by Andrea Doyle | May 22, 2014
Tina Gaccetta
Tina Gaccetta, vice president of client services for Minneapolis-based Aimia, has seen demand grow for more personalized, custom luxury gifts in incentive programs, including designer Blue Jeans Bars

At a recent incentive program event for the Volvo President's Club at Calistoga Ranch in Napa Valley, CA, the highlight was the bar, although there wasn't a single bottle of scotch or wine in sight. This wasn't your typical bar it was something entirely different: a "Blue Jeans Bar." 

At the bar, each of the 66 attendees and guests were fitted for a complimentary pair of designer jeans that retailed from $150 to $200, with more than 20 brands and 300 styles from which to choose. Expert "Jeantenders" helped attendees find the perfect fit. Best of all, attendees got their jeans on the spot to enjoy during their trip. Displays, mirrors, and pop-up dressing rooms completed the experience.

"The winners loved it. They loved it so much that many of them even purchased additional pairs of jeans at a discounted rate," says Tina Gaccetta, vice president of client services for Minneapolis-based Aimia, which helped organize the event. "What makes the Blue Jeans Bar successful is that it is capitalizing on a market that everyone loves." On-site hemming was also available, as were gift certificates for those who didn't want to partake in the activity. 

This program, designed to recognize Volvo of America's top performing retailers for outstanding sales results and exceptional customer experiences in all areas of the dealership sales, service, and parts was so innovative that it received a 2013 Site Crystal Award. 

"Luxury gifts are definitely back for incentives," states Gaccetta. "Personalized and custom gifts have been a trend in many of our events. Other gifts we've provided include custom-made shoes by Nike and leather glove fittings in Italy. A designer boutique, and high-end electronics are also always a hit."

Customized gift events are growing in popularity as they focus on the experience of being rewarded or recognized, vital in a successful incentive program. More than the dollar amount of the gift, it's the experience that drives the recipient on to achieving new heights of performance. 

"These are priceless experiences that we give them, due to the customization. This isn't something you can buy; you have to earn it," explains Pechha Wallach, senior project manager, Maritz Travel. "A free trip to a great destination isn't the only thing that will motivate these participants, especially those who are repeat winners. You always have to find a way to incorporate 'wows' into these trips." 

Maui Jim
"We have been doing this for 15 years," says Peoria, IL-based Brett Hatch, Maui Jim global sales manager for corporate gifts. "I pioneered the idea of giving one quality branded gift with a high perceived value instead of pillow gifts of little value. Plus, this type of gifting sets the tone for the entire event." 

Personalized gifts also appeal to Millennials. Poised to become the largest consumer group in the history of the U.S., they represent the future market for most consumer brands. 

"With Millennials making up 53 percent of the workforce, we have to make sure we offer more choice than ever before. We're dealing with a different type of employee. They live in a world in which everyone communicates in 140 characters or less. They have such a sense of immediacy," explains Paul Gordon, vice president of sales, Rymax Marketing Services, a full-service loyalty marketing provider based in Pine Brook, NJ. "The days of giving non-branded items away has fallen to the wayside."