Marketing 50

Maui Jim

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Seeing is believing for customers of Maui Jim, one of the world's fastest-growing marketers of polarized sunglasses.

"Our entire marketing strategy is based on the fact that only when people actually try on our sunglasses do they see what's different about them," says Chris Abbruzzese, 44, VP-marketing and customer care for the Peoria, Ill.-based company that was launched in Hawaii in 1985.

What's different is Maui Jim's patented polarizing technology and the average price of $220 per pair, making them among the most expensive mass-market sunglasses available.

With its heavy emphasis on point of purchase, Maui Jim invites consumers to wear a pair of its sunglasses while viewing a special image to the company provides to stores carrying its brand.

"Put a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses on, and our image is transformed from a plain picture into a detailed tropical scene, with rich colors and multiple dimensions," Mr. Abbruzzese says.

Demonstration and word-of-mouth are big sales drivers. Dozens of high-profile golf pros and celebrities wear Maui Jim shades without any endorsement deals. They range from Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs to Olympic gold medal swimmer Michael Phelps. "We have a huge roster of unofficial celebrity endorsers, but we don't pay them," says Mr. Abbruzzese, who joined the company in 1996 when it moved to the mainland.

Maui Jim maintains a base in Maui and keeps the island spirit alive by requiring the 200-plus employees at its Illinois headquarters to wear shorts year-round, and always answer the telephone with "Aloha."

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