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The dos and don’ts of corporate gifting: branded merchandise

by | Oct 27, 2020 | Experts

For over a decade, we’ve led the industry in innovative and thoughtful corporate gifting strategies and established ourselves as the Gift Experience Experts. We’ve solicited for and listened to feedback from clients and recipients to help us hone in on the factors that matter most. From our seamless approach to planning and solving our clients’ biggest pain points to offering recipients the gifts they want that actually feel rewarding. We’ve scrutinized every detail and asked all of the what-if questions to help us ensure that we always deliver for our clients and their guests.

With that, we’re bringing a new series to our blog that dives deeper into the reasons why our gift programs far surpass other incentive approaches like branded merchandise, cash, and gift cards. Through cited research and objective studies, we’re highlighting the reasons why these types of gifts don’t effectively recognize or reward recipients and sharing alternatives that are proven to deliver your intent to appreciate and inspire. Without further ado, let’s dive into branded merchandise.

Debunking branded merchandise
When it comes to rewarding and recognizing—who wants to feel like just another face in the crowd? Basic perks like pens, branded sweaters, and coffee mugs are a wash when it comes to effectively appreciating recipients. A study by the American Marketing Association pointed out that, “Once you get home, you don’t want them [branded merchandise] anymore…Promotional products have a way of appearing to be prized loot, but once the sunglasses, flash drives, stress balls, pens, and T-shirts make it home, they often fail to—as Marie Kondo would say—spark joy. The items that looked so shiny and bright, sitting in big bowls or fanned out at conference booths, now look cheap and out of place among the carefully chosen products in your home or office. They’re dumped in the trash or exiled to the junk drawer.”

What recipients are really looking for is the kind of recognition that will offer a deeper sense of satisfaction, purpose, and fulfillment. According to a survey by Ladders, 77% of employees (survey participants) said they’d rather choose their gift than have their boss pick one out for them. That’s because 81% of respondents said they’ve been disappointed in the past by holiday gifts, hoping it would be something different. Results from the same survey showed the worst corporate gift employees ever received were gift cards for stores they’ve never been to, company-branded gear, and fridge magnets. Thus, the only way companies can meet this need for esteem is by setting up a meaningful system of recognition.

The dos and don’ts
Gift-giving is similar to etiquette. In order to master it and be confident in your abilities, you need to understand the dos and don’ts of what’s acceptable.

Do: Recognize the individual with a reward that lets them choose.
Don’t: Offering branded merchandise doesn’t incentivize a workforce because the reward worth earning is all the same. Generic, company-branded merchandise could translate to your employees, clients, or partners that you don’t know them very well or care about what they like—inevitably doing more harm than good.

Do: Quality, aspirational brands and products are sought after because they last and can be frequently used. Plus, best-in-class gifts tend to help recipients remember who gave it to them for longer.
Don’t: Branded merchandise doesn’t last. Screen printed graphics and press-on acrylics can’t stand up to the wear, tear, and natural deterioration of long-term use.

Expert tip: After a year or two, a company sweatshirt isn’t going to look as fresh as it did after you’ve worn and washed it twenty-five times—the same can be said for a nice pen that runs out of ink. The corporate gifts you give should be an item they can and will frequently enjoy using.

Do: Help them discover new products they’ll love while still giving them the best-in-class brands they want with Curated Collections. Unlike branded merchandise, our variety of aspirational brands and products ensures they’ll find an on-trend gift they prefer for work, for home, or for play.
Don’t: More often than not, branded merchandise is updated too infrequently— ending up as stale, out-of-date, unwanted rewards that recipients can’t and don’t use.

Expert tip: From a company perspective, excess inventory that you can’t utilize is frustrating and will eventually become a storage burden. And branded merchandise nobody wants is a waste of money.

Do: Deliver a thoughtful gift program that will spark meaningful conversation and shareable stories to build buzz and excitement around your recognition efforts.
Don’t: Branded merchandise lacks the bandwidth needed to excite, motivate, or incentivize employees, and it’s hard to promote.

Expert tip: A new espresso machine, the latest tech gadgets, or a diamond necklace creates a visual interest that engages recipients’ brains—they see the reward, they want the reward, and they consider how they can improve their performance to earn it. This helps create a buzz factor when employees talk about the reward options.

Branded merchandise belongs to brand ambassadors, games and giveaways, and scattered on tables at job fairs. It doesn’t serve as tangible rewards and incentives for your recipients. Nobody wants an item they won’t use, something they’ve seen a thousand times before, or outdated company-branded tee shirts for a job well done. Your gift program should deliver your intent now and in the long run.

Virtual gift experiences are the simplest way to ensure that every employee feels individually recognized for their contributions and rewarded with a gift that will last and continue to bring them joy. Because when gift programs are designed around what really matters to their recipients, both are destined to succeed.

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