The transforming world of incentive events: Tailored, not tried-and-true

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Incentive expert Darren Kerr of FACTOR168 Creative Event Co. discusses the changing role of incentive events as the world economy improves

At the recent World Meetings Forum in Cancun, SITE global president Paul Miller said that optimism about incentive travel is at a four-year high. Special Events asked incentive specialist Darren Kerr (at left), founding partner and executive director of Hong Kong-based FACTOR168 Creative Event Co., for his perspective. He shares his expert opinion on the incentive travel world today:

Darren Kerr: The incentive travel economy does appear to be recovering … or perhaps it’s just transforming.

Almost all of the really outstanding work we've delivered within Asia since the global financial crisis in 2008 has been heavily shielded in nondisclosure agreements and obscure Cold War-era project code names. Frustrating.

What we can reveal is that we witnessed in recent times is a more maturing business tourism industry sector. There has been considerably growth and importance placed on more sophisticated and targeted incentive event programs being undertaken, in preference to the generic and underwhelming off-the-rack experiences corporates that had previously been defaulted to.

It would be fair to say that corporations have become more wary and dismissive of commoditized leisure travel solutions carelessly dressed up and rebranded as a business incentive solution. They want, need and demand a more tailored focus.

An improving economy, coupled with corporations becoming more self-aware of the huge value an incentive program done well contributes to their bottom line, have contributed to incentive travel coming back. 

Organizations have discovered through years of trial and error that for incentive event programs to be truly effective, within the business context, in rewarding, acknowledging and motivating outstanding performers, mission-critical staff, and highly valued channel partners, they need to address three challenges. And we believe this is now happening. 

Those challenges are threefold:

  • First, the effectiveness of any incentive is almost always linked to the degree of investment commitment made in terms of resources. Budget, planning and genuine organizational commitment. 
  • The second is a sense of legacy and consistency. One of the key elements of a good incentive program is anticipation. This can only be truly effective with strong pre- and post-event marketing that extends on the experience, a consistent level of standards that meet and exceed expectations, and the ability to leverage off past experiences and future possibilities through an ongoing program, rather than a who-cares, flash-in-the-pan, marketing-blip moment. 
  • The third challenge is recognizing the strengths different specialist partners bring to the project. Defaulting to a "full solution" provided by a generalist DMC vendor of convenience whose chief focus is understandably on all things operational tends to rob an incentive program of its greatest value. What is needed instead: the creation and generation of powerful personal and collective experiences. The solution is to engage a stable mate to the DMC--an experiential agency who can bring the "show" in terms of strategic insight and experiential creativity. 

In addressing these three challenges, an incentive events program is much better positioned to ensure the program connects, engages and motivates with impact.

This shift from solely operational considerations with the engagement of specialist experiential agencies that craft bespoke [custom] incentive programs translates into immediate short-term and long-term benefits to the commissioning organization with regard to the achievement of their commercial, branding and cultural aspirations and goals. 

FACTOR168's remarkable incentive program for client One:Forty-Seven Communications in Bali will be profiled in the July-August issue of Special Events. Not a subscriber to Special Events? We can fix that; just click here.

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