The Power of a Provocative Prize

By September 30, 2014Incentives

Oftentimes, when a business is looking to drive change, increase sales, improve performance or create brand conversion, it may consider using a hook to engage its target audience. An incentive prize can not only be the perfect hook for engagement; it can even be one of the most powerful motivators in bringing about behavioural change.

To fully capture the interest of your audience, we’d like to believe that the prize should be a provocative one. But it is all too easy to get tied up on the provocativeness of the prize without really considering your strategy behind its selection. Here, we outline some things to think about to ensure that your provocative prize is a success with your desired impact.

Make it desirable 

To capture the interest of your audience, make sure that you know what drives them. This can be either work related or focused on social hobbies. A techy group may appreciate the latest gadget in the market and high-earning bankers may strive for a hefty year-end bonus, for example. Despite each prize being highly desirable for their respective group, however, it is important to understand that not all prizes have the same desirability factor across different audience groups. There is a strategy behind the prize and one size doesn’t fit all.

The first step to ensuring desirability in the prize is to research what motivates your target audience. Two weeks ago at the KLM Open, golfer Andy Sullivan hit a hole-in-one to win an extraordinary trip to outer space – a prize worth $100,000, courtesy of the event sponsor XCOR Space Expeditions (who wanted some PR). But it was revealed in an interview that Sullivan was “not the best flyer”. In the KLM Open, Sullivan was driven by his hopes of winning the tournament and continuing to be recognised as one of the top-ranking golfers. But if the tournament had been an incentive that had been launched by XCOR Space Expeditions to help raise the profile of their company, and if Sullivan had been part of a group that was expected to be solely motivated by the extraordinary prize – a trip to outer space – he may not have been inclined to take part in the incentive. XCOR Space Expeditions would have failed to achieve their primary objective in raising the profile of its company – at least to Sullivan as part of its target audience.

As a business, make sure you know what drives your audience and what prizes they will find desirable to attract participants to your incentive. By all means make the prize a provocative one – an all-expenses paid trip to outer space? Sure! – but ensure that it is the right fit for your audience. If the prize on offer doesn’t spark the participants’ imagination or is unsuitable for them, then your engagement figures will certainly struggle.

Make it achievable

A prize can be desirable, but it will equally fail in effectiveness to bring about behavioural change if it is not seen as achievable by the target audience. Our general attitude towards The National Lottery attests to this mentality: no person will deny that a £35 million jackpot is highly desirable, yet only a small proportion of the public actually buy a weekly lottery ticket to try their luck. What is the psychology behind this behaviour? If there is very little perceived achievability in a prize – no matter how highly desirable or provocative – then there is little potential for it to make an impact on its own on the uptake of your incentive.

To ensure that the prize is achievable, participants should understand that the challenges they are tasked to complete are attainable and that the prize is worth their while. If a group is challenged to complete comprehensive training modules that require sufficient time and effort, then the prize on offer should be respective of this effort. Consider weighting larger – or more provocative – prizes for challenges that require more of your audience. We’ve successfully delivered programmes with an Alfa Mito car, a £2,000 TV and an all-expenses paid trip to destinations such as Thailand and Las Vegas, to name a few. But the key is to balance the provocative prize with smaller prizes along the way to maintain engagement. Dangle a big carrot some distance away in front of a herd of horses, and you may encourage some of them to race towards it; dangle smaller carrots in front of each one along the way, and you will be sure to motivate the herd to a greater effect.

Alternatively, you can flip your prize strategy on its head by giving away a provocatively large amount of smaller prizes for a similar effect – whether that be 500 prizes over the duration of your incentive programme or 40 prizes a day. Whatever the reward (large or small), it is important to recognise participants for winning the prize. Doing so will make their achievements visible to their colleagues, and this visibility will in-turn enable your audience to believe that the prize is also within their reach – helping to further drive performance.

But don’t forget your business objectives

Even with a provocative incentive prize in mind that is sure to be a success among your audience, there is still more for you to consider carefully to ensure that your prize is right for your programme – your business objectives. Businesses sometimes focus all their attention on the prize and forget about why they are considering it in the first place. ROI and ROO are often the two most important tools for a business to measure successful engagement; thus, it is crucial for the prize to be aligned with your business objectives – whatever they may be.

Taking a strategic approach to your business objectives can also help influence the type of prize you consider for your programme. If an objective is to the boost morale in your workforce or to improve training across a large audience, for example, consider having a prize on a frequent basis – little and often. On the other hand, if your objective is to run a sales incentive, consider rewarding high-achievers with an incentive travel trip. A provocative prize – either in the prize itself or in the number of prizes – can also get your business noticed by your competitors. The more provocative the prize the more PR it has the potential to attract.

A prize can only be a powerful tool in your engagement strategy with careful consideration of four key elements – desirability within your target audience, achievability as perceived by your audience, alignment with your business objectives and provocativeness in either the prize itself or the number of prizes on offer. Whatever your provocative prize, be sure to consider the requirements for prize delivery to ensure that it can be delivered easily to the winner. Simplicity is key to making your incentive prize a powerful one.


At FMI, we have been delivering brand engagement solutions from incentive programmes to overseas travel trips for over 10 years. Our communications team has experience in balancing creativity with business strategy to ensure that your provocative prize adheres to these guidelines and is a powerful motivator in bringing about behavioural change.

Read about our award-winning incentive, where we gave away a car.


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