With the holiday season just around the corner, now is the perfect time to start thinking about how you can reward both staff and customers over the Christmas period.

Giving is an art. It’s so much more than the physical exchanging of objects, it’s a way to communicate, to send a message of thanks to the recipient and to show appreciation. Today, corporate gift giving is big business and when used correctly it can help enhance relationships, increase sales and build company cohesion, brand image and recognition.

Gift Giving – The Facts


There is a tonne of research out there relating corporate gifting to increased business activity. What is harder to determine is whether you can make specific ROI projections in your marketing plan for your gift giving.

Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) has conducted surveys of corporate gift givers and recipients. They have shown that those who gave gifts were twice as likely to increase their chances of being contacted by recipients as those that didn’t have a gifting programme. This reveals how important gifting can be for getting the conversation started.

The same study said that 78% of people thought gifting was effective, highlighting the power of gifting as a marketing strategy. 72% of people stated that they have given corporate gifts, so it’s a trend that keeps on growing, with gift givers seeing the benefits of their efforts in the long term.

If you really want to make sure your brand stays at the front of the gift receiver’s mind, you might consider branded gifts. 23% of client gifts include company branded items, however you should ensure your gift is useful or practical if you are going to brand it, as 82% of corporate gift receivers keep products that are practical.

Gift giving has a results driven focus and a fairly high success rate, with 63% of companies seeing better customer relationships due to gift giving. If you select your gift receivers carefully, these relationships may prove to be very profitable for your business.

Your business may also see an uplift in customers or clients when implementing a gift giving strategy, as 27% say that gift giving resulted in referrals. Furthermore, 24% of gift giving strategies generated a sale or lead for the company. These figures may help you when making ROI projections within your marketing plan.


History of why we give

The history of gift giving is quite interesting and gives an insight into the psychology of why we give gifts. It dates back as early as primitive humans, when the male species would give gifts of food to the female in order to attract a partner. The more generously the male gave, the more likely he was to attract a female.

Back in the ancient Egyptian times gifts were given to kings to win personal favours or form new allegiances during times of war. Romans can be thanked for giving gifts at Saturnalia (an early form of Christmas). The 1400s saw gifts beginning to be given as birthday presents – usually to ward off evil spirits. Gifts in Victorian times focused on family and love before the fruit basket was introduced in the 1950s as a more corporate client ‘thank you’.

Brands began buying into gifting in the late 1800s when Coca Cola used free samples to launch their ‘sparkling beverage’. Direct response pioneer Robert Collier went further in the 1930s by sending fountain pens to doctors – a way to earn trust and upsell them his doctor’s ‘Handibags’.

As you can see, the motives for gift giving have transformed over time, but the same theme of building relationships and earning trust can be seen throughout.

Why give corporate gifts?

Knowing the general motives behind gift giving and how it has worked for other businesses is the first step. Next, you need to establish the specific objectives of your gift giving strategy. Narrowing down which objective suits your strategy best will help when measuring the overall return on investment.

Brand awareness
If the aim of your gift giving strategy is to get your business in front of as many people as possible, or perhaps just the right people, then your objective will be to raise brand awareness.

Improve image and perception
The way in which consumers perceive your brand can have a direct impact on its overall success. Gift giving will put your brand in a positive light and can even help to mend broken relationships with customers, clients or business associates.

Generate leads
Gift giving is often used as a way to start a new relationship with a customer or client. Using gift giving as a lead generation strategy can be very effective when done properly.

Maintain customer loyalty
No business should ever forget about its existing customers and in order to maintain relationships, build upon them and encourage loyalty, businesses should be rewarding their existing customers at the appropriate time.

Increase sales
If you target your clients or customers at the right stage of their journey with you, gift giving may be the deciding factor that leads to a sale, making it extremely effective when used as part of the overall marketing strategy.

Generate referrals
Gift giving is not only effective at improving the relationship with your current clients and customers, it can also encourage word of mouth referrals. Refer a friend schemes are one of the most effective ways to encourage referrals.

Build B2B relationships
It’s not just client and customers that you need to build relationships with. Offering gifts to other businesses can help strengthen relationships and open up business opportunities.

Develop employee relations
Finally, gift giving can improve relationships with your own employees, increase employee retention rates and therefore save you money in the long run.


What can I give?

The gift you give should be aligned with your overall objectives and should always have the audience in mind. The objectives will dictate the size, price and type of gift as well as revealing who should actually be given a gift.


Christmas hampers
An ideal option as a Christmas corporate gift is an M&S Christmas hamper. Whether you are buying a large gift for a particularly important client or several smaller gifts for a selection of people, Christmas hampers can be fully customised to suit your needs.

The beauty of the M&S Christmas hamper is that it can be personalised to contain products that your client or customer prefers. Whether they have a favourite wine, a preferred cheese or are a fan of Christmas cake, you can build a hamper to suit them!

With M&S hampers, you can even show your clients how sensitive you are to their needs with gluten free hamper options available. The Christmas hamper is the ideal gift during the festive season as it provides the gift receiver with all that they need to enjoy the holidays.

Gift Cards

The beauty of the gift card is that it gives the recipient more than just a gift, it gives them a shopping experience too. This prolongs the positive feelings associated with the gift, as they feel good when receiving it, feel excitement about what they are going to buy and feel the satisfaction of actually buying the item.

The gift card can be used to buy something of real value to the receiver so it is a gift that is always received well and with a high level of appreciation. At M&S Corporate Gifts we offer both physical gift cards and e-gift cards, ideal for ‘instant gifting’.

No matter what the occasion, whether you are sending a gift to congratulate, encourage a sale or create brand advocates, the gift card is one of the strongest tools at your disposal.

The etiquette of corporate gift giving

When it comes to gift giving, you may want to tread carefully. People from different cultures or backgrounds may perceive the act of gift giving or the gift itself differently to others. There is a certain etiquette to gift giving which you should follow in order to maximise its effectiveness.

As you are giving a business gift, please make sure that whatever you’re giving is appropriate. Sometimes gifts can be interpreted in different ways so try and have a think about how the gift you’re giving may be construed. Be careful when giving gifts that are even slightly intimate as this can be risky.

Your company may want to introduce or already have a ‘gift giving guide’ to ensure gifts given are an appropriate representation of the business/brand. This is particularly relevant if giving a gift to a staff member as some companies have strict policies about what kind of gifts employees may receive so check these guidelines before making any expensive purchases.

We all want to make sure the gift that we’re giving has personality and will be of interest to the recipient, so do some background research if you can. Think about any shared experiences you have had with them or any hobbies they may have mentioned in the past. A little extra timed invested in creating a great impression can go a long way to showing someone that you care.

Of course the most popular times for gifting are around holidays such as Christmas, but gifts don’t have to be restricted to these timings. In fact by getting the timing right you can have a profound personal impact which will enhance your relationships. Important dates such as birthdays or work anniversaries offer the perfect opportunity to do something special.

Sometimes, the presentation of a gift can be more effective than the gift itself. Make sure you gift is packed, wrapped and addressed to the right person to maximise the impact it has on the receiver. An untidy gift will give a negative impression and will not be received well.

A customised gift that is unique to the person receiving it will always go down well as they get to really appreciate the thought that has gone into the gift. This is the best way to improve your relationship with the person receiving the gift as it will show them that you really know them and take an interest in their life.

Why we love gifting

Research has shown that both giving and receiving gifts produce endorphins; the body’s natural feel good chemical. For the person giving the gift, these endorphins are released due to the feel good factor of doing something that benefits someone else. For the person receiving the gift, the excitement of receiving something new releases a heap of endorphins, resulting in good feelings all round. This is particularly enhanced when the gift is a complete surprise.

Prefrontal cortex
The left prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain associated with pleasure and positive thinking. Receiving a gift triggers this part of the brain and increases activity, therefore increasing the gift receiver’s positive feelings towards the gift giver. This makes gift giving the ideal way to improve the image and perception of your brand or business in the eyes of your customers or clients.

Serotonin is the neurotransmitter chemical in the brain which is responsible for feelings of happiness. Serotonin is released whenever something new is experienced. Receiving a gift activates serotonin because the gift receiver has something new and unexpected to think about which breaks their routine and gets them thinking. Making your client or customer feel happy will leave a lasting positive memory of your business in their mind.

R complex
The R Complex (or ‘reptilian brain’) is an ancient part of the human brain which is hard wired to mistrust strangers. This was particularly useful for primitive human beings as the world they lived in was quite a dangerous place where humans competed for land, food, water and shelter. While this part of the brain still exists today, we are able to override it and gain trust by giving gifts, therefore increasing the gift receiver’s trust in your brand.

Perfecting the art of gifting

When approaching your gift giving strategy, you should draw upon past experiences, research your audience and follow the steps of gift giving etiquette detailed in this article. The key to success lies in choosing the right people to gift which will have a bigger impact and will add structure to your strategy. You need to look at gift giving as a process where you start building the relationship before the act of gift giving, then give the gift and follow up afterwards.

Gift giving will work differently for each business in every industry, therefore the experience will be unique every time. However, when it comes to the psychology of gift giving, there are simple, basic elements to the process that will remain the same. Certain gifts, such as food and drink, will always be received well as they are suitable for all audiences. You can also be sure that the results of gift giving will be the same, with relationships being improved and trust gained.

Perfecting the art of gift giving may take some time, but once you get started you’re sure to see the benefits.

Want to give a gift this Christmas – why not give an M&S Christmas hamper or M&S Gift Card and show staff and customers your appreciation.