Every now and then, politicians and the press rediscover the power of incentives. And when they do, the means and methods are treated as something right out of the Wizard of Oz.  The reality is much simpler. A recent example of how incentives work is the push states are making to convince those who’ve hesitated to get a coronavirus vaccine to do so. In the past, the “incentives” have been based on fear and, when fear stops working, bullying.

Those may work for a short while. But if you want real results?  Think like a marketer, and give people something they want.

The array of those kinds of incentives is dizzying. And in a show of how mainstream they have become, People Magazine has compiled categories of incentives on offer for people to get vaccinated:

Making the most of the great outdoors, Maine is giving away up to 5,000 fishing licenses and 5,000 hunting licenses for the 2021 year for residents over 18 who receive their first shot. Eligible entrants for the hunting promotion must have passed a hunter safety course, previously have held a hunting license and are not felons.

In Arkansas, those who have received the COVID-19 vaccine can score a $20 gift certificate for use towards hunting or fishing licenses, too.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced that five hunting rifles and five hunting shotguns will be given away in a new lottery, with drawings selected from June 20 to Aug. 4. Other prizes include two brand-new custom trucks, plus five lifetime hunting and fishing licenses…

And private companies – which constantly use incentives to generate sales – is getting in on the vaccination push, too:

As part of Anheuser-Busch’s “Let’s Grab A Beer” initiative aimed at playing an active role in the country’s recovery and making the moments that we come together over a beer even better, the brewer will offer its biggest beer giveaway ever to give eligible adults another reason to get their vaccines by July 4th. When the nation reaches the White House’s goal of 70% of adults partially vaccinated, Anheuser-Busch will buy America’s next round of beer, seltzer, non-alcoholic beverage or other A-B product* – inclusive of over 100 brands – to enjoy with family and friends. Adults 21+ will simply upload a picture of themselves in their favorite place to grab a beer, whether with friends at their favorite local bar and restaurant or with family in their very own backyard, at MyCooler.com/Beer to enter to receive a beer on A-B.

Some incentives will work better than others, and the proliferation of incentives may even create a competitive market for them – at least in the private sector. What works best? We’ve got a real time experiment in behavioral economics underway that will tell us.