We’re exploring corporate gifts for the holidays and are debating whether or not to print our logo on the item. What are your thoughts? ~ Branded in Boulder.
The answer comes down to ‘intent’. If you’re truly wanting to ‘gift’ an item to a group of clients as a ‘thank you’ for their business, then give them something they will actually use (and chances are probably higher if they receive something without your logo on it). I cannot even count the number of amazingly quality jackets, umbrellas, business card holders, travel wallets, leather folders, water bottles, messenger bags, journals and other ‘swag’ that I’ve received throughout the years that would’ve definitely been put to regular use had there NOT been a branded logo on the item. Why would a company even want the potential recipient to confuse its holiday goodwill gesture for a promotional tactic? What better statement can a company make than “With no strings attached, we curated this amazing gift for you and hope you find it cool/useful. We simply want you to know we appreciate you.” Imagine the loyalty bred by such confidence and generosity.
Now, if your ‘intent’ is to launch a new name or logo or product – that’s a different story. Then the objectives are truly promotional – and now we’re in the realm of merchandising versus corporate gifts. And even here, very few brands truly elevate the art of merchandise in a relevant, interesting way – a few examples that stand out: Ace Hotel's Pendleton Blankets, Tazo Tea's Coasters and Wooden Gift Boxes (or anything that Sandstrom has designed for them, for that matter), Pantone's smart Messenger Bags and a Branded Journal from Target one might actually use. Rule of thumb: If it’s easy, cheap and we can get it by Friday – it’s probably not worth producing and will end up in your customers’ circular files. [ BTW, cool doesn't have to cost a lot either - such as these oh-so-relevant Sears Craftsman Carpenter Pencils. ]
EXCEPTION: You have an uber-cool brand where the name or logo enhances the desirability of the product (i.e. Porsche, Nike, Apple, American Express). But brands like these spend as much time curating really cool corporate gifts and merchandise as they do discreetly placing their logos (like a shield or swoosh) on it.
HYBRID IDEA FOR THE REST OF US: Perhaps instead of a logo, a company can create meaning by sharing its values, personality or ‘point of view’ printed on their items. For example, perhaps an accounting firm can demonstrate its sense of humor with messages on printed pencils such as SHARPEN TODAY. FREE TOMORROW. or PRAGMATISM IS THE NEW SEXY. Or maybe a mental health center might simply print affirmations such as INHALE. EXHALE. and SEE THE BIGGER PICTURE. and EVERYTHING’S GONNA BE OK. and I AM A DEEPLY ROOTED TREE. There’s no question these efforts would yield memorability and buzz than simply the printed company name.
QUICK TAKE AWAY: Put yourself in your customers shoes and, depending on the intent, give what YOU would want/use/keep. And trust that - if relevant and interesting, logo or not - your clients will give you credit for the gesture. ~ Ammonista