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Young America - Blog

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Breaking the Cynicism Cycle: How Consumers Can Learn Trust Again

Kathleen Vohs, Distinguished McKnight University Professor and Land O’Lakes Chair in Marketing, Carlson School of Management

I’ll confess it right away: I’m a cockeyed optimist. It might seem strange that I’ve spent the last two years conducting research on cynicism, but life takes some crazy turns sometimes, and, as a researcher, I think it’s often a good idea to follow up on a hunch and see where it leads.

How I got started
A few years ago, I was recuperating from surgery and took that time to get caught up on my field’s journals. I ran across a study on the psychology of cynicism by a scientist whose background is Russian-German. “Wow, that’s the perfect combination to really understand the cynical mindset,” I thought. I contacted her, learned more and we ended up working together.

Now I’m expanding my own research in this area. It’s a topic that holds a real fascination for me. In my research, I study how people think, feel and behave in order to make sense of marketplace and organizational outcomes. Learning more about the causes and motivations of our growing “cynicism cycle” has provided me with some often-surprising new insights into human behavior.

I’ll be presenting my findings on how cynicism affects trust at the upcoming conference “Ignite 2018—Protecting Trust in Today’s Consumer Journey.” The conference will be held September 20 at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. It’s sponsored by YA and The Institute for Research in Marketing (IRM). Each session pairs a research scholar and a business practitioner, all with the goal of connecting academic findings with real-world results.

The disrespect-cynicism cycle
My research has involved looking at tens of thousands of people studied over the previous nine years, as well as several custom lab and field studies. A strong pattern has emerged between the incidence of disrespect and the development of an attitude of cynicism. Basically, when people feel they’re not being heard, valued or respected, they become increasingly cynical. This can create disrespectful behavior on their part, which leads to more cynicism building in someone else, which leads to a “cynicism spiral” that’s – well, that’s pretty much what we’re all living with every day.

Turning it around (yes, it’s possible)
In my presentation, I’ll be digging deeper into this phenomenon, looking at ways we as individuals and as organizations can fight back by adopting a new perspective of welcome and inclusion.

I’ll also be looking at some companies who are doing their part to create a culture that’s built on respect — a building block of trust. One of my favorite examples is Zappos, which describes itself as “a service company that happens to sell shoes.” They’ve built a corporate culture around the power of building authentic, welcoming relationships with their employees and their customers. One way that’s evident on the employee side is the “pay to quit” concept. During onboarding training, new employees are offered a hefty bonus to leave the company. That does two things: it weeds out those who aren’t a good fit. For those who stay, it’s psychologically reinforcing, helping them build an even stronger bond to their decision to be an employee.

And then there’s Zappos’ amazing customer service. When they recorded their longest customer service call ever (10 hours and 43 minutes), the employee who handled the call was commended (not chastised!) by the CEO, who said: “In many other call-center environments, an employee’s job performance depends on how quickly they can get the customer off the phone. At Zappos, we encourage employees to stay on the phone for as long as the customer wants, even if it’s over 10 hours long. We know it sounds crazy, but as long as the customer is happy, then we are happy, too.”

Register for Ignite
Happiness is not the prevailing mindset for most consumers these days, but Zappos shows that it is possible. There are other trailblazers who are finding ways to build trust, even among highly distrustful consumers. If you’d like to learn more about this research and my findings, I’d love to see you at the conference on September 20. Early Bird pricing ends soon, Register Now!


Publish Date: August 14, 2018 5:00 AM

The fast and the focused: An academic tactic marketers are now embracing

Guest blogger: Joseph Redden, Associate Professor, Marketing, University of Minnesota

We call them “silos” in business. They’re referred to as “ivory towers” in academia. But whatever you call them, ways of working that allow us to remain isolated in our own worlds prevent us from learning and growing by interacting with people whose jobs are very different from our own.

That’s why I’m so eager to participate in the inaugural Marketing Conference presented in partnership with YA, University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management’s Institute for Research in Marketing Conference. On October 19, I’ll be one of the presenters who will be teaming up with a Fortune 100 business professional to discuss ways we can learn from each other and share best practices between the boardroom and the classroom.

In my session, I’ll be discussing ways that academics, students and leading-edge insights groups have learned to bypass the challenges of big data and create nimble, quick-response solutions for the confirmation of marketing insights. In just 30 minutes, I’ll offer you some practical how-to’s for designing and launching your own “guerrilla insights” group, right within your own organization. You’ll find out how to use more focused data, take less time and get significantly better results.

Interested? Want to learn more? You can reach the conference organizers here. I hope to see you October 19.


Publish Date: July 25, 2017 5:00 AM

Take Time for Gratitude

At this time of year, it’s a good idea to take some time being grateful for the blessings in our lives.

Here at YA, we are appreciative with gratitude and thanks. On the business front, we’re experiencing three wonderful things: growth, growth and more growth. We’ve had a 30 percent increase in revenue this year, which has all of us feeling incredibly grateful to our loyal clients and to our team members who work hard every day on behalf of our clients. Knowing that we’re helping our clients meet their marketing objectives is something to truly be thankful for.

New and different

We’ve added new senior leaders to our team in the past year, including a Chief Financial Officer, Chief Information Officer, Chief Revenue Officer and Chief Legal Officer, who are each already providing significant value to our day-to-day operations. We’ve invested more than $5 million to enhance our proprietary Engagement Engine (E2) platform that we use to launch and manage client programs and have started to implement our new ERP system, including workflow and financial management tools, to help us do an even better job of meeting our clients’ expectations.


Our mission, vision and strategy remain crystal-clear. It’s our single-minded focus and drive that have helped us transform this business, build strong client partnerships and enhance our employees’ potential for career growth. We’re staying a steady course.

What’s ahead

Looking to 2017, we’re excited about new clients and new partnerships. Look for more news about a conference we’re planning with the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, to be held in September or October of 2017. We’ll be talking about marketing-related issues that need to be solved today, and we expect great things to result from this gathering. We can’t wait to bring clients and marketing leaders together for a robust discussion.

On the home front

On a personal note, it’s been a spectacular year. My eldest son just got married, and we’ve formally welcomed his lovely bride to our family. Our youngest child graduated from college in May. We’ve moved into a new town home in Grant Park in downtown Minneapolis and just purchased a in Ellison Bay, Door County, Wisconsin. And I’ve stepped up my involvement with the Minneapolis business community by joining the Board of Governor’s at the Minneapolis Club, serving on the board of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, joining the board of the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management Institute for Research in Marketing and joining the board of Superior Products, based on Carrolton, Georgia.

There is, as always, a lot going on, but even in the midst of all the busy-ness, I remain grateful for the people in my life. The opportunity to grow and make positive changes working with others from all walks of life continues to be rewarding and enjoyable.

Gratitude matters

When you take the time to be grateful, you can cultivate the attributes of respect and humility, which are important to all of us on the YA team. We realize how fortunate we are, and as we look ahead to not just a great year, singular, but great years, plural.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families!

If you’d like to learn more about YA, please contact me to begin the conversation.


Publish Date: November 29, 2016 5:00 AM

Integrated Consumer Support

You’ve planned an integrated promotional campaign, you’ve worked with the digital creative team to develop your web site and you’ve selected some terrific rewards. It seems like your promotional marketing program is ready to go, right?

Wait a minute! Have you thought about consumer support? What will happen when participants have questions, need more information or want a person-to-person explanation about the process? If you haven’t got that support in place, participants could turn from loyal brand fans to disappointed consumers in the blink of an eye.

We get it (and have for more than 40 years)

What’s a smart marketer to do? Work with YA, of course. With our history of more than 40 years of being in business, we’ve learned quite a few things about consumers, and one important insight is that there will always be a few people who need a little extra support along the way with any promotion. That’s why we’ve established a world-class Contact Center to offer assistance and to help ensure your consumers have a seamless and satisfying brand experience with every promotion you run.

Consumer support is never an afterthought at YA. It’s integrated into to every program we run, because we know it’s vital to your overall success and brand experience. Handled correctly, these consumer interactions don’t have to be purely informational. They can be inspirational as well, helping participants to connect with your brand in new and highly positive ways.

Why “external” makes sense

Your organization may have its own contact center facilities for consumer support, and they probably do a great job with the work they’ve already got. It’s a different matter, though, to adjust to the peaks in inquiries that could come in from a national promotion and to respond effectively to consumers’ promotion-specific questions or requests. We have the work force in place that allows us to support and quickly scale up and scale down as efficiently as possible, in a way that an internal contact center might not be able to.

Additionally, the promotional expertise and program integration are key. Because we have complete data integration through all YA departments, our Contact Center agents have full and immediate access to all consumer submission details. We’re adept and flexible in coming up with swift solutions for consumer questions or concerns, turning each touchpoint into an opportunity to reinforce our client’s consumer brand experience.

Taking it to the next level

At YA, we’re staying on top of trends and offering more proactive and digital solutions to meet the needs of our clients and their consumers. We’ve added proactive, outbound calling to our list of services. Whenever we run across an entry with incorrect or incomplete information, we take the extra step and, instead of mailing out a rejection message, we call that customer directly for a helpful, one-on-one conversation and remediation. YA clients who choose to add outbound calling to their programs are finding it’s an excellent way to turn what could be a negative message into an incredibly helpful and positive one. This outbound calling minimizes customer frustration and increases satisfaction, creating a more seamless process. We also offer a variety of digital solutions, including email and web chat support.  This gives consumers a quick and easy online way to ask questions and get the help they need.

If you’d like to know more about our thought leadership around how to maximize the consumer experience at every touch point, especially when a consumer has a question about their promotion, we’re ready to begin the conversation. Please contact me today.


Publish Date: August 2, 2016 5:00 AM

Rocket Fuel for Your Next Marketing Promotion

Using data has gone from an up-and-coming trend to a critical piece of marketing execution. Marketers are capturing and using data to understand their consumers, track program performance, and design or improve the next promotion. The rise of digital channels has led to an explosion of places to capture data. That said, this proliferation of data comes with challenges such as capturing the right data, syncing data sources, and analysis paralysis from the sheer volume.

At YA, we’ve embraced digital, data and everything that goes along with it, and it’s become part of our core business culture.

Show me the money

First and foremost, the days of saying, “everyone loved it!” and having that be enough to satisfy your bosses are long gone. These days, marketers are facing increasing pressure to deliver results that are backed by strong data that tells a compelling story about program effectiveness. Marketers need to justify their marketing choices and budget expenditures. They also have to be smart about how to most effectively spend that next marketing dollar to drive the greatest return. YA provides those answers and more. We leverage data to deliver reporting and insights regarding program performance and, most importantly, program return on investment. In addition, we take the data and turn the information into actionable insights for the client’s next promotion.

Planning for data

One of the core steps in program development is data planning. Being smart on the front end of program design ensures that you have the data you need on the back end to answer the questions you have or set the stage for the next consumer offer. We start with clients’ marketing objectives, define KPIs for success and set the plan for the future based on actionable insights. For example, without the proper planning, a program might not capture critical information for re-engaging with a consumer, such as a mobile phone number or the opt-in permission.

Using data to make a program more effective

Data collected isn’t just used on the back end reporting and analytics or for consumer re-engagement efforts. We also leverage data to make programs run more effectively, deliver better results and reduce consumer friction. One way we use data is to leverage transaction data to quickly and seamlessly validate a purchase, reducing the turn time for a reward validation for the consumer. Another way data improves program performance is in the fraud models we run against millions of submissions. Our proprietary algorithms have “trained” YA systems to detect fraud quickly and allow us to take immediate action. The result: consumers who have earned rewards receive them and consumers trying to inappropriately take advantage of your offer are stopped in their tracks.

Transparency and security

With all this talk about using data, it’s also important to remember the consumer point of view. From a marketing perspective, we have been moving toward longer-term consumer conversations for some time. Data science only enriches the content and cadence of those conversations, using analysis to garner increased sales, loyalty and referrals. And, in an era that is becoming hyperaware of data security issues, we’re finding that data cannot be an afterthought, but must be the launching pad for initial interactions. Consumers must be told, in a transparent way, what you plan to do with the data that’s collected. It’s the first step in what will hopefully become a long-term conversation, and it needs to be addressed with intention and care.

Let’s talk

Here at YA, we’re experts at beginning those conversations with consumers and at using data to keep vital and ongoing engagement with your brand fans. If you’d like to hear more about how YA can help you attract new consumers, retain the ones you have and create loyal brand ambassadors, please contact me to begin the conversation.


Publish Date: July 26, 2016 5:00 AM

Been There, Doing That…

After my last blog discussing what I hear from clients about their requirements and why they work with YA, I wanted to take some time to look at the way those great ideas play out with our acclaimed, thought-leading efforts for generating flawless execution for every program we run.

What YA brings to the table

The one comment I hear most often from our clients is how much they appreciate our deep bench of subject matter experts, and the way those experts bring their years of experience to bear in making sure that every aspect of a program helps extend our clients’ brand experiences to their consumers.

If you have a great idea for a new marketing promotion, you should really talk to YA, because odds are, we’ve done something like it. In fact, we’ve “been there, and we’re doing that” when it comes to executing promotional marketing program on behalf of our clients.  Which is why we’re considered to be the country’s leading promotional marketing company. When you’ve been in the game for more than 40 years, you learn a lot. And when you continue to grow, evolve and transform with the changing needs of your clients and the marketplace, then your “doing that” credibility gets richer and more robust with every new digital twist and every new creative consumer outreach concept

Begin with the marketing objectives

Our work with clients always begins with a deep and thorough understanding of their marketing objectives. When we fully understand what the issues are that we’re trying to address and resolve, it adds clarity to our role and purpose to our actions. Once those objectives are ingrained with every member of the YA team, we build a solution that maximizes every part of the program with the goal of optimizing the consumer experience and driving incremental business returns. Then our execution know-how comes into play, as everyone on the team is laser-focused on the details and delivering complete client satisfaction. Finally, at the program end we do a thorough review and evaluate the program based on the initial marketing objectives and metrics.  This approach turns insights into action and is designed to foster continuous program improvement.

Cycle of excellence

Our team is composed of promotional marketing professionals who appreciate and embrace the cycle that begins with an understanding of the client’s marketing objectives, leverages our expertise to find the right solutions, progresses as we perform to our benchmark, and continues through the delivery of actionable insights … which brings us right back to a discussion of marketing objectives for the next promotion.

It’s a virtual cycle that helps our clients make the most of their marketing budgets and put their brands at the forefront of marketing excellence. If you’d like to find out how YA can help you meet your own marketing objectives, please contact me to start the conversation.


Publish Date: July 19, 2016 5:00 AM

Managing Enter-to-Win Rules and Regulations

It’s every marketer’s nightmare: That great promotion you planned so carefully has suddenly run into a legal snafu, and angry consumers are talking trash about your brand. You ask yourself: What went wrong?

There are a number of possible answers to that question, because the rules and regulations surrounding enter-to-win promotions can be very complex. They vary by state, industry or even the consumer target.  Additionally, they are changed and revised frequently. How is a savvy marketer supposed to run a promotion that meets marketing objectives, engages consumers effectively and keeps the brand out of legal hot water? By working with a proven partner, like YA, of course.

Enter-to-win promotions are perfect for raising awareness and creating goodwill for your products. With the right legal counsel to back you up, you’ll maintain your brand’s reputation and build new conversations with engaged consumers. Because we know what can go wrong, we know how to build a solid promotion that not only meets your marketing objectives, but ensures you’re living up to the letter of the law in every state of the union.

Talk to the experts

When you are launching an enter-to-win promotion, it’s no time to take on a “do-it-yourself” attitude. If you want to remain headache (and lawsuit) free, you’ll need to work with a professional partner with years of expertise in crafting the terms and conditions, entry requirements and the entire user experience and that delivers experienced legal counsel. Here at YA, we’ve been running successful enter-to-win promotions for more than 40 years.  With that experience and through monitoring of the industry we know what works and can easily help our clients avoid promotional and legal pitfalls.

We work hand in hand with our clients’ in-house legal teams.  They appreciate our expertise in promotional law.  They rely on our knowledge and recommendations for the program rules and regulations to ensure that the program meets all of the expected legal requirements.  They are experts in their own industries, but they rely on YA when it comes to promotional marketing legal capabilities.

It’s in the details

When we work with our clients, we focus on excellence in execution—we sweat the details and deliver the best experience for our clients and their consumers.  The “details” are a key part of keeping a promotion legally compliant and making it easy for the consumer to understand how to participate.

  • Bonding?
  • Insurance requirements?
  • State by state laws?
  • Minor restrictions?
  • Industry regulations?

These are just a few of the legal considerations and different requirements that we cover with clients to ensure that they are factored into the promotion design and execution.  Focusing on the details ensures smooth sailing from start to finish.

Creative consultation

Our legal and promotional team often serves as a sounding board for different concepts and ideas. Our clients sometimes come to us with a partially developed idea.  They know we can take that initial concept and bring it to reality, while ensuring that it’s legally compliant and avoids potential pitfalls by having the right rules and regulations in place for governing the promotion.

From an entry and prize perspective this can be quite critical. Just consider the essay contest that didn’t estimate the word count and resulting time requirement (or the process) for reviewing and selecting a winner! Or what about the photo entry that doesn’t have a step in the process to review and flag inappropriate images before posting to your home page? Both could spell trouble for your promotion.  With YA at your side, we’ll guide you through each of these key determinations in the program design and align these with the program rules and regulations.

At the end of the promotion, when it is time to select winners and award prizes, it is critical to have the right legal procedures in place. 1099s and affidavits are just a few examples of what need to be considered. YA has awarded million-dollar checks, new cars, mopeds, international trips and more to winners of our clients’ promotions. We’ve worked with major celebrities to deliver prizes to the winners. It’s fair to say that if you can think of a fantastic enter-to-win prize, we’ve probably already done it!  That also means we’ll ensure that the big prize is awarded in accordance with the law.

Our clients tell us they know they don’t have to worry when they’re working with YA. If you’d like to experience the worry-free YA difference, please contact me.


Publish Date: July 12, 2016 5:00 AM

Picking the Right Reward

There are many different elements involved in a promotion, from initial design, to execution, to post-program analysis. One key step is the selection of the right reward. If you are choosing rewards that don’t have the right perceived value, don’t fit your intended demographic, or are not maximizing your return on your marketing investment, then you’re in danger of launching a program that doesn’t meet your goals.

How YA helps

At YA, we begin every promotion with review and discussion of our clients’ marketing objectives. This first step is critical for guiding our recommendations on the types of rewards that should be offered, as well as the best way to deliver them to consumers who participate in the promotion. We know that selecting the right reward will result in maximized engagement, happy consumers, a better overall consumer experience and, most importantly, a higher return on marketing investment for our clients.

Helping our clients select appropriate reward types, values and delivery methods is just the beginning for the YA team. We also provide deep-dive analysis to measure the effectiveness of different rewards and help guide future promotional planning.

YA leads the way with new ideas

There are so many options to choose from when it comes to reward selection — physical or digital, reward value, branding, and locations where the rewards can be used. We provide plenty of options and cutting-edge ideas that keep promotions fresh, exciting and effective.

The impact of the right reward

For many of our retail clients, we recommend closed-loop cards, which redirect the promotional reward spend back to their brick-and-mortar or online stores. That higher spend is just the beginning! This approach further engages their existing shoppers with their brand, drives repeat purchases and delivers valuable purchase information — win-win-win! No wonder our clients are devoting more of their overall marketing spend to marketing promotions like rebates, given they offer a proven tactic for delivering consistently high results.

Looking ahead

There are many exciting new developments in our industry! One example is the move to offering reward options, which allows a prepaid card to exist within a consumer’s mobile device or wallet. Eligible consumers can receive a reward card via email or text message and then use the embedded, scannable bar code to redeem the reward at a retailer. At YA, we like to say that what’s right for our clients’ consumers is right for us, and this is one clear example of a consumer-friendly, leading-edge process we are deploying for clients.

If you’d like to learn about how the right reward can motivate your customers in the right direction, I’d love to talk with you. Contact me to begin the conversation.


Publish Date: June 14, 2016 5:00 AM

The Right Stuff?

At YA, we have a passion for meeting our clients’ needs and providing value. When we interview candidates, we want to see that kind of passion coming through in them as well. To bring out that passion, we’ve put a great deal of thought into our recruiting strategy, and we center our interviews around not only industry expertise, but also behavior traits that will fit the clients we serve and the ways we go about getting our work done every day. For us, it’s essential to gauge how well a person can thrive in an organization in growth mode, how entrepreneurial they have proven themselves to be, and how well they can collaborate.

Behavior traits we look for

In addition to job requirements like skill sets and prior experience, we’ve identified some key traits for success at YA.

At YA, we take a consultative, client-centric, solutions-oriented approach. That means learning the clients’ business and marketing objectives, then effectively and proactively communicating marketing program recommendations, timelines and results. It’s also about working to deliver the highest quality programs, acting with a sense of urgency and understanding our clients’ businesses to best meet their needs. We’ve found that people who take a consultative approach are solutions focused in everything they do. Additionally, they exhibit a willingness to learn, an innate curiosity and entrepreneurial spirit, and an eagerness to innovate and apply a broad knowledge of digital solutions and methodology. They can take a futuristic marketing approach when working on a client program. A good sense of judgment and accountability goes a long way in staying focused on the client’s needs. People who demonstrate these behaviors make purposeful, data-driven decisions, engage in honest, thoughtful debate and are accountable to one another. This kind of accountability breeds collaboration and trust — two things essential to delivering on our client marketing programs.

Culture matters

We’re very focused on having a great culture here at YA. We attract and retain talented employees. And if we have great talent, we’ll be doing the best possible work for our clients. After all, it always comes back to being client-centric!

After our rebranding to YA and our move to a new office space in downtown Minneapolis last June, we’ve settled in and proactively reflected on our team, which includes a terrific mix of tenured and newer employees. To better understand what our team members think about working at YA and to continue to improve our already awesome culture, we kicked off a new health and culture initiative at that start of this year. It’s not a “point-in-time” program for us, rather, it’s an ongoing, company-wide effort that’s integral to who we are and what we want to become.

Rewarding with great perks and benefits

When we find a candidate who has the skills and behavior traits we’re looking for, we also make sure that we deliver compensation packages that support the culture and great work environment we have at YA. In addition to planning fun social activities and an updated, modern work environment, we offer competitive benefits and perks, including health, dental, flex spending accounts, 401(k), paid time off, holidays, commuting, short- and long-term disability, company paid and voluntary life insurance plans, and legal services. And, we offer some added benefits that include happy hours, a snack-stocked kitchen and events our “fun team” plans for the entire business.

If you’d like to work with a terrific team like ours, check out our careers page to see if there’s a position to fit your skill set. Or if you’d like to learn more, we’d like to talk to you. Please contact either of us at or


Publish Date: June 7, 2016 5:00 AM

YA’s Fraud Prevention Approach

At YA, we care about the things that keep our clients awake at night. In today’s fast-paced and volatile digital marketplace, we know that worries about fraud can lead to concerns for many brand marketers. And while many promotional partners don’t even address this topic, we’ve taken proactive measures to create effective responses to the issue, which has significant implications for our clients and industry.

We’ve been leading the promotional marketing services industry for more than 40 years, so believe me when I tell you rebates work — and they work very well — in helping to drive sales, product choice and brand engagement. Developing intelligently planned and flawlessly executed promotional marketing campaigns can lead to an ongoing and positive return on your marketing investment. Unfortunately, some programs leave the door open for potential fraudsters to take advantage of the program and receive unearned rewards. By identifying fraud that might previously have existed in your promotions, YA can help increase your return on marketing investment.

Our three-step approach

Our fraud prevention expertise is key in the promotional design and planning phase. We’re able to help our clients craft the promotion rules, terms and conditions, and validation processes, such as system integrations, that will be most effective in engaging loyal customers. And, additionally, serve to identify and discourage fraudsters from attempting illegal redemptions during your promotion.

The second step in the process is detection. Once the program is in market, we leverage the promotional rules for validation and also apply sophisticated, proprietary algorithms to approve valid submissions, reject invalid submissions, and identify what we call “suspicious” submissions.

Finally, we respond. Valid submissions quickly receive their earned rewards. Depending on the reason a rebate was rejected, the program may call for our outbound contact center team to proactively help the consumer correct their error and resubmit. When it comes to suspicious submissions, our client insights and analytics team investigates further. The outcome can range from making future program recommendations, to approving the submission, to turning it over to the client as a suspected fraudulent submission.


Why we call these submissions “suspicious?”

As the promotional marketing industry leader, we’ve created a set of preventative steps, audits and alerts. Paired with increased availability of “big data,” we’re able to leverage analytics to help identify suspicious submissions. It’s critical to flag these as suspicious vs. fraudulent and take a proactive approach to investigate. This is important, because what we find is that while a submission may appear to be fraudulent, some of these suspicious submissions might actually be from your best customers — who have responded to the offer by making repeat purchases of your product or service — or the result of a very customer-centric store location that is helping customers to submit the rebate while still in the store. In the age of social media, incorrectly identifying your best customers’ submissions as fraud can lead to disastrous publicity. Therefore, we dig into the details to understand and recommend how to handle the submission and make program or training adjustments as needed.

How about a fraud audit?

Would you like to learn more about our proactive fraud process? Call YA. We can conduct a complimentary fraud audit for you right now, before you’ve even started working with us. We’re that sure we can help you drive profitable sales that will make you and you’ll want to work with us more.

If you’d like to learn more about how YA can help you retain your customers, acquire new ones, create brand ambassadors and keep the fraudsters at bay, please contact me to begin the conversation.


Publish Date: May 31, 2016 5:00 AM

Making Referrals Work for You

If you’ve ever checked out Yelp reviews to make dinner reservations at a restaurant or planned vacation travel, then you know all about the power of word-of-mouth referrals in today’s highly social marketplace. As a leader in the promotional marketing services industry, YA is focused on identifying, understanding and leveraging consumer trends for the programs we create for clients. Consumer insights are a key part of what we share with our clients and leverage to ensure we’re maximizing consumer preferences to drive the greatest return on marketing investment. We know referrals are powerful. We recently conducted primary consumer research to provide additional insights regarding how referrals impact consumer buying behaviors.

Power of referrals

Our recent market research study yielded some fascinating results. We found that:

  • 91 percent of consumers said they give referrals when they like a product.
  • 85 percent of consumers said they are more likely to buy a product or service if it was recommended by someone they know.
  • 76 percent of consumers said a referral would cause them to choose one brand over another.
  • 52 percent of consumers reported that referrals were very or extremely important when making a purchase.
  • 42 percent of consumers said they had made a referral when a friend requested information or expressed a need.
  • The greatest percentage of consumers (38 percent) said that when researching products and services, a referral from a friend is the source of information they trust the most, ahead of online reviews, advertising or news reports.

Clear opportunity

Given this information, it’s clear that consumers trust and value the opinion of people they know. But many brands still look at this information and think “so what?” That’s clear from the statistic that a mere 22 percent of survey respondents say they have participated in a formalized refer-a-friend program. Clearly, there is an opportunity to turn this already ingrained behavior into a sales generator. The good news for YA clients is that we offer a proven refer-a-friend solution for marketers who want to put the power of referrals to work for their organizations.

How it works

Unlike ‘share’ and ‘like’ buttons on social media, we’re helping clients capitalize on the social sharing trend with refer-a-friend programs that offer an easy, structured, trackable way for consumers to make a referral and be rewarded for that action. We help our clients review their product life cycle and identify key steps in the customer journey to optimize when to ask and incent consumers for a referral. Those who make referrals can be rewarded with a prepaid or gift card, a discount off their next purchase, or even a free add-on service, such as extra mobile phone data or free movies with their subscription, which provides a built-in, ongoing incentive to refer again and again. It’s a win for consumers and brands, and it’s a tactic that’s been delivering results for our clients.

If you’d like to find out more about how YA is putting the power of referrals to work, please contact me to begin the conversation. And if you’re already a loyal YA client … please refer us to a friend!


Publish Date: May 24, 2016 5:00 AM

YA’s Four Vertical Markets

With 40-plus years of industry-leading business experience, we’ve learned a few things about the best ways to help our clients with on-target promotional programs that are designed to achieve their marketing objectives. In addition to our promotional expertise, YA has gained actionable insight into our clients’ industries. This vertical market expertise allows us to bring even richer promotional solutions and recommendations to our clients because we understand the unique differences of their business and how best to execute programs to meet their specific objectives.

Our consistent success stems from a foundational tenet of our organization — our structure. We’ve aligned our teams around four key vertical markets: consumer packaged goods, manufacturing, retail and subscription services.

Through the lens of these vertical groups, we take a macro view of industry trends, consumer opinions and key business challenges, synthesize the insights and then apply the customized learnings to our development of promotional programs across each of the industries. It is the combination of our promotional and industry expertise that allows us to effectively help our clients achieve their marketing objectives and connect to their customers and prospects.

Vertical matters

There are both similarities and differences across the vertical markets, which we identify and leverage across our client base. We approach programs with sensitivity to industry nuances, such as those verticals with higher-value ticket items, those that roll over monthly, or those with infrequent purchase cycles. We take into consideration communication style and frequency, reward ratios and requested consumer action, such as purchasing of adjacent products or incenting referrals. After analyzing the impact of these factors, we make insightful recommendations on promotion adjustments to achieve, and often times exceed, the marketing objectives of our clients.

Project management office

It’s our job and our passion to bring big ideas to life. The YA project management office is involved early in the promotion design phase and continues to remain engaged with the client and vertical market team from the internal development of the promotion through the launch date. We maintain project management capabilities that are aligned to our portfolio of promotional marketing solutions and our vertical market approach. Because we understand our clients’ business objectives and industry, we can successfully lead our clients through program design choices with a thorough understanding of the consumer journey in each vertical market. It’s a strategy that continues to help our clients profitably grow their business, because we’ve found that when our team is immersed in the nuances of a client’s industry, we can anticipate the level and complexity of the offer, and then leverage our knowledge to drive a better, more comprehensive overall solution for our client.

The YA advantage

Our clients expect us to be experts within promotional marketing services, and part of that expertise is grounded in our vertical market approach. When we present clients with specific solutions, those solutions are always translated into that particular client’s unique environment.

The vertical organizational principle is found throughout YA, extending beyond our account teams, and is truly imbedded within our culture. If you’d like to learn more about how YA can align around your vertical and help you meet your marketing objectives, please contact me to start the conversation.


Publish Date: May 3, 2016 5:00 AM

Getting the Most Out of Your Rebate Program

When was the last time you reviewed and enhanced your rebate program? If you’re doing things the way you’ve always done them (and getting the same results — or worse), then you might be in need of a “rebate refresh.” This is particularly true if your rebate forms rely on a printed, paper form your consumers need to complete and mail in. It’s time to look at the best practices to leverage rebates and connect with your consumers.

Going digital

As digital, social and mobile channels have evolved, so have consumer expectations for how they want to engage with your brand to take advantage of promotional programs, including rebates. Now, more than ever, thanks to digital ease around the consumer experience, brands are seeking out rebates electronically — to drive consumer behavior. In fact, according to YA’s proprietary consumer research, more than half of Americans (53 percent) took advantage of rebates in the last year. In addition, nearly half (43 percent) say a rebate would incent them to buy one brand over another, and 23 percent say they’d buy a more expensive model.

Consumers also told us that they are seeking ways to digitally engage with rebates. In fact, 70 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to take advantage of a rebate if they could submit all of the information online or via their mobile phone.

Needless to say, consumers expect digital methods for rebates today.

Rebates: to enhance loyalty

The digital revolution has played a big part in the evolution of rebate programs, and the development of ongoing dialogue is another valuable piece of the puzzle. Our robust digital services allow your consumers to capture purchase information digitally and to submit through mobile devices. This allows brands to use rebates as the “ice breaker” in what can become an ongoing conversation with a perennially engaged consumer.

Rebates enhance loyalty, and we have many successful examples as proof points. Our clients agree with us that rebates should not be viewed as one-and-done promotion to drive a one-time sale, but rather as an opportunity to engage potential consumers, drive sales and capture valuable information from those consumers to create a longer-term brand dialog and drive future sales. This is a considerable benefit of leveraging rebates vs. instant discounts. While instant discounts are frequently used and easy to execute, these types of discounts do nothing to bring consumers back or incent them to buy again. Both program results and the ROI models to measure the results prove that rebate-participating consumers will generate a larger basket size and more visits to a store than those who are not rebate participants.

For clients who have products with infrequent purchase cycles (for example: appliances, tires, etc.), having ongoing communication is a critical component of the campaign strategy. The campaigns are designed to drive long-term brand affinity through engaging, brand-building enter-to-win programs or offers to drive sales of complimentary products or to incent a referral. For example, with one manufacturer, we took a deep dive into the client’s business model and, in addition to a core rebate offer, the program was enhanced with ongoing messaging to drive action. The communications focused on driving adjacent purchases along the way and reminded consumers when it was time to repurchase the original product.

At YA, we create ongoing conversations with our clients’ consumers, so our clients can maximize the results from programs like rebates. If you’d like to learn more about maximizing your promotional dollars, please contact me to get the conversation started.


Publish Date: April 27, 2016 5:00 AM

A Trusted Partner

When you offer value — real, honest-to-goodness business value — people usually take notice. As the President and CEO at YA, I have the opportunity to regularly visit with our clients. Sometimes I’m present at a new business pitch. Sometimes I join a quarterly business review. Lately, I’ve been hearing about how much clients appreciate our thought leadership, their desire to shift to digital engagements, and the need to enhance the consumer experience.

Value of thought leadership

One very common theme I hear from clients is: “We appreciate the thought leadership YA brings to the table — and the value you provide.”

So what exactly is that “value” we’re bringing? Well, in many cases, it is credible insight, gleaned from our years of experience and ongoing data analysis, about what’s working and what isn’t — for promotional marketing and within each client’s vertical industry. Because of the volume and size of programs we run across each of our client verticals each year, we can share up-to-date information on current program designs, returns and response rates.

We know those insights are meaningful to clients for understanding program performance and supporting their marketing decisions and budget allocation. In fact, because we recognize how important understanding industry trends and program performance is to clients, we’ve created an internal Client Insights and Analytics team dedicated to delivering meaningful and actionable information for every promotion our clients operate with YA. The insights generated by this team allow YA to guide our clients’ promotional program designs to drive purchase, incent trial and build engagement for brand evangelists.

Moving into digital

Another theme I hear is about moving to digital. Clients know it’s time to move into digital social and mobile promotional marketing strategies, because they understand that’s where their consumers are spending their time, but they want to do it safely and carefully. So they come to YA — because they want to get it right the first time. Whether it’s moving a rebate program from a traditional mail-in form to a 100 percent digital submission and reward process, or integrating social sharing or effectively developing a text-to-win program, YA brings the expertise and experience our clients are looking for to make the shift seamlessly.

Improving consumer experience

One question I’ve been hearing across the board is: “How do we improve consumer experience in the realm of promotional marketing?” This attention to the consumers’ experience is key to the success and design of any promotional program. Digital engagement, as discussed, is a significant driver of consumer engagement and satisfaction. Our team deploys proven consumer journeys that take into account steps in the process where the consumer will provide information, need information or need help. Once a consumer submission is completed, we recommend leveraging proactive status messaging to provide timely, desired information, such as a text, indicating the submission was received or the reward is on the way. In addition to providing information and peace of mind, this proactive approach minimizes inbound customer service calls. Finally, for clients focused on enhancing the customer experience, we recommend strategies and predict where the consumer might need help. For example, if a rebate submission is received without all of the required information, we can proactively contact the consumer and walk them through the process to successfully complete the submission and receive their earned reward. Talk about a positive customer experience.

Building strong relationships

In the time I’ve been at YA, I’ve been pleased to notice that our client relationships are getting stronger, and our “thought leadership” conversations are moving upstream on the organizational ladder. As we’re spending more time together, clients are growing more comfortable talking to us as a trusted partner. If you’d like to find out what YA can do for your brand, I’d love to visit with you. Contact me to begin the conversation.


Publish Date: April 19, 2016 5:00 AM

Building a Great Team

Not only is YA a great company for our clients to work with, but it is also a great place to work. Why? Our incredible team! With a mix of experienced veterans, vertical industry experts and technical, digital innovators, we’ve got the right team of players to help our clients achieve their marketing objectives.

At YA, our recruiting strategy starts with our overall business strategy and with our client-centric approach. YA is vertically aligned by industry (CPG, manufacturing, retail and subscription services) and functional expertise. That organizational structure drives our hiring profiles and our approach to seeking the right candidates to join our team. First, we make sure that every prospective employee brings the skills and expertise for their role and our clients’ industries. Once we know the person has the right expertise to meet client needs, we also make sure the candidate is right for YA. We look for key values like tenacity, curiosity and accountability, and a desire to be a part of a collaborative, client-centric team.

Patience pays off

To find the right person for YA, we’re willing to be persistent and patient because we know that taking time to ensure we have the right candidate is critical to the success of YA, our clients’ programs and employees’ job satisfaction.

When a new hire joins our team, we focus on getting them up to speed quickly and introducing them to their new teammates and clients. In addition to a structured onboarding process, in which we share a high-level overview of our organization, strategic plan, policies and procedures, each new hire receives customized training based on their role.

Nurturing culture

Beyond the onboarding process, we take specific measures to make sure employee engagement levels remain high. One example is our recent launch of an employee health and culture initiative, all part of ensuring we’re growing and developing our culture — and keeping YA a great place to work.

Another way we nurture YA culture is with our “FUN team.” This group of cross-functional employees take the lead in planning employee activities as big as our annual Holiday Party, summer Twin’s baseball game, volunteer/outreach and donation drives, as well as simple events like a Friday afternoon happy hour. A recent event gathered the team in the YA Café to celebrate YA’s 44th birthday with a custom cake and champagne toast!

The proof

Our efforts have certainly paid off, and our teams are functioning at the highest level. It’s great to see such impressive work come together for clients on a daily basis. We were recently in the enviable position of wishing “bon voyage” to a client who won a prestigious internal award from his employer, taking his family on a free trip to Hawaii as a reward. The icing on the cake? He credited the promotional work YA had delivered for his success and told our team: “I couldn’t have done it without you.”

As great as that praise is, we have to admit we often hear such kind words from grateful clients. Here are recent examples that highlight the ways our high-functioning teams have made a difference for many major brands:

From a teleservices client:

“The YA team has been truly outstanding to work with on this project. This was a huge initiative for our company, and it’s put us on the map with our competitors once again.”

From an automotive client, after a cross-functional team conference call:

“This is the second time we’ve met with you, and it’s also the second time we’ve felt we had just the right people on the other end of the line. Thank you. You clearly get the concept of what we’re trying to do, and you’ve really done a great job with it.”

We work hard at YA to deliver for clients. We also work hard to make sure YA has a great team and is a great place to work, because we know that culture pays off for our business and our clients. If you’d like to work with a terrific team like ours, or if you’d like to find out more about a career at YA, we’d love to start the conversation. Please contact either of us at or


Publish Date: April 12, 2016 5:00 AM

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