Branded Holiday Gifts Done Right
The holiday season is fast approaching, and with it, plenty of cards, gifts, and messages bearing warm wishes and logos.
When done right, a branded gift can be a powerful tool for relationship-building and help to keep your business top of mind. When done wrong, you risk spending big money on things that get immediately tossed or that make people feel “marketed to” instead of appreciated.
To save you some frantic Googling and stress, I’ve called in some questions to some of my favorite experts. This post highlights some dos and don’ts and shares inspiration for choosing the perfect gift, designing and presenting it thoughtfully, and managing all the logistics so that your holiday surprises arrive in client mailboxes at just the right moment.
Get ready to make the most of your client gifts this holiday season!
Set Your Timeline
Timing is everything when it comes to custom client gifts. Leave yourself plenty of time to work with your designers and other vendors to create and produce the gifts and get them shipped or delivered.
The number of gifts you need and the level of customization will impact lead time. Most often, you'll be safe if you reach out to your designer and gifting service approximately six weeks before you need items shipped. Doing so should give you enough time to select the perfect items, finalize the design, and have the items produced, wrapped, and shipped.
If you miss that window, don't stress, though. Many companies have the resources to rush this timeline to as short as two weeks if necessary.
Choose a Meaningful Gift
If you are going to take the time and spend the money to send a gift to your clients, be sure that it has a clear purpose and meaning.
First, consider what message you want to send and what emotion you want to elicit. For holiday gifts, most brands hope to communicate appreciation, celebrate accomplishments, or spark excitement for the year to come. Based on your goals, you may decide to send your gifts to arrive at the end of the calendar year or the beginning of the new year.
Next, think about your brand's own values and personality and the work you do. Choose a gift that's in alignment with all of those things. For example, if you are a company that highly values sustainability, you might choose a “green” gift with minimal packaging.
Finally, consider the recipient. What types of things do your clients value? What will they actually use or be enthusiastic about? After all, the ultimate goal of any gift should be to make the person on the receiving end feel good.
Jennifer O’Hare of family-owned Belle Box Co. specializes in collaborating with individuals and businesses to create personalized gift boxes that celebrate special moments. I was curious about how she helps business owners choose what to include in client gift boxes. Her response was:
“We are visionaries, attentive listeners, and inquisitive by nature. When we sit down to discuss a client’s goals & vision for a custom project, we dig deep into the brand's ethos & personality. We take into consideration any "must have" products or "must leave out" products. We love the brainstorming process and can offer many suggestions based on the motivation behind the gifting.
With that said, we do have some clients who prefer to give us a brief description of what they are looking for and look to us to create an exceptional design that truly reflects them and their brand.”
Images courtesy of Jennifer O’Hare
Incorporate Branding Without Overwhelming the Gesture
Once you have decided on your gift, work with a professional to incorporate your branding tastefully.
You can include your logo without making the gift feel like marketing. Real talk: no one wants another basic cup with a huge imprint of your logo on it. If you have a responsive logo, your designer can select the appropriate version to match the item's dimensions and material.
Beyond your logo and business name, consider more subtle ways of incorporating your branding. These may include:
Using established pattern designs (did you know I now incorporate these into all new brand design projects?)
Choosing colors that complement your brand palette (when possible, try to match the brand colors exactly)
Selecting item materials that match your brand vibe (a modern, minimalist brand might go metallic, an eco-friendly brand may opt for bamboo)
Rachel Leone, the founder of Leone Marketing, is an expert at helping businesses choose logoed gift items that generate buzz and build bonds. I asked her what she thinks makes a recipient more likely to keep a branded gift item rather than recycle or toss it. This is what she had to say:
"The item needs to be useful and have a perceived value for the recipient. According to a study on ASI, most people keep a promotional product for an average of 8 to 10 months, generating an average of about 1,000 impressions per month.
The most useful items are apparel, drinkware, umbrellas, journals, pens, and bags. Keep in mind, if the item is not useful to the receiver, they typically will pass it along to someone that finds it useful, so your brand is still getting recognition.
82% of people have a more favorable impression of a brand after receiving a promotional product.”
Images courtesy of Rachel Leone
Make the Presentation Memorable
Your gift wrapping is an opportunity to make things even more special, all while reinforcing your brand's look and feel.
Anna Ballard is the founder of Ballard & Prescott, a company specializing in custom gift wrapping and corporate gifting. Ballard also designs and sells her own line of hand-drawn specialty wrapping papers. I asked her why the proper presentation matters, and she shared these thoughts:
“Finding a great gift but not wrapping it is like running a strong race and then stopping right before the finish line. Presenting a beautiful gift lets a client know that you’ve considered every part of the gifting process, and indicates to them that you apply the same attention to detail when doing your actual work for them. Plus, reading a card and unwrapping a gift takes time. That is more time a client spends engaging with and thinking about your brand. That is a gift for you! And don’t worry if wrapping isn’t your thing—Ballard & Prescott can wrap your gift, include a thoughtful card and ship it to your client.”
If you can have an expert like Ballard take care of your wrapping and shipping, it's ideal. If not, you can enhance your gifts with things like personalized notes, branded stickers, and little details like ribbons, creative package fill, and enclosures to make the experience of opening the gift extra memorable.
2022 Client Holiday Gift Inspo From the Pros
Now that you know what it takes to make the most of your client holiday gifts, here are some ideas to get you started. Straight from the mouths of the experts, these items are sure to please or at least get your wheels turning about what your clients would love.
Anna Ballard, Ballard & Prescott, Recommends:
Gifts to Celebrate Family
"I love family-themed client gifts. During the holidays, we are all trying to unplug and reconnect. Gifts that celebrate that sentiment are always well received."
Artisanal Mixers for Cocktails or Mocktails
"There are lots of great artisanal mixers on the market, and they are delicious without the alcohol. You can feel good about giving them to any client."
A New Journal for a New Year
"I love sending clients New Year's gifts. Most other gifting is over by this point, so your gift will stand out. Journals make a lovely New Year's gift, like Ballard & Prescott’s Narwhal Journal."
Rachel Leone, Leone Marketing, Recommends:
"This 12 Piece Cookie and Confection Gift Set is one of my favorite items. It's made to order, the chocolate is amazing, everything is individually wrapped, and the presentation is impressive with a great price point. These are perfect for sending to offices and are always well received."
"We are so glued to our technology that power banks are perfect to have on hand when your mobile devices are running out of juice. They also make great VIP and prospecting gifts."
"Everyone needs a good water bottle. These ones are fabulous—great quality and reasonably priced. They keep liquids cool and hot for 12 hours and can be ordered in a variety of colors."
Jennifer O’Hare, Belle Box Co, Recommends:
“We think custom gift boxes are a fantastic option,” shares Jennifer. “Our favorite gift boxes tell a story. Whether it's an inspiring onboarding gift (including affirmation cards, a journal with a motivational message on it, a branded candle, and a yummy snack) or a prospecting gift (personalized with the company's logo engraved on the outside of the box), the gift in its entirety tells a story. It becomes more of a memorable experience as the recipient opens and uncovers each and every handpicked item and awws over the overall presentation. Gift boxes leave a lasting impression and are an excellent way to nurture your connection with each and every client.”
In addition to the fantastic ideas our experts shared, I love the idea of supporting other small, local businesses when choosing client gifts. Think of the impact of being a small business, supporting another small business, as you show gratitude for . . . another small business. I mean, does it get any better than that?
A few small business clients of mine that offer great gifts include:
Feeling like you need more ideas or help to get your client holiday gift design just right? Reach out to the experts who shared their wisdom here or me—wishing your business happy holiday gifting!