Feature Article - May/June 2016

Fitting Events

Knowing Your Audience, Good Product Selection Key to Success

By Deborah L. Vence

More than 15 years ago, sunglasses manufacturer Maui Jim started the concept of the "fitting event," offering a unique brand experience for attendees at corporate events.

"I was working with a large financial company, and I offered to come out and do a fitting during their event at the Ritz Carlton in Cancun, Mexico. They wanted us to be a pillow gift/room drop, and I said that we could offer a 'fitting experience' for the group," said Brett Hatch, senior director, global corporate gifts, Maui Jim Sunglasses & Zeal Optics.

Today, fitting events are routine, you might say, with more companies following suit and setting up their own gifting experiences to enable attendees to experience different products.

Brian Rivolta, IP, senior vice president of sales, Incentive Concepts, St. Louis, said that "In the past five to seven years, there have been other manufacturers and suppliers that have recognized the need for alternatives in the market.

"Now, you can find gifting experiences that include electronics, watches, luggage, sunglasses, even bikes," he said. "Oftentimes, the attendee walks away with their selection right then and there. Other times the gift is shipped to them post program."

How They Work

How do fitting events work, exactly?

"Basically, we take care of everything from start to finish, so it is a turnkey and seamless operation," Hatch explained. "The customer decides what sunglass package they want with their budget. We then bring employees of Maui Jim to the event and fit each recipient. We take care of all shipping details, duties and taxes, and our flights, so it is a 'true brand experience' for all of the recipients."

The benefits of this have to do with the fact that the company does all the work and is looked at with high perceived value.

"The event becomes very memorable for the top performers, which is the goal of the customer. When it is done at the beginning of an event, it sets the tone and can even be considered a team-building event," Hatch added.

Attendees of corporate meetings have varying lifestyles, so being able to offer attendees the opportunity to select gifts that fit their lifestyle is appealing to the meeting planner.

"Sometimes these events are a single brand event with several options to choose from, and, other times, they are more of a 'shopping' experience with multiple brands and categories," Rivolta said. "We prefer the single brand events because it puts more emphasis and focus on the power of a great brand instead of giving the attendee the feeling that they are walking into a mall."

Adrienne Forrest, vice president of corporate sales, Bulova Corp., New York, said fittings are becoming more popular because they become part of the entertainment of the event.

"The fact that you have a choice in selecting a gift is what makes it special," Forrest said. "The entertainment is that we set up a table, go to the event and work with whoever is working the event and preselect based on demographics—[whether attendees] are old or young, blue collar, white collar. And, we try to pick products that will appeal to the audience."

Look for themes, too. Is it sporty? Fit the theme of the event. Work with whoever is organizing and have enough of a variety. That way you can ensure that you are going to appeal to everybody.

Every brand has a different
model, so you should talk to
your incentive and rewards partner about what will work best in your situation.

Mike Landry, vice president of special markets for high-end luggage manufacturer TUMI, which started doing fitting events about two years ago, said, "Every company that is doing them is essentially taking a page from some of the sunglass companies. The whole idea is that we're trying to create a sales opportunity by taking or moving the TUMI retail store experience to your event.

"When it's done correctly, and it's not that difficult to do, it is a beautiful thing to see because participants feel like they are shopping with somebody else's money," Landry said.

Every brand has a different model, so you should talk to your incentive and rewards partner about what will work best in your situation.

"With ours, we will send six bags out. It will have a table draped with the TUMI logo on it sort of simulating the TUMI retail store experience at your event," Landry said.

"What you will find is that some of the brand watches, sunglasses, lend themselves to taking it with them at the time. With us, it's more challenging. We have to drop-ship them off. We also monogram them for the recipient. But, we have to ship it after," he said.