When Medals were introduced in Eve last year, I looked at the cost of the damn things and thought, 'As if there aren't enough ISK-sinks in this game already!' Five mil just to create one is a lot. An extra five mil every time one is awarded just gets silly, especially if it's something which every corp member receives. I do maintain an alt-corp as well as being a director in the Hellcats, and even though I'd love to hand around a few baubles to my mates' alts for giggles, the cost involved makes me cringe.
The Hellcats, however, doesn't suffer from poverty the way my alt-corp does. Quite the contrary: we're active, self-sufficient, and large-scale piracy pays a lot better than you might think. Unlike the alt-corp, where everyone largely keeps to themselves and does their own thing, the Hellcats spend a lot of time working on piloting skills, building trust and learning how to work together as a cohesive unit.
...Or as Larkonis called it, an 'epic oestrogen-fuelled killsquad'.
For us, Medals are more than just a fun thing to display on our character info. The decorations the Hellcats issue celebrate both personal and group development. We try to encourage our pilots to get out there, shoot stuff, work together and help each other, and the decorations we award are in recognition of this.
The first award any Hellcat can receive is the First Blood award in recognition of their first kill in the corp, usually closely followed by the Egg-Breaker decoration for first podkill. 'Strength in Numbers' celebrates a gang kill of a larger ship, while the 'Silver Panther' is given in recognition of a solo kill of a larger ship. In this way, we try to encourage progression of skills, particularly since so many of our pilots are quite new to the game.
Beyond that are decorations which are harder to achieve. The War Heroine award is specifically for the solo kill of a pilot whose corporation we are at war with. While the Silver Panther is possible purely because we tend to run in smaller ships and single targets are plentiful, war targets frequently roam in gangs, use ewar, and like to lay Obvious Bait traps which would make Inspector Clouseau cry (I'm not pointing fingers, here; I've done my share of highsec wardecs, and they all kind of blur together in the end). The award is not just for a solo kill but for having the ovaries to take the risk in the first place.
On top of all the killmail-whoring, we like to encourage our more experienced players to help the newer ones. The Guiding Star is given to members who have dedicated a lot of time and energy to pilot development, whether through offering lessons, putting together guides, leading instructive ops or assisting newer players whilst roaming with the Bastards.
And every corp has to offer something to really aspire to. I took a look at our killboard the other day, realised there were some epic fights in there which will never be shared except as numbers and stats, and thought it would be great to encourage our corpies to use Fraps more often. The 'Action Heroine!' is meant to be the most difficult decoration to achieve: it requires ten proper combat kills in one day (according to the killboard), at least one of which has to have been recorded and shared on the Eve-O forums. It encourages our members to take a little initiative and generates publicity for the corp -- always a plus. And we already have members saying they want to be the first to get this one, so keep your eyes on the forums!
Medals can be a big ISK-sink just for lulz, or they can help deveop teamwork and personal development within your corporation and bring your members together. Decorate wisely!