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Guest Opinion: The Benefits of Rebranding the Concept of "Incentive Rep"

Guy Achtzehn’s company The Marketing and Sales Group has served as a “premium incentive rep” for 39 years. MSG was also the first incentive rep to recognize the importance of distributors in the marketplace and began calling on them in 1981.  He believes that there is greater demand than ever for experts to help show corporate America how to benefit from the power of brands to tell their stories in incentive, recognition, loyalty, gifting and amenity programs and explains why he believes the field is in need of a new brand.
By Guy Achtzehn

As Einstein famously said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. That as much as sums up many areas of the profession upon which I have based my career. 

For decades, incentive representatives have served the needs of brands to reach the corporate marketplace for incentives, recognition, loyalty, and business, event, promotional gifting and amenities, and still almost no one in business has ever heard of our profession or even the larger industry we serve. As a result, there is an estimated $45 billion in brands being sold for corporate purposes through retail departments when those organizations could achieve better results with greater value and impact if they purchased through the corporate market and sales departments. This is why I recently joined the Brand Media Coalition as Director of Outreach. 

There’s a Better Name for My Business Than Premium Rep

By any measure, the number of companies that call themselves premium-incentive representatives has slowly declined, with little sign that young professionals are rushing to join our ranks. Many incentive representative firms that thrived during the 1900s have since morphed into master fulfillment companies and those that remain in the field hardly call on end-users anymore, which is fine, as they instead rely on sales through incentive, recognition, loyalty, and promotional distributors and agencies. We are talking to ourselves using vocabulary no one outside our business uses. No one in our field would identify themselves as a “premium incentive rep” in circles outside our business because no one would understand what that means and worse yet, why they should work with them.
The Marketing and Sales Group is not just a premium incentive rep, we are Brand Specialists who help our clients in all sectors of business profit from the power of brands. As reps, we have made ourselves experts in the great brands we represent, such as Arc International, Bulova, Coleman, Garmin, Mr. Coffee, Polo/Ralph Lauren and Sunbeam.  Our purpose is to help our partners in the market provide greater value, impact, and results for their clients. I see our role as helping our industry partners educate the corporate market, i.e. the industry’s customers, on the tremendous impact they can achieve in their gifting programs and recognition needs if they more carefully select the brands as a ‘medium’ used to engage and communicate appreciation, and if they purchase through the corporate channel rather than at the retail counter or the consumer online web site. 
Calling our company a Brand Specialist far more accurately describes what we do in terms of helping organizations profit from the power of brands, and certainly is a more compelling way to describe my company outside of the industry, because everyone intrinsically understands the power of brands. In fact, I would argue our industry so takes for granted the power of brands and the need to selectively curate brands based on the client, program, and objectives, we fail to remind anyone that this is actually what we do! 

Corporate America is Already Sold on Brands

What’s so compelling to me is that we do not have to convince corporate America to use brands to engage, reward, and thank their stakeholders—they already do that to the tune of $50 billion or more a year in incentive, gifting, promotional programs. The opportunity is to educate corporate America through our distributor partners that experts like we exist and that we can provide exceptional value and services they could never achieve by buying from a retail sales operation. Buying brands through the retail department for business purposes is the equivalent to building a roof on your home by yourself.  You can do it, maybe save some money up front, but when a storm hits, are you sure your efforts will stand up to the storm?  
As a Brand Specialist, my company is in effect an agency that helps great brands generate incremental profits and invaluable marketing exposure by in turn helping other brands improve the impact of their incentive, loyalty, and gifting programs. I know that this is true of the other terrific incentive reps I work with. 
As such, I support the rebranding efforts of the Brand Media Coalition and appreciate that it has provided free listings of incentive reps under the label of Brand Specialists at BrandMediaCoalition.com.  I encourage all my colleagues to read the research and white papers on the resources section of the BrandMediaCoalition.com that explains the basis for this far better way to tell the story of our field than “premium incentive rep.” 
For More Information  
Guy Achtzehn
President, Marketing and Sales Group and Director, Outreach for the Brand Media Coalition at BrandMediaCoalition.com 
Tel. 717-846-4045

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