Corporate Gifts – Bringing Back the Joy


IMG 1992

I bet we all have a stack of corporate gifts somewhere, likely in a closet or in the basement. Oddly sized duffle bags, post-its, LOTS of water bottles, maybe some hats, pens, t-shirts – all emblazoned with a corporate logo. These are the thanks you get for being a loyal client or attending an event. Such gifts are handed out at the door and you take them automatically. Who would turn down a gift? That’s just silly. Free stuff is good.  

Or is it? 

If you’re trying to carefully consume and bring into your house only item s that are truly useful, this time of year is tough. Gifts and food and excessive spending abound (ho ho ho!). If you’ve ever turned down a corporate gift, you’ve probably discovered that it doesn’t go over well. Not only are people shocked that you’re turning away something free, but they’re often offended. Why don’t you want a shirt with my company name on it? (It’s ugly.) What’s wrong with my water bottle? (I have too many already.) These days when someone hands me the company gift, I usually feel a twinge of anxiety. How do I politely decline? How do I keep my mouth shut about not wanting another water bottle made in China? How do I not make a face that gives away my feelings about the ugly shirt?  

So when Anne at Arciform handed me a company gift recently (they give T-giving gifts), I was concerned. She is my friend. I really hate being a turd to friends (it’s much easier with strangers). And then I saw the gift. Major coolness was coming my way.  

First, Arciform commissioned pottery from a local artist’s studio, Meadow Design (discussed in a previous post). These lovely little glasses (for G&Ts, your toothbrush, both?) are useful, handmade, and support a local artist. Inside the cup was a selection of Steve Smith tea, always welcome, and one additional surprise. Arciform has been working at the Chinese Gardens, so their clients also received tickets to the February 20th New Year’s ceremony. Nifty. In all my years in PDX, I’ve never gone to the damn Chinese Gardens. Ridiculous, right? Now I’ll go.  

IMG 1997

Arciform managed to combine local art and experience in one small re-usable bag. No plastic wrapper needed!  But, what’s your company giving clients for the holidays? It might be too late to stop the water bottle production this year, but let’s get focused for 2016, shall we? 

1. Try the old standby: donations. I had a client years ago who contributed to and delivered Meals on Wheels during the holidays instead of giving a gift. Lovely.  2. Check out the wares at Looptworks in Portland, a closed-loop manufacturing company that uses leftover industrial stock to make goods people actually want – and keep trash out of the landfill. 3. Experiences: tickets to the art museum, local gardens, fun events. Share whatever it is you love about your town with your clients.  

Remember, if it’s got your name on it, scrap the idea. If it’s made somewhere other than your own town, ditto. If it’s not unique, forget it! If you have to wrap it in plastic, it’s a bad idea. Feeding the hungry is better than any of those options, so give it a try. Trust me – your clients won’t be pining for the water bottle.