It’s Not About the Prizes

pinkduckedit1Written by PinkPeace

In the wonderful world of Mary Kay, we certainly see our share of crazy prizes in offered in different units. There’s ugly jewelry, the oh-so-special opportunity to have coffee with a director, or the ride she could give you in her pink Cadillac. You might even get the opportunity for a sleepover with a director – just make sure you take your own sleeping bag! It makes you shake your head and think, “What the . . . ??”

But, what you have to remember with all the goofy contests and prizes in Mary Kay, is that the prize itself isn’t the point. It’s the recognition.

These consultants may or may not actually want the physical prizes or to spend time with the director. What’s really important is that their names will be in the unit newsletter, the director will single them out in her Facebook posts, and other unit members will look to them as being special. They’ll feel important – and they’ll want to feel that way again.

Mary Kay has an extremely powerful system of recognition that shamelessly preys on a woman’s desire to be recognized and celebrated. It doesn’t matter what the prize is. Mary Kay herself talked about the importance of “dollar recognition for a 10-cent ribbon.” With the proper presentation, those seemingly insignificant little ribbons can be treasured by consultants for years. “I am so excited for Lauren! She had her first $100 day, and we are so proud of what she has accomplished!! We all want to know how you did it, Lauren. Come up to the front and get your ribbon and tell us all about your success.”

If Lauren doesn’t get much individual recognition at home or at her regular job, this is like giving water to someone in the desert dying of thirst. She craves this appreciation, and will work to keep getting it. The ribbon itself is just a strip of cloth, but it symbolizes someone noticing her and giving her praise for her efforts.

We can elevate this to the Star Consultant program. Those of us who say, “Oh for Pete’s sake! I can’t believe a consultant would spend $1800 for a decorative bowl that I could get from Amazon for $15!” But that’s not the point – it’s what that bowl signifies. Mary Kay glorifies Star Consultants in every Applause Magazine and at every corporate event. Directors are specifically taught to spend a lot of time pumping up the Star consultant program at every unit meeting, in every newsletter/online post, and even to plan special parties for Star Consultants only. The emphasis is always on the recognition, not the prize.

Over and over, we singled out Star Consultants for their ladders of success that showed how many quarters they had been Stars. “At every Mary Kay function, everyone will know that you’ve been working your business when they look at your ladder. It’s like a report card that you wear – and you’re showing the world that you earned an A!” It was always about being recognized, not getting the item from the Star Consultant catalog. When the quarter ended and the consultants made their stars, we directors went crazy honoring them, and they all wanted MORE.

The pinnacle of recognition was going across stage at Career Conference, Leadership or Seminar. Lights, music, thousands of women cheering and applauding for me? Yes, please! I had walked across the Seminar stage many times during my Mary Kay career, and there is nothing like it.

I remember once having a simply terrible year as a director, and I qualified for NOTHING that would have let me walk across the Seminar stage. I was so depressed . . . and then MK issued a 20/20 challenge for June! Anyone who held 20 qualified classes in June would get a name badge ribbon, a special 20/20 pin and get to walk across stage. I threw myself into this challenge and booked, coached and held 20 classes, something I had sworn in the past I would never do. (To this day, I don’t know how I pulled it off). I marched triumphantly across that Seminar stage and received the crappy little pin which I wore with pride. It wasn’t getting the pin – it was letting everyone know that I did a 20/20.

I am convinced that Mary Kay could offer dog poop as a prize for some accomplishment, and there would be thousands of women who would be working to get it. Can you imagine the contest? “Be the first in our unit to scoop the poop and show everyone in Mary Kay that you’re feeling the excre-citement!”

No, it’s all about the recognition, and Mary Kay knows it.


  1. This is so spot on. The hoops we will jump through are astounding when we are in the fog. The cost of the reward mattered less than the rush of “earning” it and being recognized for it.

  2. This is a timely story, considering that MK Corp is currently looking for a “Senior Specialist, Recognition”. This is a corporate position, with salary, benefits, etc…all of the things that the “sales force” does not receive. This person basically determines appropriate recognition programs for the independent contractors. Here’s part of the posting:

    Manages the development of long and short-term strategies for assigned recognition programs, as well as special new contests to meet current needs of the independent sales force. Determines forecasts and budgets for programs based on historical data, sales and recruiting trends, etc. and analyzes program results to determine effectiveness and to develop future programs. Assists in other recognition programs as needed, including yearlong and monthly contests
    Develops tactical plans for all aspects of assigned Sales Force Recognition Programs for the Independent Sales Force. Determines how to distinguish different levels of the Independent Sales Force utilizing rewards and incentives. Keeps abreast of other company efforts and opportunities to maximize effectiveness of recognition programs. Makes recommendations to department leadership regarding new or updated program changes and enhancements. Presents to Executive team as necessary. Participates as a major contributor to the strategic planning process for recognition program objectives, program development, establishment of themes, creative designs, etc.”

    A link to the whole post:

    These corporate employees are offered:

    “We are a company that believes in our people and cares for them with truly exceptional benefits. We offer:
    A comprehensive health plan which includes medical, dental, and vision with low premiums
    401(k) plan
    A generous profit-sharing program
    Free access to on-site fitness center and on-site clinic”

    I think it’s worth noting that this job falls under the “Sales Development” category at MKC. Why is that? This job has NOTHING to do with end consumers. Nothing. Hmm.

    • “…special new contests to meet current needs of the independent sales force.”

      Has there been a demonstrated need from the — (air quotes) sales force — for more contests? Have they been banging at the corporate gates demanding more trinkets? “Give me baubles or give me tiaras!”? What kind of twisted logic is this?

  3. The tech industry has caught on to what Mary Kay Ash knew. They call it “gamification.”

  4. I always cringed when an NSD held contests so the winning consultants could “shop their closet” or the horrible “sleepovers” where the winning consultants has to PAY for the benefit.

  5. “sleepovers”

    I recall a certain NSD held a sleepover at her home. Everyone had to bring their own food, bedding and toilet paper. They slept on her den floor.

    • Seriously? That’s horrible. So, was the NSD really unable to buy extra TP, or is this another way to really exploit the caste system that exists in MK? Make those below NSD feel very much like they are lesser people?

      • I guess they are so belittling because people are supposed to want their position and never question anything but it is getting ridicoulus.

    • I’m sorry, but if you are unable to provide food or toilet paper to your guests, then you have no business having people over. I can understand the bedding if there were a lot of people coming and you simply don’t have enough pillows and blankets. But the food and toilet paper is just insulting.


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