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'Carrots Don't Always Work'
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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Our industry loves to reward consumers. And why not? We want to make sure that they are happy with dealing with the brands that we are a part of and support. But isn't it true that we sometimes go overboard? Is it not true that sometimes we reward behavior that needs no additional reward?

Are there consequences for excessive rewards?

Not to long ago we wrote about "gamification" and AdLand, and how our worlds are becoming more integrated as people build their consumer presences online. We mentioned how online, people seemed to be receptive to scoreboards and badges, achieving levels and "high scores" that allow them to access information and deals brought by the brands they are interacting with.

This next idea explores not only the type of rewards we provide through "gamifying" the consumer experience, but also the effects of engaging in the process altogether.

David Anderson of David Anderson Online brings up some interesting research about persuasive marketing and the use of rewards. Anderson talks about a study where two groups were tasked to pick up trash. One group was paid very well after the task was done, and the second group was paid minimally. Each group was then surveyed to see how much they enjoyed the activity. Reason would lead you to believe that the group that was paid well would have a higher enjoyment level. 

Of course, that wasn't true.

The group that wasn't paid well ranked their enjoyment 8.5 on a scale of 10, while the group that was well-paid scored their enjoyment level 2 out of 10. Why? Because unconsciously, the group that was paid well figured that they had sacrificed something (time, dignity, chore work) if they got paid such a large sum. On the other hand, the other group that wasn't paid well must have unconsciously decided their reward was cleaning up an area, since they were not paid very well (note: the groups did not know the amount they would be receiving).

The point that Anderson was trying to bring out is that as advertising and marketing professionals, we have to be careful that we do not pair reward with sacrifice. There are times when we should frame an activity itself as the reward, and not incentivize the action. In some cases, rewarding the consumer will do more harm than good.


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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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