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3 Keys to Smart Corporate Gifting

Posted by Terry Schilling on


For you professionals out there planning on buying a gift for your boss, clients, or colleagues this holiday season, let’s make it matter.

Yes, simply buying a gift is a nice gesture and lets them know you’re thinking about them, but what you may not know is that corporate gifting is an opportunity - to both develop and reaffirm your professional relationships. However, with the wrong gifting strategy, you run the risk of sabotaging the relationships that matter most in your career.

In this article we’ll help you avoid the common pitfalls of bad corporate gifting; and even better, ensure that your holiday gifting strategy is optimized for maximum influence. You’ll discover 3 expert insights for smart corporate gifting – backed by leading psychology and science.

Do you like effective strategies? You do. Good, then let’s get started.


1. Focus on Relational Gifting, NOT Transactional Gifting. 

When it comes to human interaction, we typically are influenced by either social or market norms. The distinction between these two norms is best described in Dan Ariely’s New York Time’s bestselling book, Predictably Irrational. Here’s the breakdown:

Market norms relate to wages, prices, rents, interest and cost-and-benefits. The domain of market norms means you get what you pay for.

Social norms relate to our need for community. The domain of social norms creates pleasure for both sides and instant payback is not required.

Ariely asks reader to imagine attending your own mother’s house for Thanksgiving Dinner. It’s a sumptuous spread cooked with love AND massive effort. Now, consider what might happen if you expressed your appreciation with market norms. Here’s how things might play out…

“Mom, for all the love you’ve put into this, how much do I owe you?” you say sincerely. As silence descends on the gathering, you wave a handful of bills. “Do you think three hundred dollars will do it? No, wait, I should give you four hundred!” This is not a picture that Norman Rockwell would have painted. A glass of wine falls over; your mother-in-law stands up red-faced; your sister-in-law shoots you an angry look; and your niece bursts into tears. Next year’s Thanksgiving celebration, it seems, may be a frozen dinner in front of the television set.

Today, many people (and companies) make a similar mistake when it comes to holiday gifting. By gifting a cash bonus or gift card with an explicit value, the giver places a monetary value on the relationship – signaling market over social norms. This choice is a suboptimal strategy for relationship building. That's because relational gifting creates value by making those involved more passionate, motivated, flexible, and engaged.

Predictably Irrational asks, “Should you give an employee a gift worth $1,000 or pay him or her an extra $1,000 in cash?”

Most employees would say they prefer the cash, yet studies show that a thoughtful gift actually creates the scenario of greater fulfillment. When people receive a thoughtful gift, they’re being recognized personally for their hard work and loyalty; and in return, will reciprocate with greater loyalty and engagement than ever before.



2. Choose Gifts That Signal First-Class

Gifts say a lot about the way you think, make decisions, and ultimately, the person you are. In the book, Giftology, author John Ruhlin describes the benefit of gifting first-class:


“Your gifts should always align with your core values. Because in the end, giving something that reflects the personality of your client in a thoughtful, meaningful way will ultimately reflect on your own character— from both a personal and a business perspective.”

Your gift will be a reference that attests to your own character.

By sharing a cheap gift, you becomes complicit in associating second-rate value with your personal brand. Instead, smart gifting means choosing a best-in-class gift that signals elevated status.

Another reason to gift first-class: you’ll trigger a cognitive bias known as the Halo Effect. The Halo Effect causes one characteristic of a person (such as their elegant taste in gifts) to disproportionally influence the way that person is viewed by others.

Thus, while they’re receiving a great gift, you’ll be the one receiving positive personal attributes (in their mind), such as generosity and charisma.


3. Connect with Practical Luxury Gifts

Holiday gifting is a great opportunity for you to stand out. So don’t waste this moment on a gift with no functional use. You may have already noticed that these types of token gifts are just re-gifted anyway.

How do you select the perfect gift? The answer is simple. The most meaningful gift will serve as an artifact of your relationship.

According to Giftology, this will be best achieved by selecting practical item that can be woven into the daily fabric of their life. A gift that they can use daily, well, that’s an everyday impression. A constant reminder of your connection.


The Wrap Up 

Above all, it’s not the thought that counts. It’s the thoughtful thought that counts.

You wouldn’t gift Tailor & Spruce to a guy who could care less about his appearance. You would only purchase from Tailor & Spruce to appreciate a man who prides himself on looking sharp. Because THAT is how you will make him feel special. (You can learn more about our first-class grooming kits in the following Holiday Gift Guides: Forbes, Bloomberg and Men’s Journal).

What we’re saying is don’t be the person who gets everyone in the office a box of chocolates or a bottle of wine. Go outside that Godiva box (ahem) and get a gift that has meaning to your relationship. You’ll be amazed how far a little attention to detail will get you.


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