Cultivate Blog

Posted by Jenny McGee on 5/16/23 8:00 AM

While the past couple of years may have strained professional relationships, one approach has become even more critical: the tradition of corporate gifting. With a delicate balance of appreciation, personalization, and brand awareness, this act can be a big hit that helps create and nurture relationships and drive your business forward.

U.S. companies shelled out over $217 billion on client gifting in 2022, but how wisely was that money spent? To examine ROI, gauge current trends, and assess which goodies are treasured or trashed, conducted a study of more than 1,500 professionals positioned to send or receive corporate gifts about their experiences on both sides of the ledger.


Gifting that keeps on giving  

Corporate gifts can deliver appreciation for current milestones and inspire the next achievement. If delivered carefully, gifting demonstrates gratitude for a business relationship while cementing a bond and boosting brand recognition and customer loyalty.

Among the companies polled, just over half (53%) will send gifts. About one in two corporate clients who receive gifts feel they’re at least slightly important. And 46% admitted that getting gifts from companies made them more likely to continue working together. 


#Giftfails everyone can relate to 

It’s said that the best things in life are free, but so are some of the worst. In fact, 54% of professionals have received corporate gifts so bad that they were simply tossed in the garbage. These are the five least popular corporate holiday gifts according to business representatives in’s study:

  1. Magazine Subscriptions
  2. Soaps
  3. Candles
  4. Office Supplies
  5. Gift Cards

The three least-desired gifts reflect items that really depend on personal taste. Unless senders know their recipients very personally, it would be difficult to know what type of magazine subscription, soap, or candle would be appreciated. Additionally, office supplies are often an unwelcome gesture. Recipients prefer gifts that interrupt work routines to ones that reinforce their obligations.

To put things in perspective, here are some of the worst gifts that professionals have ever received, according to the report: 

  • Low-value gift cards ($10 or less) and discount coupons seemed to be more resented than welcomed by recipients.
  • Gift recipients said prominently branded items felt more like ads than tokens of appreciation. Often, these gifts were donated to charities.
  • Many recipients mentioned old, stale, or nasty food gifts that left bad tastes in their mouths in more ways than one.
  • Useless or redundant trinkets are often discarded as clutter; remember that most offices already have pens and mousepads.
  • Respondents also listed many puzzling presents that were quickly thrown away, such as a bottle of wine insensitively gifted to an addiction rehabilitation center.

Thoughtful gifting is guaranteed to please

Yet not all gifts are equal. From tchotchkes and trinkets to travel and tech, corporate gifts tend to span a wide gamut. Companies looking to be more thoughtful should keep the following tips in mind:

Send a gift, not an ad: The ultimate goal of gifting is to generate business, but that shouldn’t be obvious on the face. Gifting presents a chance to deepen connections beyond expanding awareness. Service discounts and logo-heavy swag were frequently mentioned as unwanted gifts. Positive feelings generated by a meaningful gift are more influential than any discarded tchotchke bearing your brand.

Make your gift useful: The gifts most often discarded were redundant everyday items. Coffee mugs, pens, keychains, magnets, t-shirts, etc., are quickly forgotten and usually thrown in a drawer or in the trash bin.

Personalize it: Nearly half of the companies surveyed send the same items to every person on their list, which is why the satisfaction level and frequency of use are so low. When people get to select a gift of their choice, they’re more likely to use it and remember who gave it to them.

Don’t be cheap: You don’t need to dedicate large sums to gifting, but make sure your gifts are useful and thoughtful. According to the study, recipients expect companies to spend $100 on each corporate gift. Somewhere in that gap lies a great disappointment trap that can harm a reputation more than good. Companies who send gift cards of minimal value or low-quality goods that quickly break may be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Don’t burden the recipient: A gift that requires a recipient’s commitment, responsibility, or investment may not feel like a gift at all. Many of the least appreciated presents in our study were vendor discounts, third-party coupons, or services that demanded recurring subscriptions. For similar reasons, some people disliked house plants as impositions they hadn’t chosen to nurture.

Consider the planet: A growing number of responsible and premium brands are taking climate commitments seriously, providing companies a chance to support and embrace sustainable initiatives. Sending eco-friendly gifting options made or packaged with sustainable materials or obtained via fair trade conveys an alignment of goals. 

Corporate gifting is an ancient ritual full of potential and pitfalls. Companies have a chance to positively influence relationships but may alienate them with unwanted or offensive gifts. At a time when people want to feel connected and recognized, well-timed gifts can play a critical role in rejuvenating business relations.

Cultivate’s proven Online and On-site Gifting solutions represent reliable ways to generate desired outcomes. Real appreciation means doing more for the people you value most, creating deeper connections and stronger relationships. When you treat gifting as an investment instead of an expense and an opportunity instead of a task — it has the power to move your business forward.

Ready to reboot your gifting routine? Connect with our team of experts. We’d love to tell you more!

Topics: Experts

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