How to Avoid Bungling Your Holiday Gifting


Your_logo_hereAfter last week’s post on the attempt of Starbucks to give holiday gifts, I thought the following observation might be useful. 

John’s wife works for a large multinational financial services company – let’s call it “XXX Card” – which has thousands of employees. For Christmas each year, XXX Card gives points that employees can spend on high quality items from the company’s beautiful holiday gift catalog. Choices include: fix-a-flat kits, aprons, barbeque sets, tents, high-end leather jackets, silk scarves, luggage, and crystal – some worth hundreds of dollars. 

On the face of it, these are very generous gifts. But wait! Each of these “gifts” comes wearing the “XXX Card” logo – on everything! Aprons, tents and leather jackets are monogrammed with the logo. The logo is even etched into that expensive crystal! Amazing!

Items monogrammed or etched with a company logo may be great for promotions or advertising, but for Christmas gifts? Not so much! “Gifts” like these send a confusing message. Are they meant to thank employees or to use them as part of the company’s advertising campaign?

Research shows that gifts are most effective when they are unexpected, significant (which does not mean expensive) and personalized. Imagine how employees would feel if XXX Card offered these same gifts without the company logo. Even better, consider what it would be like receiving that gift with your monogram on it rather than the company’s! That would be significant and personalized giving! 

In short, there’s nothing wrong with companies using their logo on merchandise for promotion or advertising. However, they cannot expect these items to initiate the same type of reciprocity or good will with employees.

Have you ever received gifts with a company’s logo?  Did it make you feel very indebted to the giver?

What do you end up doing with gifts with company logos on them?

How have you personalized the gifts that you give?

  • Todd

    This is my company’s Christmas Bonus plan. Option “A” is a catalog full of shirts, jackets, gym bags…conveniently etched with the company logo. Option “B” is a donation to charity in your name. Does it make it different, since they give you the option of “giving” to others?

  • Lori @ Zen Rabbit

    Promotional material should never be used as an appreciation gift! So tacky. I usually end up giving such “gifts” either to Goodwill or the trash can. What a waste of money on the part of the company giving them; it certainly doesn’t achieve their presumed goal of increasing awareness.

  • walethia aquil

    They collect dust!

  • Nancy

    I wouldn’t say the gifts are absolutely worthless in all cases. One sees people wearing golf shirts and the like with all kinds of logos for recreation or going out for casual dinner. But your point is fair, an unencumbered gift is EVEN BETTER and may give the company more bang for their buck

  • Adrian Cameron

    Sadly,giving gifts to employees with logos on them would seem to be motivated more by self-centredness, greed and ego than good will. When I have received ‘gifts’ like this, they have either been placed in a draw or given away

  • Bobette

    Hi Todd –
    Does it make a difference? Well, it depends on what the intent of the gift is. If the intent of the gift is to show appreciation for you and your work, it’s not very personalized and doesn’t seem very valuable. Having said that, giving to a charity in your name is probably pretty cool. If the charity does not reflect your core values, this could really boomerang.
    If the intent of the “gift” was to check it off the list of things that must be done for the season, it would hit the mark.
    Thanks for writing Todd.


    The value of the gift may be dependant on what the logo is. For example, logos of designer brands may actually afford the employee an opportunity to display a sought-after brand (e.g. Coach, Polo, DNKY, or a variety of sports teams). However if the logo is something not too valued, (e.g. AT&T, Apple, GM or Toyota), it may not be worth giving.

  • Mark

    Employers are somewhat damned if you do and damned if you don’t. If you don’t logo the item, it looks like they just went out and bought some stuff and said “Here!” Whoopee. At least how that’s how I felt.
    Having tried to personalize items for each employee, I know firsthand how hard that is. Something gets misspelled and it becomes a huge deal particularly if the item is difficult to replace in a timely fashion.

  • Bobette

    Thanks for your comment Mark. I see what you’re saying. But, too often we forget that one easy and meaningful way of personalizing something is by the note or message that accompanies the gift.

  • Abigail Gorton

    This made me stop and think. I have been pretty happy to receive and wear plenty of logo’d shirts, fleeces and to carry umbrellas. But a piece of crustal with their logo on? No way! Nor the leather jacket or the luggage. Just what I don’t want – a reminder if the boss on vacation! Maybe it comes down to this – does the logo upgrade or downgrade the item? On polo shirts it adds some visual interest. On a tire chugging set? Clearly a reminder of who da boss is!

  • Leyland

    Only Holiday Gift Is Cash… Everything else is _________.{fill in the blank}.

  • Mark

    True enough although one of my other pet peeves is the holiday note from the CEO that says “Dear Mark, Thank you blah, blah, blah” knowing full well the CEO has no idea who I am. Another no win.
    BTW, I haven’t been back to the Annual Meeting since I met you and Bob there. Starting a business really takes its toll on anything fun!

  • RandNotAyn

    Good article but if you added a question at the end that didn’t have a largely “no” answer you’d get more feedbacks and a better measure of how many people actually clicked through to this page. A question like “What is the best way for a company to gift employees?” or such.
    At my company each of us received a copy of a book by the CEO (not a holiday gift) which, in one week, catapulted that book to the #1 NY Times bestseller list.
    Number sold? 5000 Number actually bought? zero.

  • RandNotAyn

    As for company gifts with a logo my initial reaction was negative, my reviewed reaction is that it’s quite ok because a holiday gift is indeed a gift and not a thank you for being an employee. In fact I would be absolutely fine with no gifts and instead a party.
    There’s no equating a holiday gift to a year-end bonus to me. Gifts are personal and being able to choose a $100+ item far exceeds that it happens to have a logo.
    I’d feel no different about that logo than if I was considering buying the item myself.
    So actually, yes, I can enjoy the same amount of goodwill with the item because in this situation.

  • Bobette

    Good point Rand. I’ll try to pose more different questions to invite a better array of answers that we can all learn from.
    I always say, “You don’t have to be sick to get better”.

  • Phyllis

    I wouldn’t think of giving staff a gift with a company logo.
    They want gift cards or cash.
    I do wear jackets and shirts with company logos-my own and other companies.

  • Catherine Albertini

    What an interesting comment which has inspired a lot of diversified responses. A downside to the fact said company is gifting items with their logo, is the fact that many persons prefer to “re-gift,” or give a gift that they may not want, nor like to another person. It would be quite difficult to “re-gift” a present with a company logo.
    Speaking of “re-gifting,” there are many pitfalls to such. I once received a beautifully wrapped gift. It was the most beautiful wrapping paper I have ever seen. Inside was a book about Italian art. The fellow that gave me the gift worked for a large pharmaceutical company. He failed to notice that the introduction page to the book stated, “Compliments of ABC Pharmaceutical Company.” I had a great laugh. Not when he was present of course!
    Another time, a person gave me a gift that I had given them several years prior.

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