On the heels of the holiday season, we all have the many presents we received from loved ones and organizations alike eager to showcase their love, support or appreciation fresh in mind. We remember how we felt: the highs and the lows. The truth is that gift gifting is an art, and there’s a right — and wrong — way to do it. But, let’s start at the beginning.
The history of gift-giving in winter started long before presents were introduced as a part of the way we celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah and other religious or non-religious holidays. Some believe that the tradition started in Ancient Rome as part of a celebration offered to the Roman god Saturn, known as the god of agriculture. Gifts were seen as a way of gaining fortune for the coming year. People gave simple presents like candles, wine, fruits, nuts and the like. Others believe that gift-giving has its roots in pagan rituals held during the month of December in Northern Europe where bands of poor young men would go from door to door and request handouts from members of more fortunate social classes.
Regardless of its origin, over time, the tradition of gift-giving has expanded to be part of our everyday life. We’d be hard-pressed to celebrate weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, religious holidays and other life events without showcasing our gratitude and appreciation in the form of a gift. And, the same goes in the corporate world where we give thanks to our employees, vendors and customers in the form of a physical token.
The State Of Gift Giving Today
Today, more often than not, I believe we’ve taken this tradition to the extreme, as an overt symbol of consumerism. Instead of sharing carefully selected items, we fall victim of cheap, plastic-made products that our intended recipients will keep for a few mere months, if that! I know I have.
I was raised, together with my three other siblings, by my mom. My dad would connect with us on various occasions. For example, at Christmastime, he would fill up our stockings. In the beginning, it was exciting, but as I got older, I began to notice that they were toys I would never play with and felt like he didn’t care to know me. Instead of building a connection, these gifts damaged an already fragile relationship.
This experience affected me and is one of the reasons I started my company, Coolperx, which teaches companies how to convey appreciation and integrate values through corporate gifts. And, if curated properly, I’ve found that promotional and branded items can boost employee engagement as well as customer loyalty, directly impacting a company’s bottom line.
Five Steps To Establish Contentious Gift-Giving Practices
Corporate gifts are a tangible representation of what your company stands for. As such, I’m a strong believer that conscientious, sustainable gifts demonstrate care and values better than anything else. Here are a few tips to get corporate gifting done right this holiday season:
1. Make sure the product you select as a gift doesn’t send the wrong message about your company. It might be obvious, but you’d be surprised by the number of stress ball orders my company turns down on a regular basis. With such “gifts,” you’ve just acknowledged the toxic, stressful culture of your organization.
2. Research the origin of your gifts when selecting them. Today, 7 in every 10 consumers (registration required) believe that businesses have an obligation to improve societal and environmental issues. If you give your employees, vendors or customers products that are detrimental to the environment or were produced through other harmful practices, these practices get associated with your brand.
3. Make sure the intentions of giving and pleasing are front and center instead of your desire for self-promotion. Too often, Coolperx receives orders for gifts that are glorified business cards with an oversized company logo. Remember, this is about showing appreciation and gratitude. Promoting your brand in a subtle way is an added bonus.
4. Make sure the gifts you select meet a certain standard — well-made and durable. I have a client who came to us after spending $350,000 on Bluetooth speakers for her employees. When her employees turned the speakers on, they got overheated, didn’t sound good and were hard to operate. In short, these overpriced novelty items were junk that ended up getting thrown away. She learned from that and recently gave out a home kit of hand-selected products that were ethically, locally and responsibly made. Each of these gifts sent a specific message of care to the company’s employees.
5. Consider an experiential gift that will be truly enjoyed by its recipient instead of physical items. How about a virtual cooking class or something seasonal like a wreath-making class? Or consider showing appreciation by giving a donation in the recipient’s name.
As a parent, this holiday season I see the piles of flashy new gifts that my daughter receives. I see when a gift lights her up and compels her, and I see the gifts she stashes away, never again to see the light of day. It’s no different in business. Too many employees have branded items stuffed away in drawers that they keep out of obligation. Instead, I encourage you to lead with intentionality. Showing your values of integrity and care through gift-giving can go a long way. In turn, engaged stakeholders will provide an unparalleled level of support and loyalty.