Gifts we receive are a reflection of how the giver feels about us. This is true between friends or spouses, and just as true for companies giving promotional products through their internal and external marketing efforts. Gifts, whether we like it or not, have an impact on self-esteem and relationships. They have the power to make us feel appreciated, acknowledged and loved. They can also make us feel disregarded, snubbed, and taken for granted and these impacts, good and bad, can ripple through our communities and corporate culture.
I’ve spent my career studying and advising actions that demonstrate a sense of belonging, acceptance, and appreciation. Times are challenging and companies are facing real business challenges and employees are feeling unstable. Across every industry, staffers are witnessing large swathes of their peers furloughed or laid off, with only dire job prospects on the horizon. The uncertainty of not knowing if there will be a next paycheck is stressful enough, however, the employees who remain are also left struggling to uphold performance expectations while juggling a litany of personal challenges such as homeschooling and childcare.
Gifting Best Practices
What does this mean for businesses looking to reward or celebrate employees who have adapted to the new normal? What it means is this: now more than ever, businesses need to give holiday gifts that are meaningful, empathetic, and impactful to their employees and customers. And while it may seem a challenge to do this on a large scale for a diverse community, buying in bulk and buying meaningful gifts are not mutually exclusive – but they do require a different mindset and approach.
Companies need to feel empowered to live up to and reflect their values by investing in curated, covetable gifts that are miles above the cheap SWAG that is often standard practice. More companies need to steer towards environmentally sustainable, ethically produced, and covetable products that make employees feel appreciated while shifting away from the notoriously toxic SWAG industry and toward a sustainable future.
The goodwill that is generated by good gifts cannot be overstated. Good gifts reflect company values, such as the desire to reduce environmental harm. More importantly, they send a message that the recipient is valued and appreciated, which can have a dramatic effect on morale during these troubling times.
Gifts Carry Power
This gift giving season will certainly be unlike any other for the reason that most will be shipped directly to employees’ homes. In previous years, a low-quality branded gift may have done the job because it fit well in an office setting. This year, gifts arriving at people’s doorsteps will immediately be seen for what they are. They will be compared to their surroundings and judged on usability. Products with design flaws that render them untrustworthy, or products that simply don’t fit in with the home environment, will be quickly tossed into landfills.
Alternatively, a gift that complements a person’s environment is well-designed, useful, and holds the power to do the following:
Soothe anxiety about unemployment:
When entire departments are laid off, remaining employees often wonder if they are next. Gifts that reflect genuine appreciation for a stakeholder’s investment and contributions can have a soothing and reassuring effect, and help keep them focused during times of stress.
Convey company values and team culture to establish a sense of unity:
Gifts are symbolic and reflective of our shared bonds and strongest values. Good gifts create a sense of shared identity and a clear message of who we are together. This sense of inclusion can help build a secure attachment and create stability for employees.
Acknowledge the work-from-home life:
All marketing merchandise should work in real life right now. As homes become offices, businesses shouldn’t be spending their money to invade people’s personal space with unwanted products. Making this mistake could damage potential future relationships.
Gift giving is a mutual gesture from which both parties can benefit. Good gifts can work wonders by upholding shared values and bringing people closer together while reducing their environmental harm and investing in a more specific and intentional corporate culture.
Wondering what concrete examples of meaningful gifts look like? Here are three examples.
- Lexon Oblio – a UV-C LED phone sanitizer and wireless charger that is both well designed and timely. It would be a welcome addition to any home.
- The Lexon Miami Sunrise Alarm Clock – a thoughtful gift that combines self-care and home decor by helping you wake up to gentle light instead of pitch dark.
- For dog lovers, Paikka’s Treat Jar would be (and has been for my clients) a great success. A gift can be directed at an employee’s interests and in this case the gift validates their dog-centric identity.
Lou Cysewski is the founder and CEO of Coolperx, the first and only carbon neutral, social purpose marketing and merchandising agency. Coolperx was born out of her conviction to transform the corporate gifting landscape as she believes curating and offering quality, socially conscious gifts is the only way to create and maintain meaningful relationships.
Gifts stock image by Olga Zarytska/Shutterstock