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Corporate gifts are not only a great way say 'Thank You' to valued customers and business stakeholders, but a unique opportunity to spotlight your brand in a positive context to key decision makers.

Promo, merch, branded merchandise, promotional products, we all know the stuff, a low cost generic product with a company logo imprinted on it, given as a gift or a giveaway at a trade show. And while promotional merchandise has been a core component of the marketers arsenal for decades, today's focus on consistent and carefully managed customer experiences, means marketers are now focused more than ever on close customer engagement and long term brand perception.

Business gifts are an important brand building tool that are a direct cost to the business in terms of planning, and the actual procurement of the item means that it is imperative that the topic is approached from an informed and brand-centric perspective.

Each year marketers, business owners and their personal assistants flock to the internet in search of the perfect client or staff gift with a high perceived value (looks $100 but actually costs $20!). What’s missing with this approach is a myriad of questions around brand representation, budget, quality, delivery expectations and most importantly customer perception. For a business gifting programme to be as successful as possible it’s a wise investment of your time to give careful consideration to the following areas.


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1: What Is The Reason or Occasion For Gift Giving?

  • Is your primary goal to recognise and acknowledge the Christmas season and to say thank you to your clients for their business throughout the year?
  • Would you like to reward staff for record performance?
  • Is there a significant company anniversary on the horizon that you would like to mark with staff and customers?
  • You need to make a positive impression with a prospective client.

Before the gift selection process starts it is important that the gift strategy is clear with careful consideration given to budget and timing.


2: Better To Do Nothing Than To Risk Offending a Client.

If clients have a substantial spend with your company are they going to feel slighted with a $2 pen or will they expect a more expensive gift? To ensure success there needs to be significant research into what is the most audience appropriate and cost effective product choice. Ordering from an online catalogue and hoping for the best is a risky strategy. Every good business works to budgets but beware of 'cheaping out'.


3: How You Give, Is As Important As What You Give.

The context of gift giving must be as memorable as possible. This means that careful consideration should be given to the following.

  • Does the gift require special packaging for the presentation?
  • Should it be boxed or wrapped? Will it be couriered or hand delivered? If hand delivered, then by whom, and do we have the resources in-house to do this effectively?
  • Will you need to order a few extra in case you run into any last minute contacts or if someone forgets a name? Often clients love the gift so much they ask you for another one to give to their boss.


4: Business Trips And Overseas Visitors.

In today's global marketplace, more and more of us travel overseas for business, along with this trend, the exchange of gifts with overseas contacts is becoming increasingly common. When gifting overseas it is vitally important to remember that there is always a cultural context to be considered.


5: When in Rome.

Prior to your trip it pays to do some research on the region to which you are travelling, for example, in most Asian countries it can be considered rude to present or accept a gift with only one hand – use both hands. In Western cultures we often give and receive gifts that are intended to be useful. Conversely in Asian cultures importance is placed on the exchanging of symbolic gifts, which are intended to be displayed, rather than used.


6: Coals to Newcastle.

If you are meeting new buyers in Beijing don’t present them with a gift made in China. Likewise in some cultures it can be considered very rude to give knives or clocks as it may symbolise the cutting of ties or the desire to hurry the meeting, again researching the region prior to departure will pay dividends.


7: Add Some Local Flavour.

At Spruik we love to support local artisan businesses. For example, we have recently created gifts that were manufactured from local recycled timbers, these gifts were crafted from native timber offcuts that originated from a local 70 year old classroom that was being demolished. So not only did the gifts have a special aesthetic quality they also had some history behind them. Add to this the reduced environmental impact of upcycling raw materials that would normally go to landfill and we have a halo effect around the gift that creates a more meaningful customer experience.


8: Go Easy On The Logo.

A common mistake is overbranding or 'logo slapping'. While it makes sense to discretely brand promotional items such as pens and USB sticks for a conference, corporate gifting is a very different context. So avoid the temptation to position a H-U-G-E logo across whatever the item is, that is unless you have a good reason to do so or a large base of customers with obsessive brand loyalty. If a gift has been thoughtfully selected, packaged and presented in the right context the recipient will remember that gift every time it is used, however some sort of imprint will keep your brand top of mind for the life of the product.


9: Is It Time to Re-imagine your Branding?

One way to brand discretely is to create a mark that symbolises your brand in the mind of the consumer. Think the Spark 'spark' symbol that we see everywhere from invoices to WiFi hotspot wayfinding signage. This standalone design element communicates the brand without shouting. So take some time to consider how your brand is utilised and determine whether there is benefit in rethinking how your brand is communicated.


10: Where do I Start?

To make any corporate gifting programme work it makes sense to first talk to providers who have experience in brand, design, sourcing and fulfillment. When looking at corporate gifting it's easy to take a 'bid and buy' attitude by quoting out projects to online operators with no credentials or track record based on price. Often the quest for the cheapest price leads to poor quality products, botched imprinting, frayed nerves, missed deadlines and zero accountability. By working with a reputable local provider you will find that memorable creative gifts can and should be affordable, they will design and source the best of the best, then work like mad to make it meet the budget!


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In the digital age it's easy to forget that business is all about people and one of the best ways to get the results we want is to engage customers, employees and suppliers in the shared meaningful experience that gifting brings. A thoughtful, well planned gift helps to create an engaged employee who better understands your vision and is more motivated to achieve. Suppliers who are committed to you and your business and engaged customers who are loyal to your brand. It really should be the gift that keeps on giving.


Kathryn Dunn