Little Things Mean a Lot


How much influence can a single cupcake (or mocha latte) have? You might be surprised.

Several years ago I was running a tradeshow booth at Gartner ITXPO where we were giving out little IQ-test gizmos for anyone who would fill out one of our surveys (a pre-qualification device for subsequent sales calls.) We had purchased the IQ games in bulk for about $15 a pop. We could have branded them with our logo, but they would have cost a lot more, plus our product was called “IQ” anyway. Besides, their main purpose was to get people to fill out the forms.

On the second day of the Expo, we ran out of games. Booth traffic dropped off to next to nothing, as we sat and watched hundreds of potential customers go by. So one of my colleagues and I dashed over to Sam’s Club and bought a couple of crates of candy bars. Fill out a survey; get a free chocolate bar. Unit cost: less than a buck.

We doubled our survey numbers that day and for the rest of the show. A 75-cent Hershey bar was a far bigger motivator than a $15 Amazing Gizmo.

On this week’s show we explore the little things that can make a big difference. As we continue to witness a convergence of social media, mobile communications, and a  barrage of messages that our  customers, our partners, and our own people are subject to every minute, we face the ongoing question of how do we get through? What can we do to express appreciation, stimulate interest, or motivate behavior? Welcome to the age of the microgift! Todd Horton joins us to discuss micro-gifting.

About Our Guest

Todd is the  is the co-founder and CEO of KangoGift, which is an up-and-coming player in this emerging market space. Todd comes to KangoGift having held a variety of roles at Monster Worldwide: he was the marketing director for JobKorea in Seoul, Korea (which is part of the family) and helped Monster enter Turkey, Russia, Mexico, and Brazil. Before that, Todd was one of the earliest employees of which went public in 2007.

Products Todd has brought to market have won many accolades and awards from leading consumer and trade press.

He holds a B.A. degree from Boston College, and an MBA from Yale.

Listen to internet radio with PhilBowermaster on Blog Talk Radio

Join us live Wednesday September 28 at 2 PM EDT / 11 AM PDT or access the show archive via the player above.

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Our music is Semi-Funk by Kevin MacLeod


  1. 2017-01-22 16:19:10

    I truly appreciate this post. I have been looking all over for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You have made my day! Thank you again!

  2. 2011-09-29 12:25:25

    Kent -- That method of motivation definitely works. In fact, it's been used at trade shows for a long time. Sometimes it's called "eye candy" or less politically correct, "booth babes." It has been officially passe for as long as I've been in marketing, but it's still used extensively and (I'm guessing) quite effectively.

  3. 2011-09-29 11:42:11

    True story; admittedly, second hand. A friend of mine from many years back had a daughter who was simply knock-dead gorgeous. He told me how her high school had an Ethnic Foods Fair, and she had read somewhere that the white grubs you dig up occasionally in your lawn or garden are considered something of a delicacy in certain parts of Africa. They are apparently eaten whole and still wriggling. So she got a shovel, did a little digging, and took a couple of dozen white grubs to the Ethnic Foods Fair. Up comes a football player, who I'd speculate was more interested in the girl than any ethnic fare. She cocks her head to the side, bats her eyes at him, and asks him if he 'd like to chug a grub or two. Sure enough, she eventually talks him into chugging a grub. By the end of the Ethnic Food Fair, half the football team plus their coach had chugged grubs. My friend did not offer statistics on other males but I suspect the grub chuggers were not limited to football players. She really was knock-'em-dead gorgeous. I suspect the motivation she provided supercedes even Hershey bars.

  4. 2011-09-29 10:38:40

    Richard -- Of course, there was plenty of interest in the IQ gizmo. As I mentioned, we ran out of them. It just turned out they was even more interest in a chocolate bar. Per your analysis of the economics of the situation, the lesson for me was that the trigger to drive the behavior we wanted was much less expensive than we thought it would be -- and it attarcted a broader audience. I think this is the intriguing thing about microgifting generally. The impact of a small gift can be much greater than we expect. As Todd mentioned in the podcast, it turns out that it really is the thought that counts. Who knew?

  5. 2011-09-29 06:34:11

    I think what you found was that not everyone is interested in an IQ gizmo, but nearly everybody is interested in chocolate! These potential customers were at an expo anyway, they have to pause sometime, so filling in a questionnaire is a tiny cost to them, and chocolate is an immediate reward. For some people the IQ thing was a much better reward, but that does not help your numbers as they can only fill out your form once. It was the breadth of popularity, not the importance, that was important. So what you want next time is the cheapest reward that is enough that most people will be willing to take a very short time to answer your questionnaire but that as many people as possible like. Maybe have a choice of treats, to broaden the appeal even further.

  6. 2011-09-28 22:21:17

    It is the chocolate. Watch a person when you give them a 2 piece box of Godiva. Their face lights up, and all it cost is a couple of bucks.

  7. 2011-09-28 21:58:01

    My dad was a non-smoker, so while in the service he learned quickly that the little two-pack of C-ration smokes was worth one or sometimes two C-ration Hershey bars.

  8. 2011-09-28 21:52:58

    So it's because of you that I've been getting spammed all these years...

  9. 2011-09-28 21:50:35

    In a pillbox on the Siegfried Line, my father swapped an entire bottle of liquor for a (large) Hershey bar. Think there's something about chocolate?

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