May 25, 2007
Today I received a great gift from an executive at Accenture. He brought me in to speak to his leadership team a few weeks ago. His gift, a silver serving tray from Neiman Marcus, was special because it lacked one thing: his company's brand.
When you get a "gift" from a business aossiciate that has his company's logo on it, you have just entered a quid-pro-quo marketing execution. You get a piece of swag and by wearing it or using it publicly, you are a marketing agent. On a scale of 1-10, you might feel a 5 when you get a branded gift. Absent the brand, especially if its thoughtful, you will feel and 8 or a 9 most likely.
The birth of unbranded gift-giving in my life:
A few years ago I was visiting Italy on behalf of Yahoo. I brought some nice sweaters for my hosts, complete with the Yahoo logo emblazoned on the front. When I presented these as gifts, I was schooled in the church-and-state line that a true gift doesn't cross. My host kindly said, "is this a gift I give to you, this free advertising?" I got it. From that point forward, I offered Yahoo branded items as "swag" with the understanding that it was a win/win exchange -- not a gift. When I gave gifts, I bought things that I thought they would like and included a simple card.
In the end, the best marketing for your company is delivered when you create an emotionally engaging experience, using the platform of the holidays (their birthday, a milestone, etc.). When the cake, the shirt, the tray or the pen set has your company's brand on it, you decrease the chance of creating that surprise and delight that comes in receiving true gifts.
So be careful if you are about to raid the swag (stuff we all get) closet at your company for last minute gifts. You might be better advised to visit a chocolate shop or even Best Buy.