The No. mistake brands make with client gifts
JULY 12, 2020
The no. 1 mistake brands make with client gift
Sending promotional swag as a gift is the easiest way for businesses to look stuffy, out-of-touch, and cheap. So why do so many brands still insist on it?
"But..how does it help my brand if I'm sending someone else's product?"
That's one of the questions I get asked most often by brands who are having trouble getting past the idea that branded swag isn't a gift ... it's a promotion. Funny enough, one of the other most common questions I hear is: "How do we ensure that our gifts feel genuine instead of transactional?"
There are a number of ways to answer the second question, but I'll tell you the easiest way you can make a client or employee gift feel very transactional: send them branded swag. You're giving them something that's about you, not about them. It's just another way to advertise your business - and while there's nothing with that per se, the issue comes when you try and label that marketing effort as a gift. Talk about disingenuous. And, it's the number one mistake I see brands making when it comes to gifts.
This brings us back to the first question, of how sending non-branded gifts can help you and your business: it brings authenticity to the gesture. Instead of, "here's something in exchange for something else", it becomes, "here's something for you, because we thought you'd like it. Because we appreciate your time or your business. Because we value our relationship and want to celebrate something with you."
Sending branded swag is fine as a marketing tactic - just don't call it a gift.
"But...we've got really good swag that people will actually want!"
First, ask yourself if that's really true. And I mean, really ask yourself. Most of the time, your swag probably isn't as desirable as you think it is. And even if it is, that still doesn't make it a gift.
Let me put this another way: would you ever give a friend a set of wine glasses with your initials monogrammed on it? Of course you wouldn't!
There are only a couple of promotional products I still own years after I received them, and both happen to be really well made, oversized canvas totes. Despite the huge corporate logos emblazoned on them, I use them often for travel or beach trips. But note that I use them despite the corporate logos, not because of them. Of course I know what company gave them to me, because of the giant logos. But that's about all I remember.
On the other hand, I still have many true gifts that I was given by vendors and partners - and I remember the people and circumstances behind those gifts even though they have no logos or branding. For instance, I still have the pair of designer stilettos that an old PR agency gifted me for my birthday one year after asking my assistant to find out my shoe size by peeking at the gym shoes I kept in my office.
I was so touched that they went to that trouble, and that they picked out something just for me, that the mere sight of those shoes in my closet brings back fond memories of that agency. And guess what? Next time I need a PR team, they'll be the first ones I call.
It's easy to get swept up in your own swag, but remember that gifting is meant to surprise, delight, and be about the recipient. If you can stick to that, you'll already be miles ahead of the competition.
Written by Kyla Brennan
Kyla is the founder of Rare Assembly. Previously, she founded a multimillion dollar marketing firm that she ran for 8 years, including after its acquisition by The New York Times in 2016. During that time, she worked with hundreds of the world's best brands and saw firsthand just how far a good gift can go in the business world.