of corporate sales for New York City-based supplier Bulova, says promotional products distributors have an important role in the premiums business and Bulova has developed specific lines such as their Corporate Exclusives line specifically to serve this market.

“Distributors didn’t believe they could sell products at our price point,” Forrest says. “We explained that we provide an array of Bulova clocks and watches in many price ranges, so that we are important to the channel as a supplier of gifts.”

Brand Demand

There are other reasons to consider the power of the premium. Premium products reflect the attributes of high-end brands; thus, they can be used to support a company’s values and image with similar attributes. They strengthen a company’s brand equity, conjuring positive emotional associations.

Rachel Stark-Cappelli, president of Sarasota, Florida-based supplier Stark Enterprises, says premium, brand-name products convey positive attributes—high prestige, taste and quality—that can be translated into a strong message about the gifter. “Gifting a premium incentive product, with its high-perceived value, demonstrates the care and attention a company has put into choosing that gift,” she says.

Market demand for premium and incentive products appears to be on the rise. According to the Incentive Research Foundation’s “Industry Outlook Study 2019” report, the average per-person spend for non-cash reward and recognition programs is increasing; for Fall 2018, it was $824, a considerable increase from prior years. This is largely explained by the increase in respondents spending more than $5,000; 10 percent reported per-person spending at that level.

Pinny Kahana, vice president of sales and marketing for Mahwah, New Jersey-based supplier Chefman, has noticed a similar trend for his company. “We do a lot of business in the promotional space, and we’re seeing a real uptick in the price points of the giveaways,” Kahana says. “We’re seeing people who want to actually offer something valuable to their customers.”

Rather than simply wanting to get customers through the door, Kahana says, companies seem to want to establish a positive and emotional connection. “It’s about creating the positive experience,” he adds. “Instead of competing on the perceived value of a giveaway, now they’re giving them intrinsic value and an experience.”

Experience Economy

Today’s marketers know that consumers expect experiences—they gravitate toward brands that they associate with positive emotions and memories. That’s where premiums can deliver. “A premium gift gives the end user the opportunity to have something that they would have bought for themselves, which is much more memorable,” Stark-Cappelli says.

The Incentive Research Foundation’s “IRF 2019 Trends Study” lists “transformational” experiences as one of 10 key trends that will affect the marketplace this year. If research shows that incentive programs are heightened by the positive experience, why take any chances on anything but a well-known brand?

“As for the trend toward experiential gifting,” Forrest says, “I feel that companies want to offer multi-branded experiences at their incentive, recognition or other events—something that offers more than just a gift.”

For instance, Bulova’s Gift in Time Program enables a client’s customers to select a watch model and have it fitted for a personalized experience. “We have a portfolio of collections and price points that can work for just about any audience, and guests enjoy the exclusive shopping experience,” Forrest says.

The move toward the experience economy—and its implications for the premium and incentive segment—represents a paradigm shift in mentality for companies, Kahana says. “Their goal is—and they’re learning this from companies like Amazon—to focus on the consumer and they’ll come back to you.”


Made of stainless steel and acacia wood, the Pulse Salad Bowl with Servers embodies contemporary function and elegant form. The wood base is held in place by a magnet, which can be removed, allowing the stainless steel bowl to be cleaned in the dishwasher. This salad bowl with servers makes a great presentation that will become a staple serving piece.

Nambé  /  PPAI 185296  /  www.nambe.com


Looking for a premium for end users who love to entertain and cook? The Chefman Perfect Pour Volcano Waffle Maker has an innovative design that features a pouring spout and volcanic design to ensure the batter spreads evenly. Simply twist the pour spout into the base, pour the batter using the included measuring cup and watch it bubble up like lava. This waffle maker features an anti-leak system that seals in the batter while cooking, resulting in mess-free and stress-free waffles.

Chefman  /  PPAI 713804  /  www.chefman.com


Perfect for the man who has everything, the CITIZEN Promaster Navihawk is a chronograph watch that can be used both as a stopwatch and a display watch. A great choice as a corporate gift or incentive, this premium timepiece includes all the tools for professional use—with world time in 43 cities, radio control, a tachymeter, perpetual calendar, alarm and power reserve indicator. Plus, it’s powered by any light and never needs a battery.

Citizen Watch  /  PPAI 410292  /  www.citizenwatch.com


Travel in style with the TUMI Alpha 3 Double Expansion Travel Satchel, featuring all the comfort and convenience TUMI is known for. With an impressive 13 inches of expanded depth to maximize your packing capacity, this exceptionally strong travel satchel is the one to grab for long weekends. A generous front pocket allows you quick and easy access to key essentials. Made from TUMI’s patented, ultra-durable FXT ballistic nylon.

TUMI /  PPAI 286986  /   www.tumispecialmarkets.com


Perfect for any international awards program, the stunning Orbiter Award features a tall optical crystal base that rises up to meet an optical crystal orbit around a stunning blue globe. This award will leave any recipient speechless and is an ideal choice for all types of global awards.

Crystal D  /  PPAI 112326   /  www.crystal-d.com


If your incentives campaign is targeted to a primarily female demographic, the Rebecca Minkoff Edie Crossbody is sure to please. This bold new style by the well-known designer is crafted of genuine leather with quilted detail. Featuring plenty of pockets for organization, this stylish bag has a silver-tone chain strap that can be worn over the shoulder or crossbody style.

Stark Premium   /   PPAI 521359    /  www.starkpremium.com


There’s nothing worse than losing your belongings while traveling. When you need a place to put your spare change, keys, lip balm, claim checks and other small items, the Canvas Travel Valet comes to the rescue. This handy repository takes up little to no space in your luggage, but keeps you organized, especially in a hotel room or car where things get lost easily.

Duluth Pack  /  PPAI 701190   /  www.duluthpack.com


Perfect for the worldly and well-traveled, the Westminster Floor Stand Globe makes the ideal executive corporate gift. The hardwood base with dark cherry finish enhances the vibrant colors of this antique-ocean globe with metal die-cast meridian lending richness and sophistication to its surroundings. This model features an option to include a personalized plaque with a logo and message.

Replogle Globes   /  PPAI 112845  /  www.replogleglobes.com


The new Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 have everything Bose is known for, and then some. You can now personalize your environment with 11 levels of noise cancellation. Also, these smart headphones are optimized for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, so you can choose the right service for you in the Bose Music app. Further, they feature a four-microphone system that picks up and isolates your voice while cancelling environmental noise, making them a great incentive or corporate gift for both men and women.

Incentive Concepts  /  PPAI 212912  /  www.incentiveconcepts.com


A unique gift for executives based in the Big Apple, these New York Transit Token Cuff Links are crafted from authentic dime-sized Y-cut New York transit tokens circulated in 1953. Featuring sterling silver bezel and sterling swivel findings, each pair comes in a New York subway map-themed gift box with a certificate of authenticity.

Tokens & Icons  /  PPAI 723716  /  www.tokens-icons.com


The Samsonite Silhouette 16 Hardside 20-inch Spinner is the latest update to the company’s longest-lasting collection for global executives. A built-in USB port lets you power up your phone, tablet or other USB accessory, on the go or at the airport. Tie-down straps compress what’s inside while the expanding case allows for 1.5 inches of extra space. Plus, the built-in, zippered pocket provides extra organization and the TSA-approved lock provides peace of mind and extra security. A great premium gift for travel-themed campaigns.

Samsonite, LLC  /  PPAI 348999  /  www.samsonite.com


The premiums and incentives segment means different things to different people. All of the iniatives below are defined as incentive programs.

  • Sales incentives or contests (“Achieve your sales objective and win”)
  • Loyalty programs (“Buy 10 coffees and get the 11th one free”)
  • Safety programs (“Break our accident-free-days record and the team celebrates”)
  • Sweepstakes (“No purchase necessary: enter to win”)
  • Gift-with-purchase (“Buy this washing machine and get a free set of towels”)
  • Training programs (“Earn rewards as you pass each level of online education”)
  • Service awards (Length of service, such as five-year, 10-year anniversaries, etc.)
  • Attendance programs (Awards for perfect attendance at work)
  • Wellness programs (Achieve set goals in a structured program and earn rewards)
  • Frequency programs (Frequent flier miles, hotel stay rewards)
  • Corporate gifts (Gifts sent to customers on their birthday, holidays, etc.)
  • Performance improvement (Set and achieve specific performance goals

Excerpted from Barb Hendrickson’s article, An Incentive Program Primer, PPB September 2015.


What’s the difference between a reward and an award? We answer this and define other terms below.

Incentive: Reward for a purchase or performance. Objects or events that are valued, which incite to action or effort. Something valued by an individual or group that is offered in exchange for increased performance.

Award: Something awarded or granted, as for merit. Recognition merchandise, often personalized, used to acclaim performance or milestones.

Business Gift: Merchandise given by a business in good will, without obligation to its customers, employees, friends and the like. Often, this business gift is not imprinted with the advertiser’s logo.

Reward: An item given to an individual or team for meeting a predetermined goal.


Rewards System: An organization’s choice of cash and non-cash motivational elements and the mix of its total rewards program that is used to support its business strategy.

Recognition Merchandise: Award, often personalized, used to acclaim performance or milestones; may be useful objects (paperweights, clocks) or for display only (plaques, trophies).

Source: Incentive Marketing Association’s Glossary of Incentive Terms


Consumers define premium products as having these attributes.


Brittany Glenn is a Dallas, Texas-based writer and former associate editor of PPB.