November 30, 2016

If you're not moving forward, you're going backwards. There is no such thing as staying put. Change is inevitable and constant. If you want to gauge the health of an industry, look at the quality of the professionals driving innovation and new ideas at the granular level. You'd be hard pressed to find an industry that could produce innovation at the level of these five individuals.

 Paul Gordon, senior vice president of sales for Rymax Marketing Services
 Over two decades, Rymax has stayed a step ahead of shifts in demand for incentive merchandise and rewards, due to an eclectic brand portfolio and an increasing demand for fashion brands such as Michael Kors, Vince Camuto, Rebecca Minkoff, Kate Spade, and others. Rymax added 60 new brands to its over 300 current ones in 2016 and already has several partnership announcements set for the start of next year. "When your job is to deliver a program that will motivate and inspire action, you need to listen to the market," says Gordon. "Be nimble enough to seize new product opportunities and keep the participants fully engaged with choices that appeal to all demographics."

RECENT ACCOMPLISHMENT: The launch of R-SITE (Rymax Strategic Interactive Themed Events) has brought new ways to incorporate merchandise into incentive travel and events, creating new opportunities for brands in a variety of categories and delighting meeting planners, venues, and clients in the process. Brett Hatch and Brian Rivolta are listed together because both are expanding the way the industry views and distributes merchandise awards.

Brett Hatch, senior director of the global corporate gifts division at Maui Jim sunglasses
 Hatch pioneered the idea of turning a room gift into an experience by creating "merchandise bars" where attendees can browse sunglasses styles together and get expert fitting advice before choosing a pair that makes them happy. "When this division launched nearly 17 years ago, we did not realize how we were spearheading a trend that would catch on like wildfire," says Hatch, who has over 20 years of experience in the incentive travel, merchandise, and promotional products industries. "I feel very fortunate to work for a company that places the customer experience above everything else."

RECENT ACCOMPLISHMENT: In today's experiential gifting segment, "we are very proud of the fact that we offer the one true brand experience, since we staff all our events with Maui Jim employees who embody our Aloha spirit."

Brett Hatch and Brian Rivolta are listed together because both are expanding the way the industry views and distributes merchandise awards.

Brian Rivolta of senior vice president, business development and sales for Incentive Concepts
 In the past 18 months, Incentive Concepts' Event Experiences division has led the way in expanding the "merchandise bar" concept, adding new brands and offering a choice of several different product types. It has also been creative with these experiences, such as offering Bose products in a lounge setup where attendees can relax and try out products.

 Incentive Concepts has given buyers something fresh and new to offer recipients, says Rivolta "We were able to show that a gifting experience could be done with a variety of products," he adds. "Over the past few years we have been able to bring other brands and categories into this channel to meet our customers' ever-evolving needs."

 Scott A. Jeffrey, PhD, associate professor at Monmouth University
 The researcher behind SITE Index and many of the organization's other important studies over the past five years, he has helped to strengthen the data that makes the case for the incentive industry. He continues to work with the research committee in developing ideas for research that will move the industry forward. "I have been delighted to see the [recent] willingness of firms to separate the concept of reward from the concept of recognition," he says.

RECENT ACCOMPLISHMENT: Highly regarded J.D. Power has recently been included in the implementation of the SITE Index, allowing SITE to obtain information from nearly 600 incentive professionals and adding greater reliability to its survey, now in its eighth year.

Sheree Thornsberry, general manager of Blackhawk Engagement Solutions (BES)
 A leading incentives company that is part of Blackhawk Network Holdings, Inc., BES offers customized incentive solutions for consumer promotions, employee rewards and recognition, and sales channel programs. It has also bought and integrated a number of well known incentive and recognition firms. "People expect more out of their incentives than ever before," she says. "We're focused on producing truly innovative and valuable global reward solutions for every situation."

 Under Thornsberry's leadership, BES has grown an impressive physical and digital international rewards portfolio (it now boasts over 600 reward options, including prepaid and gift cards) and also offers intuitive and flexible incentive platforms.

Questions or comments? Email [email protected]