Bruce Fox Blog

Custom Recognition Shopping List: 10 Aisles In 7 Minutes

Posted by Dave Miller on Jul 29, 2016 12:20:20 PM

Read Time - 5 Minutes

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I do a fair amount of the grocery shopping for our household, and I pride myself on my ability to navigate my cart like the pilot of an F/A-18 Hornet.  Sure, there’s some collateral damage from time to time, as there is in any theater of war.  But with my shopping list as my nav chart, I glide through unharmed and unfazed.  Most of the time.

Except one time recently.

I was doing my Top Gun thing in the local Meijer store, and the body count was running high.  I was taking no prisoners.  Until I made the mistake of improvising…and leaving my cart (with the list) behind while I quickly fetched something an aisle or two…or three…away.  My side trip fulfilled, I returned to the cart and resumed my singularly-focused, OCD-fueled sortie through the store, body parts flying and mushroom clouds mushrooming.

I covered a few more aisles, exclusively from memory, before I had to refer to my list.  It was at that moment I realized the cart I was piloting was not mine.  Goodness gracious!

Another shopper had evidently left their cart in the same general airspace a few aisles back, and I had grabbed the wrong one!  Hitting the after burners, I zipped back to the approximate scene, hoping to find the other guy pondering how his Bran Flakes and quinoa morphed into two cases of Diet Coke and four bananas.  But it was too late.  My cart was gone.  And it wasn’t coming back.

As I circled, I weighed the implications of a mistakenly-swapped grocery cart.  Starting over looked to be inevitable.  On the surface, that didn’t seem to be a kill shot.  Until I considered the fate of my list.  I would be flying blind without my list!  Great balls of fire!

So after 7-1/2 hours and a $1,200 grocery tab to make sure I got everything (only modest exaggerations), the disaster was complete.  Total mission failure.  As I debriefed back at base, I realized I had learned three valuable lessons:

  • Never leave your cart.   Your cart is your wingman.  You never leave your wingman.
  • Have a backup list. I now take a picture of the list with my camera phone.  I’m not even joking.
  • If you find yourself without a list for whatever reason, return to base immediately. You will only waste signficant amounts of time, fuel, and money and end up with all the wrong stuff.
As it pertains to the world of custom recognition, the same shopping cart/jet fighter rules apply.  The only difference is you are outfitting your customer for success, not stocking the pantry.  The great thing?  Your shopping list changes from week to week, but the list of ingredients you and your client need never does.

So here it is, a supermarket target list—aisle-by-aisle—of everything you need:




It’s closely connected to the measured accomplishment.  Recognize top performers on the sideline, right after they come off the field.  It means a whole lot more at that moment than it would after they’ve already moved on to the next challenge.  




But don’t rush things.  Take the necessary time to ensure each recipient record includes the correct item, name spelling, and shipment destination.  Get nicknames—if someone calls me David, for instance, there’s a good chance I’m in trouble.  Accurate shipping data reduces costs and headaches.   




Don’t over-complicate things.  Keep the qualification metrics simple.  Is it really necessary to have four award levels in eight categories?  Perhaps it is.  But remember, the more variables, the greater the chance of adversely affecting the first two ingredients. 




This goes beyond inscribing the recipient’s name.  This ingredient is more about selecting or creating an award that is appropriate and meaningful to the given recipient audience.  (Example: Don’t give a wall plaque to people who work in cubicles or open spaces.)  Know the demographics and tastes of your recipients. 




How many awards are stashed or trashed because it’s another brass plate on a walnut board or a cheaply-framed certificate?  One goal of recognizing people is to have them actually display their awards.  So the awards should be visually appealing for proud showcasing, not dumpsterized. Custom awards go a long way in this regaurd.




If you’ve got Aisle 5 covered, then you can take aim at this one.  Effective recognition creates an inducement for non-qualifiers to perform to the recipient’s level of success.  A properly-messaged award functions as a silent beacon of peer pressure.  It’s subtle and not unkind, but it’s definitely part of the equation.  And it’s where the ROI resides—boosting performance among a broader group. 




No one wants to overpay for anything, but value as it pertains to recognition awards encompasses both intrinsic and extrinsic values.  Yes, the “thing” needs to bear a level of quality and value in terms of materials, fit & finish, craftsmanship, etc.  But it also needs to deliver an emotional and perceived value beyond the material “stuff”—a sort of recognition ethos.  




Great recognition is based on clear, uniform, and well-communicated performance metrics.  There should be no doubt what the award stands for and how it was achieved.  Recipients will know and appreciate when they are recognized thoughtfully. 




The overall theme of an award should include elements of the brand & culture of the presenting organization, as well as themes focused on the recipient’s individual achievement.  It should tell both sides of the story fluently.






Companies and organizations spend an extraordinary amount of their resources differentiating themselves from their competition, i.e. building their brand.  Every message they convey should incorporate this same mark of distinction.  And if we agree that recognition is a device for communication, doesn’t it make sense that awards should embrace the same principle?

And exclusivity also pertains to the scope of the recipient population.  If everyone is a winner, it dilutes the importance of the award.


Next time you’re on a recognition mission, keep this aisle-by-aisle list of ingredients handy so you don’t drift off course or have to bail.

When is an Award Effective?


TD/DR? Here's Some visuals to help you out:

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 IMG_4240-1.jpgDave Miller is VP of Sales & Marketing at Bruce Fox, Inc. and a professional writer by virtue of the fact his company is paying him to write this blog.  He has been with Bruce Fox since 1990, which somehow sounds more palatable than 26 years.  He knows the Irish surname Mapother is derived from the name of the village of Mapowder near Cerne Abbas, in the county of Dorset.  The goal of his blog is to “edu-tain” (educate + entertain) promotional products distributors, with a focus on custom work.  He always uses cruise control in highway construction zones.

Tags: Benefits for the distributor, Benefits for the end clients