Elevation by association: How gifting can improve your brand perception

Posted on March 14, 2023 by Megan Goodfield

As a marketer you already know that corporate gifts can be more than reciprocal tools. 

Yes, a gift can nudge a customer ‘over the line’ with a purchase decision. But a well-chosen and thoughtfully deployed gift goes much deeper than that: it changes the way a customer feels about the company they receive it from. It elevates the brand in their mind. And that feeling stays with the customer, creating positive associations that evolve into brand loyalty – even brand advocacy.   

Right now, that kind of genuine emotional connection between brand and customer is more needed than ever.  

Why? Because these are uniquely challenging times for marketers. Customer acquisition and retention activity is increasingly costly. In fact, industry estimates suggest that the cost of acquisition has risen by a staggering 60% over the last five years.

That means every penny spent acquiring new customers needs to work harder. Short-term gains alone are no longer enough. 

A customer making a purchase from your business as a result of marketing activity will, of course, always count as a win. But if that activity is immediately forgotten by the customer, and has no long-term impact on their view of your business, then it’s not achieving all it could.  

In his keynote speech at 2022’s eCommerce Expo at London’s ExCeL centre, business coach Karl Lillrud said, “The brands that will emerge stronger over the next 12 months are those that craft compelling experiences to foster long-term relationships with customers.”

Compelling experiences that elevate brands and foster long-term relationships? That’s where thoughtful corporate gifting comes in. 

Impactful initiatives improve brand perceptions

To learn more about how premium corporate gifts – and gift cards in particular – can elevate brand perceptions and build lasting connections with customers, we recently surveyed 1,000 members of the British public, across all ages and backgrounds. 

Our survey unearthed some interesting insights around preferences and perceptions. Here are just a few of the responses: 

  • 64% agree that the gifts offered by companies impact their purchasing decisions.  
  • 71% say that receiving a gift card for a premium brand would positively impact their opinion of the company that gifted them.  
  • 62% said that receiving a gift card for a premium brand would feel more like a ‘treat’ than receiving cash or a discount code.  
  • 91% said they’d be more likely to remember receiving a gift card over money off a future purchase. 

So, taken together, what do these insights tell us? 

People prefer to receive a premium gift card over cash or a discount, and are more likely to remember receiving it for longer. Why? Because receiving a premium gift card feels special, unique and unexpected. It’s a genuine ‘treat’. The resulting shopping experience will feel fun, indulgent and a little extravagant – but also guilt-free, because it didn’t really cost the giftee anything.    

That’s a positive, lasting memory for the giftee, and one that any brand would want to be associated with. All it takes is the right gift card.  

Not all gift cards are created equal

Elevating your gifting not only makes customers feel ‘treated’ and appreciated, it can elevate a brand by association, too. 

Partnering with a premium corporate gifting supplier can improve perceptions of your brand. As we’ve seen, our survey found that 71% of people agree that if a company offered a gift card from a trusted, well-regarded retailer it would positively impact their opinion of the company that gifted them.

But despite knowing this, many companies still partner with low-quality or poorly-regarded suppliers – creating associations that negatively impact brand engagement. 

Every aspect of your customer’s gift experience should be considered. For example: Does the gift card offer access to a wide range of products or services, so that none of your customers need feel excluded? Offer a gift card from a supplier with only a narrow range of products, and a sizeable number of your customers may infer that your brand either doesn’t ‘get’ them, or doesn’t care about them.   

Are the products available for purchase guaranteed to be of good quality? If one of your customers uses a gift card you provide to purchase a product that turns out to be subpar, that low-quality product will forever be associated in their mind with your brand. Unfairly, maybe – but associated nonetheless.

Obviously, your marketing budgets are finite, and possibly even on the tight side. So it’s about striking the perfect balance between affordable and aspirational, with gift cards that provide your recipients with access to memorable, high-quality products – even when those gift cards are offered in relatively low denominations.    

Finally, does the business supplying your gift cards have a good reputation in terms of sustainability, diversity, inclusion, workers’ rights and so forth? Associating your business with a gift-card supplier known for responsible practices will elevate your brand; associating your business with a gift-card supplier infamous for dubious behaviour will do just the opposite. 

With the above factors in mind, here’s one last statistic from our survey: When asked if receiving an M&S Gift Card would elevate their perception of the company that gifted them, 807 of the 1,000 respondents said that it would. 


Read our full report – shaped by our survey of 1,000 UK consumers – on the true impact of corporate gifting 

Alternatively, enquire now about harnessing the halo effect for your brand with M&S Corporate Gifts