First-class freebies


There is a fine art to buying the perfect gift. This applies just as much to the world of corporate gifts as it does to personal ones. From exhibitions and meetings to employee incentives and conference packs, corporate gift-giving has become common practice in almost all walks of the industry. Indeed, in many countries gift-giving is not only highly appreciated but expected; it is seen as an important aspect of relationship-building in the business environment.

With the right gift a company can make a powerful impression that lasts. Give gifts badly, though and they can just as easily be ignored. Worse still, a bad present can actually damage a relationship.

As any travelling business person will know, there are only so many baseball caps, branded pens, USB sticks, business card holders and leather-bound writing folders a person needs or more importantly, wants. After some corporate events, delegates are left with two options: exceed their airline weight allowance and cart all the gifts home or, more likely, fill the hotel bins with the bulk of the unwanted gifts. Either way, the waste associated with inappropriate, unnecessary or overly bulky gifts is a major problem.

“Experience gift” company RedBalloon estimates that in Australia alone, A$1 billion (US$1.03 billion) is spent every year on unwanted gifts. With the choice of corporate gifts now available, there is no excuse for a poor-quality, run-of-the-mill, throwaway item. If you are heading down this path, then you need to ask yourself: just what kind of corporate impression are you trying to make?

One of the principle factors that should be considered is the need for, or degree of, branding required on the gift. If it’s an incentive to generate more sales then you’ll want something aspirational. But if you slap your logo on a high-worth item, you run the risk of diminishing its perceived value. On these occasions, branding the auxiliary packaging may be the better way to go.

The desire to limit waste has led to two significant trends in this area: the gift of an experience rather than a physical item, and better sourced, more environmentally friendly gifts.

After years of being bombarded with chuck-away items, Crystal James decided to set up her own company, Sustainable Gifts. She says: “After several years of attending corporate events, I was shocked by the poor quality of the promotional items companies were giving away and just how many of them I threw in the bin, so I decided to start an online gift service that specialised in only stocking environmentally friendly gifts sourced locally.”

With the options available and online buying opportunities spreading the search wider, there is really no excuse for failing to find less wasteful, more interesting corporate gifts – whatever the occasion or budget. Of course, unusual doesn’t have to mean tasteless or bizarre. Even slight tweaks to a traditional format can achieve a standout in this field and it’s always important to consider how appropriate the gift is to your organisation and the recipient.

Whether it’s a reward or a handout, a big-budget sales incentive or an introductory item, the corporate gift you select should be relevant to the intended recipient and represent the appropriate level of perceived value you place on them as an employee, customer or future customer.

So think carefully about who the intended recipient is; consider whether your gift stands out from the crowd for the right reasons; and as a final check ask yourself: “Would I like to receive this?” Following are a few possible options for different events and locations.

1. For the office

Gift: Chair massage in the office



Description: A bonding – and relaxing – treat for the whole office, this corporate gift involves a massage therapist coming to the office to give everyone a quick (10-20 minute) “stress buster” massage in their chairs. It’s a vigorous massage that can help relieve migraines and tension in the neck, back and shoulders.

Michelle Lam, managing director of Spoilt, says: “These are great as a treat for the office for everyone in the team. It makes a memorable gift to the team and shows that you care about them. It allows everyone to relax and everyone likes a massage. The cost is not too high at HK$1,600 (US$206). We had an international PR firm with an office in Hong Kong, and to reward the Hong Kong team for their hard work, the UK management team bought them a Chair Massage in the Office as a Christmas gift.”

David Zhu, CTO and Co-Founder of Enterproid says: “We put the entire company on lockdown to ship a product – people were working nights and weekends. It was a great surprise and boost to the morale when we were able to arrange a massage for everyone working overtime in the office. Even though it was a very stressful time, people knew their efforts were much appreciated.”

2. For the family

Gift: Italian Pizza Master Class gift box


Description: Corporate gifts and the family are not always an obvious combination, but a pizza-making gift box combines a desirable Just Pizza Oven with all the kit needed to make delicious pizzas that the entire family can enjoy, at a cost of A$199 (US$204). The oven has dual heating elements and a fixed ceramic stone base to cook crispy pizzas in five minutes. The rest of the kit includes pasta sauce, semi-dried tomatoes, grilled artichokes and sweet and sour peppers, but families can experiment with their own toppings once these are used up.

Kristie Buchanan, CEO of RedBalloon says: “As an experience company, our gift box range is characterised by ensuring there is an experience in every box – be that the contents itself, or the actual experience of receiving it. Gift boxes bring the experience to people’s doorsteps, no matter where they are located. They are a great option for workforces that may be located in many different areas and who may be unable to come together in the one location to enjoy a more traditional experience gift. They are appropriate for many different recipients, with products like the pizza-making kits great for families.”

Parenting Blogger Kate says: “It’s like the best home-delivered pizza [package] ever. We received a beautifully packaged box filled with goodies including the pizza maker and some gorgeous gourmet toppings. I’d always wondered if the machine would just be a space taker, but we are using it an awful lot. Our bases are noticeably crisper and lighter and the five-minute cooking time suits my poor starving children. If you’re looking for a great gift for someone who lives a little off the beaten track, I highly recommend this one.”

3. For the individual

Gift: Vers Audio Slimline Bamboo iPhone Case


Description: This slim case for an iPhone 4/4S comes as a two-part slider case made from bamboo and wood which are stylish and tough, as well as being a more environmentally friendly, renewable gift (HK$223/US$28.7). For those with a bigger budget there’s also the Vers Audio 1.5R iPod/iPhone Speaker/AM-FM Radio/Alarm Clock at HK$2,633 (US$339).

Kellie Byrnes, CEO of Kindred Gifts says: “We strongly believe that the best option for companies buying presents for their staff or clients is to choose gifts that are both unique and ethical. A prime example are these Vers products, which are seriously stylish, memorable and produced from bamboo, a sustainable resource. Vers Audio also plants 100 trees for every tree used in production, and takes advantage of other ecofriendly options such as using recycled paper in its packaging. This means the company purchasing these gifts, plus the gift recipient, can really feel great about it.”

Virgin Mobile has purchased the Vers dock as a promotional giveaway item in a competition for its mobile customers. As the Virgin brand prides itself on incorporating ethical and environmentally friendly practices into the way it does business, this was obviously a great fit for it as well. The product has a high level of design and functionality, and is perfect for both men, women and people of all ages.

4. For those on a budget

Gift: Ecoya Travel Candles


Description: Ecoya’s tin-encased candles are made from 100 per cent soy wax and hand-poured by master candlemakers using lead-free cotton wicks and the finest range of essential oils. They will sweeten the scent of any hotel room, and are available in a range of essential oils for male and female tastes, such as Bamboo & White Lily, Lime & Sandalwood and Vanilla & Grapefruit, with up to 15 hours’ burn time. They cost A$12 (US$12.3) each for a minimum order of 20.

Crystal James, founder of Sustainable Gifts says: “Creating a home away from home is important to anyone travelling, especially busy professionals who have little time to indulge in life’s creature comforts. That’s why we try and make travelling more enjoyable with our range of travel candles, etc. We know men prefer gifts they can take home and share with their family, or use for personal use while they are travelling. Gifts should be small in size so they are easy to pack without the risk of breaking in transit. Being cost-conscious doesn’t have to mean compromising on quality.”

For an international trade mission gala dinner, Tourism Australia purchased an Ecoya Travel Tin for every dinner guest, presented on arrival as guests were seated at their tables.

Jane Bainbridge 


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