Experience Is Everything
Bulova’s unique, retail-inspired shopping program engages corporate customers
If you’ve ever received a special wristwatch as a gift or been given a watch that belonged to a beloved relative, you know the powerful emotional attachment that often results. Beautiful watches received for important accomplishments become honored heirlooms as they are passed down from generation to generation.
Bulova, a pioneering timekeeping company founded in New York in 1875 by Czech immigrant Joseph Bulova, knows that emotional connection to recognition rewards is key to a meaningful experience. As the company ticks through its second century in business, its corporate programs focus on helping companies reward and incentivize employees with a Bulova watch that the recipient treasures forever.
Corporate sales has long been part of Bulova’s overall global strategy. “We are one of the oldest and most respected corporate sales divisions in the incentive and recognition industry for a major brand and we’re very proud of that,” says 15-year veteran Adrienne Forrest, vice president of corporate sales.
With the evolution of the internet, “customers expect the latest and greatest at their fingertips, and the customers at retail are the same customers we’re selling to in the corporate world—the HR directors and marketing people who are putting these [incentive and recognition] programs together,” Forrest says. As a result, much of the merchandise offered for corporate recognition programs is impersonal. It’s often another gadget that has little meaning.
That’s why Bulova’s Gift in Time Watch Experience stands out. “What makes the experience special is that recipients get to choose their own gift. It’s also that Bulova is a respected, trusted brand name and [the recipient] can see what the comparable value is. And we have so many styles. We have something that will appeal to everybody and every budget,” Forrest adds.
For each Gift in Time event, Bulova works with the planner or the distributor company to compile as much demographic information as possible to make sure they propose the appropriate selection of products from the company’s four major brands. For example, depending on the budget and mix of recipients, they might suggest strap watches, bracelet watches, or products with crystals or diamonds.
“We offer an optional service where we can hire a jeweler to come on-site and size the watches. That’s something that really sets us apart from the other product categories, because not only are we going to give the recipient the opportunity to feel like they’re shopping in a department or jewelry store, they don’t have to wait until they get home to go to the kiosk in the mall and have the links [in the watch band] taken out,” Forrest says.
A wide variety of companies have included the Bulova Gift in Time Watch Experience in incentive trips celebrating high-achieving employees. Some of the employees have been invited on these trips repeatedly and may have received a different gift in previous years.
“We had one event last year where the gift prior to the Bulova gift was a tablet, and some of the comments were that the recipient really appreciated this so much more because it was such a personal kind of gift, as opposed to getting an electronic tablet. And they liked the fact that they had the choice to pick what they wanted,” Forrest remembers.
Watches are a timeless accessory item and many people enjoy owning a multitude of styles. Bulova’s Gift in Time program offers the chance for recipients to acquire their first watch—or add to their collection. Recipients can also choose a watch as a gift for their significant other instead.
Forrest has long been passionate about watches. “It’s a great category. No matter what you want to spend, it’s still a piece of jewelry that tells time. And if you’re in a meeting or in class and you want to know the time, it’s frowned upon to look at your cell phone, but you can always look at your watch.”
Full Circle To Famous New Digs
Bulova moved its headquarters to the iconic Empire State Building in 2015, the same year it celebrated its 140th anniversary. Founder Joseph Bulova originally opened his store on Manhattan’s Maiden Lane, at the epicenter of the New York jewelry industry, in 1875. The company relocated to two other Manhattan locations before heading to Queens in the 1950s. Now, more than six decades later, the company has come full circle back to Manhattan.
Did you know? Bulova produced the first-ever television commercial in 1941, a screen image of a clock and a map of the U.S. with a voiceover saying, “America runs on Bulova time.”
Julie Richie is associate editor for PPB.