Corporate gift giving can seem like a mundane task to even the greenest marketing professional or newest small business owner. Simply pick a stock card image, fill in the blanks and then find a gift within your budget that you can order in multiples, right? Of course it is not always that simple. I was fortunate to learn this early on in my career as a marketing professional.
Fresh out of university and in my first job as a marketing assistant, I was tasked with bringing forward a few ideas for holiday gifts and card options to distribute to our clients and prospects. Of course, the first question I asked my direct manager after learning the budget was to see examples of previous gifts and cards. I was interested in learning what type of gifts were typically approved and also ensure that I didn’t bring forward any repeat ideas.
“We don’t have anything left from last year. We burned all of the evidence,” my manager answered, jokingly (I hoped).
It turns out that the holiday season prior to my arrival at this small business was deemed a huge debacle that should never be spoken about again. And yet, here I am talking about it so you may learn from our mistakes.
Here’s what went happened.
First, the chosen card image featured a Christmas tree with a star on top, placed underneath messaging that included Merry Christmas. Big mistake. Our client base was made up of a diverse range of religious and personal backgrounds.
Second, this card was accompanied by a bottle of wine branded with our company logo and message – a nice sentiment and gift for some but not so much for others.
Hindsight is 20/20 and so looking back it’s obvious that our corporate gifting was not well thought out. If we had taken the makeup of our client base into account, we would have realized that, both the messaging and the gift could be taken a different way than we intended. And boy was it! In fact, our small organization received dozens of complaints with some even taking the time to return the gifts and cards.
So what gifts did I ultimately bring forward to my manager? Well, that is a lesson all in itself. Please stop by next week for that story, entitled Creative corporate gift giving: It’s not just what you give but to whom.