Articles / Entrepreneurship

Branded Gifts are Not Gifts

Frequently asked question:

How effective are branded gifts at growing a business?

They’re not. End of Article.

Kidding. They have their place.


What if you could make your gifts stand out from the sea of competitors screaming for attention and giving something more sincere and impactful? Subsequently, rendering your marketing plan irrelevant. Not useless, just irrelevant.

We’ve all had the mass produced cards with the font made to look like handwriting, printed on cardstock with the company logo front and center. Or the mug with the logo smacking you square in the face like that one time you got rejected in 8th grade when you asked your crush to the dance.

How do people who give these types of gifts think they will be received? And why do we do it? 

Is it because this time the face is yours and your clients will appreciate it more than when they receive similar items with someone else’s face? They probably don’t even wear the branded clothing from their own office.

Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t do it:

  • The gifts feel disingenuous.
  • They come off more as self-serving.
  • A gift shouldn’t be marketing.

The Gifts Feel Disingenuous

“Oh sweet! I’ve always wanted a chef knife with someone else’s name and phone number stamped on it. I can’t wait to chop all the vegetables and be reminded of how this person helped me buy a home!”

– No One, Ever.

Chances are those knives regardless of how nice they are will be kept in their case and placed into the “other knives” drawer to be paired with all the other gizmos and gadgets that never found a home or use. 

No one is going to the beach with an AT&T towel, and no one has ever seen anyone with a ABC Realty folio unless he or she was already an employee.

Let’s take off our business owner hat and put on our consumer hat. (Are you seeing the theme here?) 

Gifts are often utilized to treat someone or make them feel special, to relieve a pain point, to fulfill a desire, to inspire happiness, show gratitude, respect, or love. All of these reasons are more than enough to bring a smile to the recipient’s face.

By slapping our name and “clever” marketing slogan on a gift we devalue its sincerity and blur its intention, subsequently diminishing its potential impact. Even if the gift arrives as a surprise, it can place the recipient in an odd position.

  • What am I supposed to do with this knife with Mark’s phone number on it?
  • Doesn’t he know I already have his number?
  • I already know he works at 123 Consulting and have referred him business in the past.

In some cases it may also make the recipient feel slighted.

Do I have to tell him I have a referral for him? Do we have to go through the motions and talk about how business is going as if we were two old friends that just ran into each other at Target?”

While small little trinkets like stress balls and pens are totally fine to sport a logo, for an even larger impact, opt for something without your logo and go for something your client would actually be interested in and not something you purchased 100 of on an online wholesale shop.

Which brings us to….

Branded Gifts Feel Self-Serving

“Wow, Mark really got me this really nice knife, but his name is engraved on it with his phone number. Is this gift for me or him? How am I supposed to bring this knife out for use when I’m hosting dinner?”

“Isn’t wearing a piece of clothing with someone else’s face on it just odd? Did he or she buy this at Spencers as a joke?”

Then why do we continue to do it?

The aim is to show gratitude to the recipient and that should be as clear as possible. 

A gift can be far more impactful with a touch of personalization such as “Shawnna’s Coffee Mug” or “Brad Goblet of Coffee”, versus handing them a coffee mug with your logo front and center. They will actually be inclined to use it and will still remember who it came from and what that person does. No need to remind them you’re a financial advisor every chance you get. It also comes off as insecure, hotshot. No need to take the top of a mountain and shout about your business. That is what your reputation is for.

This personalization inspires conversation in a positive way. “Oh, look at what my financial advisor gave me! So cute, huh?”

Pay close attention to where the swag bags and “goodies” end up at conventions. The last thing we want as a business owner is to let our clients feel like they just went to a convention and picked up swag. Making them feel special has to include a dash of exclusivity, thoughtfulness, and delight to  make it feel like you had them in mind the whole time when choosing the gift.

There are other ways to bring your past clients and customers to come to you for repeat business and referrals, one irrefutable method is to provide a remarkable experience. Having great service is the bare minimum in today’s economy. Make your client experience so unique that the conversations are happening without you asking for it. 

So if a gift is part of your client experience, don’t try to make it double as a business card.

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