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2017 Guide to Corporate Gifting

2017 Guide to Corporate Gifting

Incentive Magazine recently published their annual Corporate Gift IQ Survey for 2017, a revealing look not just at current gifting trends, but also at what people want, and why.

Every year, we ask the respondents to Incentive's Corporate Gift IQ Survey to dig into their own history for the best and worst corporate gifts they have personally received. In many cases, the responses are indicative of trends that corporate gift givers should be aware of, the most obvious being that both brand name and quality matter, and personalizing the gift is a good idea.

Based on responses from 464 corporate gift givers, here are some of the takeaways...


Your Competition Is Probably Sending Out Gifts

Are corporate/business gifts part of your incentive programs?
Yes -- 77.4%
No -- 22.6%

Over 3/4 of companies said they make gift-giving a part of their business strategy. How about yours? Giving back to your customers makes them feel valued, appreciated, and works to solidify your relationship.

That principle can work against you if your competition is flirting with your customer base, and who can blame them? Staying relevant to your existing customers and gaining new ones means taking the initiative, and may also mean taking a hard look at whether you are as generous as your competitors.


Make It Personal(ized)

...extremely expensive gifts... aren't necessary if you make sure you know the recipient and choose a gift appropriately. Among the best gifts received are a pair of boxing gloves, a 'set of glassware with my initials on them,' and 'a bobblehead of my image.'

While the 2017 survey touched on the importance of personalization, Incentive Magazine's 2015 survey went into a bit more depth...

"Anything personalized is always a nice touch," said respondent Robyn Mietkiewicz, director, global meeting management, at Meeting Sites Resource. "Whether it is engraved with my name or they have used a profile to determine my likes and dislikes as far as color, etc." Among the items others mentioned were etched crystal whiskey glasses, ancient Roman coins, and a Louisville Slugger baseball bat engraved with the recipient's name.

Putting in the extra touch to personalize your gifts can have a big impact, and reap big rewards. If your gift supplier offers the option to imprint, engrave, or emboss individual names or initials... take it. The few extra dollars per item will be well worth it.

Personalized notebooks with company logo and names 

Generic Is OK, Cheap Is Not

While specifically tailoring your gifts to each recipient is ideal, it is not always realistic. There are other ways to put thought into your gifts though...

Pens, for example, showed up 45 times in the 'worst gifts' category... but put the words 'Montblanc' or 'Cross,' (or 'gold') in front and they show up five times in the 'best gifts' category.

The same basic sentiment was reflected in the 2015 survey...

Of course, quality matters. One respondent mentioned a fine pen, saying, "Despite having a tablet and laptop, when I pull out my pen and small, leather-sheathed notepad -- another gift -- clients are always impressed. They still see something written as being more important than something typed."

If your gifts are somewhat generic, that's OK, just make sure they are the best quality you can afford. If personalization is not an option, attention to the gift's caliber can easily turn a 'throw-away' into a cherished keeper.

This is especially important should your gifts include your company logo/branding...

Logoed awards require extra care, as putting your company name on an item connects it to your brand. Thus, "a watch with their logo that did not work," is a double negative.

While branding your gifts is a plus, it will backfire if the quality isn't there. Spending the extra cash all but ensures your investment will not go to waste.

How much is being spent for whom on what?

These additional stats provide some useful insight for planning your corporate gifting strategy this year... 

On average, how much do you spend on corporate gifts per recipient?
Less than $25 -- 27.6%
$25 to $49 -- 20.7%
$50 to $74 -- 11.2%
$75 to $99 -- 9.3%
$100 to $199 -- 19.6%
$200 to $299 -- 4.3%

As you might expect, as the price increases, the number of companies spending within each bracket steadily drops. Interestingly though, the trend takes a sharp turn after $99, with nearly as many companies willing to spend around $150 per recipient as they are to spend around $50.

Who are your corporate gift recipients?
Customers/clients -- 66.4%
Employees -- 59.7%
Suppliers/partners -- 18.9%
Prospects -- 5.1%
Stockholders -- 4.9%
Other -- 2.2%

Most companies give nearly as much attention to in-house gifting (i.e. employees, team members, staff, etc.) as they do to gifting their customer base. This is a good sign according to David Sturt, Executive Vice President of O.C. Tanner...

On the employee recognition side, we continue to see strong demand and increased growth. We have the lowest unemployment rate in 16 years. For the last several years, everybody was just worried about trying to grow, and now it seems like all of our clients are worried about how to keep their talent.

Employee recognition equals employee retention. 

Which of the following corporate gifts do you give?

Gift cards -- 59.6%
Desktop/office accessories -- 44.4%
Apparel -- 41.8%
Electronics -- 36.8%
Food -- 34.9%
Wine and spirits -- 27.6%
Writing instruments -- 25.2%
Books, music, movies -- 21.4%
Leather goods -- 16.2%

Gift cards remain the most popular item, once again being the only type of corporate gift cited by a majority of respondents.

This number has been steadily dropping though.

The 2010 survey reported the most dramatic drop to 66.7% from 82% in 2009, and the number has consistently declined by 1-2% every year since.

Accessories for the office were the next most popular, though this does not include pens, since "Writing instruments" are listed separately. Combined, desktop/office and writing instruments accounted for a whopping 69.6%, beating out gift cards for the second time in the nearly 9 years since the survey first started.


Corporate Gifting Isn't So Simple Anymore

Utility and mobility have become nearly synonymous terms for the modern professional, and corporate gifting has had to adapt. The number of those tethered all-day to a desk, cubicle, or work-station continues to dwindle, and once 'go-to's like brass paperweights, engraved letter openers, and branded stress balls are becoming relics.

Some things, however, have not changed. The next article will dive into 5 lessons learned, as well as principles for putting together a great corporate gift that will be truly appreciated.

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