Pop-ups can prop up your recognition efforts


Building camaraderie and deepening work relationships are important reasons why companies invest in offsite meetings and incentive travel programs. Esprit de corps and meaningful interaction with coworkers, supervisors and executive-level management are important takeaways.

Traditionally, program sponsors have also sent participants home with tangible gifts to commemorate the experience. A pair of name-brand sunglasses, a high-end watch or custom apparel can increase a sponsor’s return on investment by extending the good feelings that last long after the event itself. Rather than leave these items in a hotel room or tuck them into a gift bag that is distributed without fanfare, companies are increasingly turning to gifting experiences — an event within the event — in which coworkers “shop” together in pop-up stores.

“We want people coming away from these events with a story to tell,” says Jeff Broudy, president of United Incentives, a full-service incentive marketing company based in Philadelphia. Broudy and his team have created corporate events since 1984. For the last decade or so, he has incorporated gifting events into many of the programs he develops for his clients.

“You want to have those ‘aha moments’ that will live on through other people’s stories. These narratives are the things that run around in people’s heads,” he explains.

Gifting experiences foster engagement

Broudy began incorporating gifting experiences into his clients’ events when they expressed a desire to increase engagement between executives and a larger percentage of participants. Traditional happy hour events invariably devolved into cliques of coworkers who knew each other hanging together and conversing for 90 minutes.

“You’d have the chosen few who would spend all of their time with the hosts because the hosts knew who they were. The remaining 80 percent were left unengaged. We wanted people to have the experience of feeling the love from their company,” Broudy says.

For many of its events, United Incentives relies on the team at Maui Jim to stage the gifting experience. The sunglasses manufacturer is a pioneer of the gifting experience at corporate meetings and incentive travel events. Maui Jim employees set up a pop-up fitting area, bring a half-dozen or more styles of sunglasses, and program participants are invited to shop for a pair that suits them. Maui Jim staffers provide information and help participants pick a pair that suits their fashion style.

“A gifting experience should be memorable because the recipient had fun interacting with our staff and the camaraderie they built with coworkers or other recipients while trying their sunglasses on,” says Brett Hatch, senior director of global corporate gifts at Maui Jim. “When we provide staff on-site that are true Maui Jim employees that can answer any question the recipient has about that particular style or the brand, that’s icing on the cake. Our onsite staff knows how to interact with guests to ensure they get the experience they should be getting. The recipient leaves knowing their company or organization really cares about them and put their best foot forward to show that.”

Deciding what to offer

A key benefit of pop-up gift experiences is that program sponsors no longer have to choose a single gift for all participants. As Brett Williams, director of event services for Links Unlimited, explains, pop-up shops can feature packages at varying price points and include a mix of top-selling styles from a wide range of name brands. “Although our packages are preselected, we are flexible in making changes to ensure the package includes proper variety and choices best suited to create an efficient and enjoyable event,” he says.

Providing choice is a positive, says Tom Romine, founder and president of Cultivate, a provider of premium brand gift experiences, but program sponsors can outsmart themselves by trying to be too creative with the products they offer. You’re shooting for “wow factor” while rewarding with something that recipients will love and use when they get back home.

“The perception that a large group should offer more gift choices at an event is tough and misleading,” adds Hatch. “It makes sense in theory — more people equals more interests. Sure, the spectrum of interests is broad with larger groups, but finding a common interest or category that all of the guests will use while giving them a choice on the vanity and functionality of that gift is key. That guest gets to choose what shape and style they would like, but isn’t overwhelmed with the idea of picking a pair of shoes, a purse or headphones — three completely different categories. Choice within a category is a great way to simplify this.”

The buzz of a gifting event far exceeds the happy hours that Broudy’s clients wanted to get away from. “Compared to the neural impact of yet another cocktail reception with vodka and maybe an interesting hors d’oeuvre, you have this blush of a good experience and feeling good about yourself.”  

Gifting events enhance memorability and increase interaction between executives and their teams.

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