Challenge Coins

99% Invisible PodcastMy Favourite Podcasts

One of my favourite podcasts is 99% Invisible. Each episode of the show tells an enchanting story usually about some design, architecture and the 99% invisible things that shape our lives. They head my list of my seven favourite podcasts.

A Challenge Coin

One of their recent episodes is a perfect story about the artifacts you can create to bring your BIG idea alive. It’s about Challenge Coins. And, there’s a good chance that you have no idea what a challenge coin is – just like me until I listened to this podcast.

A Challenge Coin is typically associated with the US armed forces. They are coins and they’re not currency and they’re not medals either.

In the world of the military that is run by top-down command and control the Challenge Coin has been birthed to fill the gap between the official rules and the unofficial social interactions.

Challenge Coins

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A Symbol of Gratitude

A Challenge Coin is a symbol of gratitude, a way of saying thanks when you can’t promote someone or give them a pay rise. It might represent being grateful for a relationship you have or a deed that was done.

[Tweet “Challenge Coins a perfect symbol for saying thank you – What’s your? #ideasmarketing”]

The Handshake

Similarly to the precise way that a Japanese businessman presents their business card, the Challenge Coin also has a precise way or ritual to present them to the worthy recipient that goes something like this:

  1. Place the Challenge Coin in the palm of your hand.
  2. Grasp the recipients hand to form a handshake.
  3. Turn you hand over so it is on top and the coin passes to the palm of the recipient.

If you want to know more about Challenge Coins and the way they are used to challenge others, listen to the 99% Invisible Podcast episode. Plus there’s more here on Wikipedia.

[Tweet “Why you need a challenge coin in your business via @romanmars #99%invisible #ideasmarketing”]

How do you say ‘Thank You’?

As part of your BIG idea and Ideas Marketing, we want to create rituals around key moments, events and situations. One of these you might consider is how you say thank you to the people who have helped along the way. Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Challenge Coins
  • A Certificate of Appreciation
  • A Medal of Honour
  • A Title – for example the Order of Australia or Sir
  • A box of chocolates or bottle of wine
  • A Ribbon

An important aspect of this is the ritual that goes with the presentation of these symbols of gratitude. An exchange of a Challenge Coin like a box of chocolates may be a private affair. In contrast, a Certificate of Appreciation or the awarding of a personal title may best be served in a public setting to fully express your gratitude.

Creating Your Challenge Coins

How might you create your own version of Challenge Coins? Here are a couple of things to consider:

  • What are you being grateful for?
  • What are the title, story and meaning behind the ‘thank you’?
  • What would be a good symbol to represent this?
  • How are you going to present or award the item?
  • Will you record the memory of those who have been awarded your ‘thank you’?
  • Is this a formal or informal, official or unofficial acknowledgement?

COMMENT: What are the ways that you have been thanked over the years? And, how do you thank others for a job well done?


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