What Is a Corporate Gift?: A Beginner's Guide (2021)

Cross Classic Century Black and gold pen with corporate clip emblem

In this article, I'm going to answer a very simple question:

What is a corporate gift?

A corporate gift is any gift given by a corporate body to its staff or clients. Corporate gifts can be in-house gifts or out-of-house gifts, but they always observe professional etiquette which differs based on the relationship between the giver and the recipient.

Now that we've answered the main question, what else is there to say about corporate gifts?

A lot!

Let's take a deep dive into every aspect of corporate gifts and break each one down into its simplest forms.

Let's get started!

Part 1: What are the different types of corporate gifts?

Dayspring Pens Lumen Black

Let's look at the different types of gifts that can be given in the corporate environment.

Celebration gifts

Celebration gifts are items given for a specific occasion or event.

They can be a company wide gift to celebrate a holiday, business anniversary, or even just a surprisingly good quarter. 

Special note: this would not be an award for making a goal. It’s important to remember awards and rewards are not gifts. We will go into that in Part 2. 

Celebration gifts also include individual gifts tailored to employees. This would be events like a birthday, professional milestone (like 10 years of service), or a wedding. They should be linked to an event in the personal life of the employee or client.

Group Gifts

Group gifts are gifts amongst coworkers or from employees to their employers.

They can either be a single gift funded and given by a whole group or the same gift given out to multiple people.

Spoonful of Comfort recommends buying group gifts for colleagues because:

Teams who pitch in on a group gift to a co-worker or boss share the expense of a high-quality gift. It can build a sense of camaraderie. And it gets away from being too personal.

A group gift can consolidate work, increase the personal impact on the recipients, and also disperse the possibility of a breach in professional boundaries.

Personalized gifts

Engraved corporate logo leather journal

A personalized gift can be either a celebratory gift or a group gift. They receive their own category because they demonstrate an additional thoughtful effort that can create a greater impact.

This could be as simple as an employee's name engraved on a pen or as fancy as customized gift baskets to clients.

Promotional gifts!

Cross Calais blue and chrome pen with corporate clip emblem

Promotional gifts are physical items that promote your own business and usually have some marking of your brand on them, like a company's logo or website.

They are crucial marketing even in our modern web-based society because they give a physical point of contact with your brand. We will talk more about how crucial they are when we discuss how they can be used to grow your business.

For now, what you need to know is that they are freely given out in-mass to just about anyone and are traditionally something that is cheap to buy in bulk and branded. They are sometimes called swag.

Ok, so we know what a corporate gift is now, but it's time to go into the big question: Why should a company give a gift?

Part 2: Why is corporate gifting important?

Business owner giving Cross pen in box to corporate partner

Corporate gifting is an incredibly important because it will grow your business.

There are four major ways it does this:

  • It will boost morale at work.
  • It will increase your brand recognition.
  • It will generate client leads.
  • It will increase client retention.

 

Let's take a general look at each of these points by splitting them up into two categories of corporate gifting: gifts for employees and gifts for clients.

Why should companies give gifts to their employees?

The non-practical business generating reason to get gifts for employees is...it feels good.

In their article on the science of giving and how it is good for you for Berkley's Greater Good Magazine, Jill Suttie and Jason Marsh detail how giving:

  1. Makes us feel happy
  2. Is good for our health
  3. Promotes cooperation and social connection
  4. Evokes gratitude
  5. Is contagious

 

Practically speaking:

The biggest reason to give to your employees is to show completely gratuitous value for their work which ultimately grows morale, increases personal happiness, and encourages employees to be generous with themselves and others.

Morale is key to both productivity and employee retention. If people aren't happy with their workplace, they're not going to want to give it their all or stick around too long.

Your team works incredibly hard for their wages, but a free show of appreciation from their boss can give a new life to that work in away that their salary just can't.

It makes a huge difference in workplace mentality just knowing that a boss cares enough to give something without reason, especially during the holidays or during particularly productive parts of the year.

Gift giving makes a workplace feel little but less like a giant machine, a little more human.

Keeping morale up keeps productivity up.

Healthy company gift-giving

Cross Century II Black Rollerball with sticky note stating "meeting at 9am"

It is massively important to foster a healthy company culture of gift-giving.

Why?

Because improper gift-giving does the opposite of what you want it to do. Rather than bringing everyone together and celebrating people, it causes unhealthy competition and bitterness in the workplace.

At best, they will make things awkward. At worst, you could be doing something illegal.

It can cause strife in the office place.

Here's some quick guidelines on healthy office gift-giving:

1.) As a rule, gift-giving should never be mandatory.

There is a massive difference between awards for impeccable performance and office gifts.

Gifts are given freely, and they deepen the bonds between people.

Awards for performance are meant to give something for your employees to reach for.

Everyone should feel seen and respected in receiving a gift, and everyone in the office should have the same opportunity to earn performance awards.

2.) Don't give gifts that are too personal or too expensive.

Gifts that are too personal include things like underwear.

And keep your spending to a minimum so as not to be seen as showing or currying particular favor.

Be especially careful when getting gifts for bosses.

The need to maintain professionalism is even more important when giving to bosses.

According to The Spruce,

The general rule of thumb is that a boss should never expect a gift from his or her employees for any occasion, but it is still acceptable for the employees to give something. It should not be anything too personal, such as lingerie or something that could possibly embarrass him or her in front of her supervisor. If you're in doubt about a gift you're considering, take the safe route and don't do it.

Ultimately, keeping things professional reduces the chances of coworkers or employees feeling slighted.

Be sure to check out my article on the 6 Best (and Worst) Gifts for Bosses for more.

Why should companies give corporate gifts to their clients?

The simple answer is because it can grow your business in big ways and is one of your biggest marketing assets.

In reality, there is a lot more to corporate gifts to clients.

That's why we need to examine exactly how corporate gifting can grow your business in more detail.

Part 3: How can corporate gifts grow my business?

people writing with Corporate gift pens over budget meeting plans

Now that we've talked about gifting in-house, let's talk about giving to clients and customers.

First, we are going to talk about promotional gifts and their marketing benefits. Then, we will talk about individual gifts to clients.

What’s the deal with promotional gifts?

Like I mentioned before, promotional gifts "are products branded with a logo or slogan and distributed at little or no cost to promote a brand, corporate identity, or event" (thank you Wikipedia for that perfectly succinct definition).

Think the ballpoint pen your bank hands out, the t-shirts shot out of cannons at sports games, or even the little goody bags your dentist hands you at the end of your teeth cleaning.

The entire purpose of a promotional gift is to keep your brand name in the working memory of potential clients.

Are promotional gifts good marketing?

people holding corporate gift pens over budget plans and laptop

Are they ever. If you have the time, the Advertising Specialty Institute has a deep dive cost analysis of promotional products versus other advertising media that is incredibly informative.

Despite the digital age on on-line ads, the actual amount of contact an individual has with your brand is incredibly small. I personally spend less time looking at the advertisement than I do looking for the little "x" to close out the pop-up.

Unlike ads, The ASI study notes that most people keep a promotional product for up to eight months. That's eight months of them seeing your company's name or logo and thinking positively about your brand for 1.) giving them something for free and 2.) giving them something they can actually use.

Forbes contributor Michael Woods noted it best:

In addition to being tangible, people love promotional items because they don’t cost anything to receive. But money isn’t all that matters, according to Entrepreneur.com contributor Gene Marks. “It’s not just the money,” writes Marks. “It’s the little act of saying ‘I care’ and ‘Thank you for being a customer.’” He adds that a “stupid, silly little act of kindness goes a long way.”

 So there you have it. Promotional products are great marketing because they both share your business across a large group, and they are shown to leave people with positive feelings about your company.

How can promotional gifts grow my business?

Promotional gifts grow your business by creating brand ambassadors and retaining more customers.

There are three ways that promotional gifting can grow your business:

3 Benefits of Business Gifts for Small Business Owners infographic

1.) Brand recognition: Remembering and Using Your Business

The Promotional Products Association International discovered "88% of promotional product recipients remember the name of the advertiser on the products. 85% of the recipients do business with the advertiser on the product. 83% of people like receiving them."

That is a potentially insanely lucrative return for companies by simply throwing out a little free swag. At the very least its worth sifting your marketing campaign to try promotional products for your business.

Brand recognition is when people can spot your products or merchandise and associate it with certain qualities.

It's what happens when people say, "Oh, those guys? They do x, y, and z."

Giving gifts to your clients spreads signals of your brand around. More people see it and, slowly but surely, they begin to associate it with the quality of your gift-giving.

So say you give a t-shirt or a tote bag to someone who wears it out in public. If the branding is good, usually people will remember it, and if they need a service or product like the ones you provide, they'll be more likely to look for you first.

That's the power of gift-giving for brand recognition.

2.) Generating Client Leads: Creating Brand Ambassadors

A habit of giving corporate gifts can also generate new client leads.

Every time a person used your promotional product, whether its a pen, keychain, or even a pop socket, around another person they are sharing your brand and endorsing it.

Beyond that, the ASI study showed that 63% of people in the United States (64% of people in Canada) actually give promotional products away when they are finished with them. What an incredible platform for reaching new customers.

3.) Client Retention

Gift giving also helps with client retention.

Client retention is simply how you keep clients coming back to you for your products or services.

If you give free gifts—say, on the anniversary of a client company's launch anniversary—your client will likely feel appreciated and understood because you're addressing the details of their business with a material gift.

That kind of connection keeps clients involved and open to collaboration.
If your clients are happy with you, it's likely that they will recommend you to their associates.

If you give really intentional corporate gifts, they'll likely tell those associates about the kinds of gifts you give.

And who doesn't love free stuff?

Giving good corporate gifts establishes your reputation as someone who cares and who knows how to communicate value to your clients, and that means more and more clients and companies will come to you.

Anyway, that's everything about promotional gifts. 

What's a good strategy for promotional gift giving?

Here's 5 our 5 actionable steps to using business gifts for small business owners:

5 Actionable Steps to Business Gifting Growth for Small Business Owners

Why you should give gifts to individual clients

Promotional gifting generally accounts to mass giving to acquire more customers, but another huge part of corporate gifting can be gifts to individuals outside your company.

Giving to individual clients has a two-fold purpose that combines the benefits of giving in-house to employees and the benefits of promotional gifting.

When you give to clients you:

Increase their personal happiness and generosity which increases their trust and gratitude in your business which increases their likelihood to work with you in the future and promote your business to others.

An example to illustrate:

A real estate agent gives a custom engraved pen to new home owners at the closing they can use for the momentous event. This not only helps celebrate a joyful event, it also acts as a promotional item since the home owners will now think of the real estate agent every time they look at and use their custom pen. This in turn means when they are either ready to sell or have friends in need of an agent, the business has a greater chance of being referred.

Gifts to clients helps leverage appreciation into future business.

(Personally, my air conditioning repair man gave me a free filter and told me how I could get replacement parts and change them out on my own for cheaper. I will use and recommend him unequivocally until I die now. What quality service...)

Even giving a cup of coffee to a customer at the hair salon is a lovely gift.

Giving to an individual customers also helps create a personal connection that is invaluable to confidence in a business.

Corporate gifting doesn't have to be a big thing to lots of people. It can be as simple as an employee being intentional with their client, showing them that the working relationship if important to them.

Before we can move on into the fun of looking at different types of gifts and what can be given, we need to do a little dive into the legality of corporate gifting.

Part 4: What are the laws for corporate gifting?

Man holding black arizona engraved pen

It is incredibly important to know just what and how much you can give before gifting becomes an ethical issue. Sometimes even the best intentions in giving can put someone in a moral dilemma.

To make sure you always stay above board when dealing with corporate gifts, here are a few things to consider.

Are there specific regulations on your industry with regards to gift giving?

Certain industries have very specific regulations on what can be given and how it can be given. And all for very good reason.

Government entities and employees all have rules about what they can receive, many of which are actual laws that can result in criminal charges, not just policies.

The pharmaceutical and medical industries also have ever evolving guidelines around corporate gifting.

Nancy A Shenker, CEO of theONswitch marketing points out that "Drug and device manufacturers are now required under the Sunshine Act to submit data annually to the government, reporting any money paid to physicians or the monetary value of gifts."

Some companies like Coca-cola publish their code of ethics online to make sure anyone considering gifting to them as well as employees looking to gift within the company are fully aware of their policies beforehand.

Does your business have any specific regulations on gifting whether legally or company-wide?

Who can’t you give corporate gifts to?

The big No-No for corporate gifting: You cannot give gifts to government officials.

In the strictest terms as stated by Steven Koprince:

As a general rule, a federal employee cannot accept your gift if you or your company seeks official action by the employee's agency, does business with the agency, seeks to do business with the agency, or if you or your company would be otherwise affected by the employee's performance of his or her duties.

Outside of government officials, you should never give a gift that could be perceived of as a bribe or with the intention to influence a business decision.

If a company or individual solicits a gift...runaway!

What can and can’t you give legally?

Somethings you can always give without worrying about ethical boundaries. Those things include:

  • Perishable gifts
  • Low cost items (anything $25 or lower)
  • Meals
  • Experiences

Avoid:

  • Lavish gifts
  • High value items
  • Multiple gifts
  • Charitable donations

Some of these things like charitable donations, multiple gifts, even experiences toe a line. They could be completely safe, fun options or big areas to avoid.

For these things, look into the corporate policies of your company and the company of the clients you are giving to to make sure that you are always ethically sound in your giving.

The worst thing to do would be to give without checking. Best case scenario you just lost your client. Worst case...you are in court.

When in doubt…

  1. Check with HR, your legal counsel, or do your research.
  2. Stick with the safe stuff
  3. Keep any gift notes giving with the present warm and generic. Communicate gratitude and nothing more.

 

Next, we are going to talk about the strategies for actually giving your corporate gift.

Part 5: What are the best ways to give my corporate gifts?

How do I give gifts in-house?

The funnest way...have a party!

Whether its a company picnic or the office Christmas party, having an event where your employees are already gathered together with the express purpose of celebrating and enjoying each other's company perfectly sets to tone for some good old fashion corporate gifting.

Often, the experience is the gift itself.

Make sure your gift is either nicely boxed or wrapped. Presentation helps communicate the value of the gift and the recipient. A dented box or half-ripped wrapping paper doesn't exactly scream "I'm so thankful for the work you do!"

Also, as mentioned in Part 4, include a gift message. Since the recipient is an employee instead of a customer, focus on communicating the importance of their work and their value to the company. Keep it kind and be specific to the employee.

How do I give promotional gifts?

First, you will want to select a promotional product (or a few items) that are a good reflection of your brand. Choose items that are either useful or displaying your logo or website well.

A useful item tells the customer the kind of business you are. An aesthetically pleasing item communicates  your relevance.

It's important to be thoughtful in your selection. Say a company that helps people budget might choose promotional pens or a small calculator. Companies that sell beer or wine might choose a fun bottle or t-shirt.

In Person

The easiest and most effective way to give promotional gifts is in person. This gives people a personal impression to the item and your business.

There are tons of ways to give items away in person. To name a few:

  • in your brick-and-mortar
  • pop-ups
  • at events
  • business fair

 

Through the Mail

People still love getting actual mail in their mailbox. It makes them feel special.

Sendoso states "Sending a marketing gift is an excellent way to break through the noise and connect with people on a human level. Plus, 44% of people said they had visited a brand’s website after receiving direct mail: 34% searched online."

How do I give gifts to clients?

This is another situation where you can either give in-person or through the mail.

Take the time to think about who the client is. Do some research. Sometimes, the personal touch of giving a gift face-to-face is key to building the relationship and your value for the recipient.

Sometimes, it's best to have an extra layer of professional distance to prevent any ethical or social faux pas.

Ask yourself:

  • How well do I know the recipient?
  • What is the nature of their business?
  • Does the type of gift warrant a personal encounter?

 

If you are giving an experience like tickets to a sports game or a lunch, it is probably best to be present for the gift. It makes much less of an impact to just say, "This meal was paid for by .... " then it does to sit down and share the meal with the recipient.

That being said, if you are giving a physical gift like custom socks or a coffee gift card, a small note is more than enough to show your gratitude. It may even be a little awkward to go give a $5 gift card in person.

If your business is all about interpersonal communication, maybe stick with in-person gifting. If privacy and professionalism are your bread and butter, go remote.

At the end of the day, think about how you want to communicate what your company values and show appreciation the best way you can.

Part 6: What are good corporate gift ideas?

The best corporate gift always starts out by thinking about what your business is and who your recipient is. I have talked at length about making sure your gift reflects a good knowledge of both those things.

Remember to check your budget and get everything approved by your supervisor if that is your company structure.

With that said, I am going to jump right in to gift ideas!

What are good corporate gift ideas for employees?

Here's a short list of great corporate gifts for employees:

1.) Wood Docking Station

Wooden Docking Station from Palmetto Wood Shop

A wood docking station makes a great gift for employees to organize their desk space.

2.) DivvyUp socks

Check out these custom socks for a fun and comical gift for employees! Goofy socks for the goofy coworker!

3.) Bobbleheads

Customized Single Bobblehead

Like socks, another funny gift for employees! Gifting a customized bobblehead is sure to get a laugh and a career's worth of memories. Can be a great surprise for a boss too!

4.) Personalized calendars

Personalized calendars are a good move to help your employees stay organized.

5.) Personalized mug

Personalized mugs from Uncommon Goods

 

Who doesn't want another mug for hot coffee, and one with unique personalization? Surprise your employees with their name and adorable little cartoon on one of these.

6.) Personalized desk wedge

 Rosewood Desk Name Plate with Business Card.jpg

Personalized desk wedges are great professional gifts, and they can even be funny if you give someone a good-spirited but entirely fictitious office title.

What are some good promotional gift ideas for marketing?

1.) Personalized Hydro Flask

Every office has a few well-hydrated H2O enthusiasts who carry their own bottle around with them wherever they go. They're very rarely seen without it.

Consider offering HydroFlasks as a corporate gift to promote your brand to other offices!

2.) Face masks

The pandemic is, unfortunately, still here, and so many of us are still forgetting our masks at home.

Be a helpful corporate partner, and offer other businesses face masks for the workplace.

3.) Personalized T-shirt

T-Shirts with Personalization from Custom Ink

Branded T-shirts are one of the most popular corporate gifts in the US.

4.) Fanny packs



Fanny packs are making a comeback, and they're honestly one of the best corporate gifts for sealing your business's brand identity.

5.) Create Your own PopSockets

PopSockets are a fun, inexpensive way to promote your business in a tech-oriented world.

6.) The best personalized hats



Hats are also some of the best promotional gifts out there. Branding with them can be inexpensive in bulk, and they are one of the most readable personal items—perfect for trying to get your logo out there!

What are good corporate gift ideas for clients?

Here's some corporate gift ideas for clients and customers:

1.) A personalized pen

Cross Calais Chrome and blue Ballpoint pen set with pen case

Personalized pens are our real bread and butter at Dayspring Pens, and we think they can really seal the deal for your corporate gifting strategies.

Your customer will see either their name or your company logo engraved on the pen, so either they'll feel known with the gift, or they'll have a high quality pen with your logo emblazoned on the barrel and be reminded of your work every time they pick it up.

2.) Laptop cases

Laptop cases are an above-and-beyond corporate gifting idea, and they're great for tech companies with work computers.

3.) Mouth.com's food baskets

Custom food baskets are a great way to add a personal touch for the foodie recipients who like a good gastro-adventure!

4.) Custom Rocketbook



Rocketbooks are great for customers who take a lot of notes but are tired of buying new notebooks every other month or so—a corporate gifting strategy that's also great for the environment!

5.) Personalized phone cases from Collage

Phone case from Collage

A branded phone case is a great corporate gift for customers who need their phone screens to survive the week.

They're best presented in a set of other gifts, but they're sure to be appreciated either way!

6.) Woodmark Stinson  Desk Set

 

Howard Miller Desk Set from Dayspring Pens personalized gift

A Desk set comes with a personalized plaque; get your gift recipient's name and official title engraved to show your appreciation for their patronage.

Great gift for customers who are starting into a new office job!

Conclusion

People holding personalized engraved pens over corporate budget charts

That's everything we know about corporate gifts!

We hope this guide is helpful for generating ideas to grow your business with personalized gifts.

If you found it helpful, share it with others and let us know what corporate gifting strategies you employ in the comments!