Look to Apple’s iPhone Launches to Improve Incentive Contest Communications

In the very first episode of Incentive Magazine’s new podcast series, the interviewer asked: “are there more effective ways to reach incentive program participants?”

Apple iPhone launches are a great parallel.  Think about the amazing promotions that Apple does every time they release a new iPhone.


If you think about it, it always starts with a teaser, and in Apple’s case, that teaser is usually a whisper.  When Steve Jobs was CEO, the whispers were mostly rumors.  Under current CEO, Tim Cook, Apple releases a few details to get the buzz going.

In the same way, incentive programs need to tease out a few curious nuggets in a way that doesn’t share everything. Maybe it doesn’t share the destination of the trip or the grand prize of an incentive contest, but it builds a little bit of suspense.

Kickoff Event

At Apple, they always launch with a dramatic kickoff event, and on the incentive side, we should do a kickoff event if participants are in the same office. If not, is there a quarterly business review or an all-hands conference call or an internal webinar.

Kickoff Announcement

Back to Apple, they always do a massive kickoff announcement.  It’s a press release.  And an ad campaign.  New web pages and new web videos.

For us incentive communicators, when we announce an incentive, we really need to be doing a print flyer and then make it an electronic PDF.  Print communications are so often squeezed out, but all of us look at print mail longer than email.


There’s still a place for emails, of course. But I advise our clients: let’s drip out those emails in multiple stages with multiple messages over multiple formats; not just one grand email that dumps everything in one endless scroll email.


We also see Apple putting up billboards all over town. Well, for us on the incentive side, that billboard could be a poster in the office that leaves a lasting visual impression.

Online Ads

Lastly, when Apple releases a new iPhone, they launch a bunch of different online ads.

If our company has an intranet or internal web-based toolkit, let’s create e-banners and button ads that show up on participant’s browsers for internal promotion in a seldom-used way.

We should look at consumer product releases and challenge ourselves: “how can we release an incentive contest in a similar format?”  It will make our incentive promotion more successful.

The sad and sobering reminder is most employees probably care more about the next iPhone than they do their next incentive program.

Interviewer: “yes, a lot of Apple’s success seems to be chalked up to effective marketing.  Maybe incentive planners can learn from Apple.”


Mike was recently interviewed by Incentive Magazine for their inaugural Incentive Podcast “How to Market an Incentive Program.”

Read more incentive promotion tips from this podcast on our previous blog post.

Mike May

Author Mike May

President | Author of 12.5 Steps to a Perfect Incentive Program and recognized as one of the Top 25 Most Influential People in the Incentive Industry. Expertise: bucket-list incentive trips, motivational incentive program design, matching event goals with the perfect destination & hotel, cost savings strategies, global channel reward programs, and targeted communications.

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