60 seconds with… Maui Jim’s Jonathan Richards

We’re thrilled to be bringing a little Hawaii sunshine to Monaco this October for inVOYAGE 2019, thanks to our new partnership with Maui Jim sunglasses. Jonathan Richards, manager for corporate gifts, Northwest, Mexico & Europe, will be joining us at the event, so we caught up with him to get the lowdown on all things Maui Jim, what’s #trending in the global corporate gifting market, and what our delegates can expect from the brand’s on-site gift experience at inVOYAGE…

Tell us a bit more about Maui Jim and your role?
Maui Jim is the premium manufacturer of polarised sunglasses worldwide. Created on the beaches of Hawaii, we’re now present in 18 countries with about 1,000 employees. I work in the corporate events division, which will be celebrating 20 years of business next year! It all started with an event for Washington Mutual in Mexico in 2000 and we’re now responsible for 1,200 sunglass experience events all across the world every year.

When we come on site to a meeting or incentive event, we bring 18 different styles of sunglasses with us and ship twice as many as we need so that attendees will get their first choice of style and are able to walk away with a pair of premium sunglasses right there and then, so it’s instant gratification.

The corporate events market is incredibly important to the brand and is run by experts internally. We don’t outsource to any third parties to offer the events service on our behalf because from a brand perspective, we need to ensure anyone interacting with event attendees can answer questions, give advice and ensure a high-end experience. Corporate clients are essentially paying us to put sunglasses on the faces of future Maui Jim consumers, which is one of the best marketing tools we have.

What trends are you seeing in corporate gifting at events?
From a trend perspective, we see things go around in circles. Clients go through phases of trying to give lots of gifts at one event, or using their gifting budget on one quality gift per participant. In reality, offering one premium gift can end up being more cost effective than trying to give away multiple gifts.

Sunglasses in particular are rated highly as a popular corporate gift in lots of surveys. But it’s important to point out that we’re not about providing a generic pillow gift – it’s about the gift experience. This is increasingly important with millennials now making up around 50% of the workforce because they care more about experiences.

Our on-site gift experience is a great icebreaker as it’s a way to get people talking and networking with each other while they are trying on sunglasses. It’s also the perfect place for the CEO or a senior VP to stand and shake hands with every top performer as they come past that experience and say thank you personally as they choose their gift.

For a pure incentive, the amount of work a participant has to put in to win their place on the trip is tremendous, and that has to be met with equal reward, both by the trip itself and any gift they receive. If they perceive the level to be lower than the effort they put in, there is a disconnect and it ends up falling a little flat. If your gift is being re-gifted by attendees to their friends or family, it defeats the object of the programme itself.

How do corporate gifting trends differ around the world?
It’s always been a much bigger trend in the US – I would say that 90% or more incentive travel programmes in the US include a gift of some sort, whether that’s a pillow gift or a gift experience. Within the EMEA market, historically, there has not been as much demand for gift experiences.

There may have been smaller pillow gifts, but in the EU market, the mentality was ‘I’m giving you this amazing five-night trip so why do I need to add a gift as well?’ But within the last 18 months to two years, clients in the UK and EU are upping their game and we are beginning to see a desire to add a premium gift experience.

We’re starting to see some nice enquiries come through and have recently completed an amazing programme for a London-based client in Hawaii, Miami, New Orleans and Sanya.

Why are you partnering with inVOYAGE this year?
We are always excited to hear great things about an event from other suppliers. It’s a big investment for us, so it’s important that we place our business where we will we get the most return. When we first started speaking to other like-minded suppliers about inVOYAGE, we heard wonderful feedback, which prompted us to do more research and make contact with Richard and Debbie.

From what I have seen so far, I think this year’s event in Monaco will be an excellent event to partner with. We will provide a unique networking experience for this year’s attendees, each of whom will walk away with a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses of their choice in a beautiful custom case featuring the inVOYAGE logo.

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