If necessity is the mother of invention, perhaps innovation is its father.
It was humbling to receive the top award in the incentive industry for an innovative program with our partner HSBC. The recognition caused me to look back on the history of Maritz and how the company has continuously transformed.
In 1894, Edward Maritz started the E. Maritz Jewelry Manufacturing Company-a wholesaler and manufacturer of fine jewelry and engraved watches.
By 1921, the company name was changed to the Maritz Watch and Manufacturing Company, and Maritz was a leading importer. Business was booming!
Then the Great Depression came. By the end of 1929, only 6 employees remained-including Edward’s sons James and Lloyd. The brothers had to sign over their homes to meet payroll, pay bills and keep the business afloat.
Pioneering the Incentives Industry
To generate income, they began selling watches and engraved personalized jewelry to companies as sales and service awards. The idea of non-cash sales rewards was a new one and caught hold. The concept literally saved the company and launched the incentives industry.
By 1930, a new division was created -- Maritz Sales Builders.
The first nationwide motivation client was Caradine Hat Company of St. Louis. That sale was followed by Chevrolet, Shell Oil, Ralston Purina and several other large accounts throughout the 1930’s.*
Reinvention is in Maritz’ DNA
Fast forward 125 years. The industry is on the cusp of change once again. Chief data officer Jesse Wolfersberger is quick to note that huge technological trends often have humble beginnings. Data, specifically artificial intelligence, has what he calls world-changing potential. Maritz Motivation and HSBC received the Grand Motivation Masters award earlier this week for an AI-driven pilot that predicted reward preferences in a credit card loyalty program. While accepting the award Jesse said, “It speaks to where the future of the industry is going and this is just the first step towards engaging customers at a much more personal level.”
It’s doubtful Edward Maritz could have even imagined what Maritz would be today—125 years later. His great grandson and the current chairman and CEO Steve Maritz said, “As we celebrate our 125th anniversary this year, it’s gratifying to be recognized for continuing to reinvent and transform the industry.”
The Institute for the Future forecasted that 85 percent of jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet. Who knows how Maritz will reinvent itself in the next century?
*A Centennial History of Maritz Inc. by Sid Hutchins.