If you go to a 401(k) plan enrollment meeting run by Pan-American Retirement & Investment Services, you'd better watch out for flying balsa wood airplanes, "Pay Yourself First" pens, golf balls or even a bottle of 401(kayenne) hot sauce.
"It's a big part of the culture we built: fast, focused, friendly and fun," said Mike DiCenso, director of sales and marketing. "People love it."
The trinket-fests also help to boost 401(k) plan participation levels, Mr. DiCenso said. Currently, the average plan sponsor with Pan-American has around 82% to 85% participation, he added.
"People don't want to look like they don't understand in front of fellow employees, and they don't ask questions," Mr. DiCenso explained.
Pan-American executives who run the meetings toss goodies that also include Mardi Gras beads and notepads in leatherette cases to employees who ask questions, he said. Pretty soon the mood changes and questions start to fly along with the toys.
"It gets the conversation going," he added.
The gifts don't stop at the enrollment meetings. Pan-American has a cycle of six educational meetings and each one is a bit like the old "Let's Make a Deal" game show.
Coming soon, the company plans to include Mardi Gras beads in all of its letters and packages, he added.
"It's amazing how things go over," Mr. DiCenso said. The balsa wood fliers are inscribed with "401(k) 4 U."
"People give the planes to their kids, who ask, 'where's that 401(k) 4 U plane?'" Mr. DiCenso said. "It's constant branding reinforcement."