Lou Elliott-Cysewski, co-founder and CEO of Coolperxthe world’s first climate-neutral branded goods company.
It’s the dirty little secret of corporate gifts being handed out all year round; most swag is as unappreciated as it is wasteful.
If your company is committed to sustainable business, you don’t want your swag in the overcrowded garbage dumps. To avoid this problem, corporate buyers need to change their gifting behavior.
Do you want to give a good gift? Here are five ways you can refocus your corporate gift program to promote your brand and delight recipients, while still supporting your sustainability goals.
1. Think strategically about which gifts to brand.
Does your company feel the need to put your logo on every gift? If so, you might want to reconsider.
Most people don’t like to receive a gift that is basically a naked attempt to use it as free advertising. Done wrong, branding can even put people in tricky situations.
For example, my colleague was given a jacket with a company logo on the front, which she wore for a vacation that involved air travel.
While traveling through the airport alone, she found that wearing this brand’s logo on her jacket made strangers feel like it was fair game to approach and start conversations. When she was approached by men who wanted to talk about the company when she was trying to take time off, she felt extremely uncomfortable. Needless to say, that coat quickly found a trash can.
When choosing garments to put your logo on, consider a T-shirt rather than a hoodie or jacket. Branding outerwear is more problematic for the recipient, as they cannot easily cover the logo when they are gone, which unfortunately can hurt stakeholder relations. Patagonia is an example of a company that understands this well and has moved away from allowing permanent logos on its clothing.
2. Keep in mind that the quality of promotional gifts reflects your brand.
When you give a gift in America, keep this in mind: people already have stuff…a lot of stuff.
When your gift is cheaply made, it’s unlikely to be saved. If your recipient already has a nice metal Kleen Canteen that they use every day, why hang them from your cheap plastic water bottle?
Giving junk-quality goods is a recipe for feeding landfills. That goes doubly for poorly built items that break easily. If you’re on a budget, consider giving fewer, better quality gifts.
3. Assess whether your promotional gifts feel special.
Here’s a fact that too many business gift buyers don’t seem to understand: Gifts should make people feel special. And while a good gift makes people feel seen and appreciated, mass gifts have the opposite effect.
How can a promotional gift make a person feel special? By connecting with their values in some way or by giving an item that the recipient really needs and would use. For example, if LGBTQ+ issues are important to the person, you can show your awareness by supporting a small business like Rawlogy, a woman-owned company that makes tools that support self-care.
You can also do this easily by letting recipients choose from multiple possible items, so that each recipient gets something they really want. Your business isn’t homogeneous, so your gifts shouldn’t be either.
Choose three gifts and ask your supplier to help you create a temporary site or form for employees to choose their own items. Not only does this build goodwill with your team, but it also prevents your gift budget from being wasted on items people don’t want.
4. Avoid business gifts that aren’t actually gifts.
The word gift is used a lot in the corporate world – so much so that I think it’s starting to lose its meaning. To refresh your memory, a gift is something the recipient would like to receive.
Does that describe your recent corporate gifts? If not, know that your gift item is probably on its way to a garbage can. It’s too easy to put your gift needs at the bottom of your to-do list. When it comes time to give, you’re stuck in a rush at the last minute, grabbing something old at the last minute to get your logo on.
Recipients pick up on the condensed atmosphere of these gifts. They are never something out of the ordinary because you didn’t take the time to research and find a gift that would surprise and delight your intended recipients.
The result is disappointed recipients instead of building a relationship and another gift in the landfill.
5. Tell a story to take your gifts from good to great.
Great corporate gifts show the company values. They align with the sustainability efforts you make rather than separate from your goal of continuously reducing your company’s environmental impact.
Telling a story: about the founders’ passion to build a better world, about responsible sourcing of the materials used in a product, about the gift company’s commitment to fair labor, and more.
For example, Secrid tells the story of a design company that wants to create a better future by employing people living in shelters who might otherwise be unable to find work and that uses 100% renewable energy. There are many other companies that have similar values and practices.
People connect with stories. So giving a gift with a positive backstory makes it a more meaningful, memorable experience for the recipient. It is the ultimate way to build relationships through promotional gifts.
When you give a gift that tells a story, it shows that your business ideals are not PR greenwashing or mere lip service; your values permeate every aspect of your business. It touches the hearts of the recipients and ensures enormous credibility of the brand.
Give company swag that people will love.
If you are going to give business gifts, make sure that the money is well spent. Commit to sending sustainable, well-made gifts, and you’ll win easily with your sustainability program. In fact, great gifts last longer, don’t end up in landfills, and create a positive buzz about your business. And that’s the best Christmas gift any business can give itself.