The Business of Giving
Gift-giver's block. Like writer's block, except instead of lack of words, it's defined by having no idea what to get your great aunt Melba for her birthday. The affliction is scary enough when you're wandering the Hallmark aisles 10 minutes before it closes, staring at bunch of animal-themed cards and trying to remember if Melba is the aunt who loves cats or the one that hates them. Even more frightening than last-minute cat decisons however, is that sometimes, gift-givers block can strike when picking out a good present happens to be part of your job.
There is a massive industry built around corporate gift-giving, but a wealth of choices doesn't always translate into easy selections of product. Not to mention that, just like a person may not be in touch with the wants of distant relatives, a boss or an H.R. director will sometimes have no clue what to get employees. Whether it's for years of service, holiday gifts or just a reward for meeting a company goal, if a client comes to you complaining "I need gifts, fast!" and you're short on ideas, here is a brief guide to get you started.
BAGS AND BRIEFCASES
Whether it's just running errands or a vacation overseas, a nice bag is sure to accompany end-users wherever they may travel. "Business bags can provide versatility for everyday use that most other business gifts cannot," said Dan Norris, president of Starline USA, Grand Island, N.Y. Think about all the different ways people use bags daily, or how much a nice set of luggage can make a trip less stressful, and you'll quickly see how bags and briefcases are a great option for business gifts.
As another perk, bags and briefcases are one of the more gender-inclusive business gifts out there, being suitable for both men and women. Billie Reise, marketing communications manager at Incentive Concepts, Maryland Heights, Mo., explained that this flexibility stems not only from bags overall utility, but also from freedom in their stylistic options. Bags and briefcases can easily be used with unisex designs in a business setting, or split up and tailored more toward each gender while still keeping the professional edge.
If you're looking to add a little punch to a bag promotion, consider filling them with other gifts. A briefcase with travel or office items, a purse with toiletries or a laptop bag stocked with additional high-tech gear are some easy examples. This tactic can be successful even with smaller bags, like a travel pouch or toiletry bag. Jeff Lederer, vice president of Prime Line, Bridgeport, Conn., reported a travel pouch, USB hub and mouse bundle that has "made a terrific impact as a gift set" and is expected to do well this holiday season.
Electronics, not always the first choice for business gifts, can sometimes be exactly what end-users are looking for. "Electronics have a higher perceived value and utility than many business gifts," said Norris. "These are products that people would love to own, but may not necessarily purchase personally."
Headphones, digital picture frames and even MP3 players are all items that can have their place in the office. USB memory drives in particular are worthy of consideration, being practical work items with a lot of potential for customization by the end-buyer. Besides offering data storage, Lederer pointed out USBs can also be fitted with custom software and files. Be they photos from the company picnic to a custom-designed media browser, these data additions will only add to the item's longevity.
There are a lot of reasons to select journals for a business gift. They're appropriate for nearly any market, they take various decoration methods well, and depending on their initial page count, they can have a long promotional life span. Melissa Dickson, marketing director for Drummond Printing, Stuttgart, Ark., further explained the value of this longevity. "Journals are a timeless gift, whether used to reflect on one's deepest thoughts or just to jot a quick 'to do' list," she said. "It becomes more precious with age as it is filled with doodles, lists, and memories."
Speaking of doodles, the journal's easy connection to the creative world should not be forgotten. Dickson related an interesting journal promotion from outside the business world. "A recording artist had journals made with the lyrics of one of her songs foil stamped on the cover," she said. "The artist appeared at a music store and gave these journals, which she autographed, as a gift to fans who bought her CD. The goal was to encourage fans to write in their journals and use them as a creative outlet."
Business gifts don't always have to be awards from the company's top, handed down to the workers below. Sometimes, the chain-of-gifting flows upward, and the company staff is faced with finding gifts for the people in charge. Electronics, luggage or even executive-style stationery can certainly be fitting, though there is another genre that should be considered: executive jewelry.
There are many choices out there for executive jewelry, though for the male CEO, it is hard to beat a good pair of cuff links. "What sets cuff links apart from other executive jewelry is its multifunctional and stylish edge to promote one's business," said Ryan Spunt, sales and marketing for CNIJ, Montreal.
He provided an example of how the company's cuff links have been used in the past as a business gift. "A great example with cuff links was with Desjardins Bank," he said. "One of their employees was leaving after 25 years of service. To show appreciation for her years of service and dedication, we had a pair of 14K cuff links made with the Desjardins logo and underneath had '25 years of excellence.' It was a great success."
An office staple, picture frames can make excellent gifts for the office. "Picture frames are a great business gift because they have universal appeal," said Audra Lehnert, marketing coordinator for Crystal D, St. Paul, Minn. "People from all walks of life and every industry enjoy displaying images that have personal meaning in a well-designed frame." Lehnert noted that when shopping for frames, distributors should look for high imprint quality on the frame. "A picture frame with an imprint that meets minimum standards cheapens the entire gift," she said. "The imprint should have clean edges and a high level of detail."
If you're looking for an interesting way to use picture frames, consider providing them to end-users who may be on the road for a while. Spunt related a recent project CNIJ had done for a pharmaceutical company. "Each worker who was traveling received a frame, which was a meaningful way to stay connected to family and friends," he said.