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3 Mistakes Companies Make When Gifting Employees

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Hannah here, one of the co-founders of Happy Box.

We are lucky enough to work with hundreds of amazing brands helping them with hundreds of thousands of employee gifts over the past few years. In that time, we've learned a lot of what really works - and maybe more importantly, what doesn't. 

Here are 3 of the most common mistakes we see in companies gifting their employees for employee engagement purposes:

1. They only gift typical SWAG 
Don't get me wrong - there is a time and a place for SWAG! SWAG is great for brand re-launches, celebrating specific events, and for new hires to get them their first logo gear, but generally, we've found the average consumer is over the typical SWAG you'd get at a trade show (put it this way...do you really need another standard ceramic mug with a logo?) According to an Alyce gifting survey, 68% of recipients actually put branded SWAG right in their trash can. Our tip: avoid gifting employees you're trying to engage with the standard branded SWAG (water bottles, tote bags, pens, coffee mugs). If you do really want your gift to be super brand-heavy SWAG, we'd recommend coming up with something more unique or useful, like branded candles where the scent description is unique (ie. "smells like a great first day on the dream team"), a branded puzzle to reveal a brand's new tagline when built, or if you're going to brand a wearable product, make sure it is of top quality (great brands that have supersoft cotton, embroidery details, etc), and doesn't just look like a cheap ad. If you're really certain you want to gift drinkware, our recommendation is to gift something of quality and something unique - for example, a collapsible travel water bottle or a self-heating mug. Something they likely don't already have! If you're open to doing something even more creative, pair SWAG with something that is a real gift - something unbranded and useful. For example: if sending gifts for the team to prepare for a business trip, send them branded sleep mask for the plane and a branded passport holder, but also some earplugs, snacks for the plane, a travel journal, and hand sanitizer to round out the gift so it's not just a bunch of logos on items. This makes the gift more of an experience and feel more like an elevated gift rather than SWAG. 

Gift boxes of elevated SWAG + real gifts by us for Poppy, December 2022

2. They only gift at the standard (expected) moments 
Want your team to share on LinkedIn that they work for the BEST company? SURPRISE THEM. Don't just gift at the holidays - everyone expects gifts then. Gift at "white space" moments: gift a summer kickoff gift, gift a cinco de mayo margarita cocktail kit, gift when the company (or the individual employee) hits a major milestone, gift for halloween. Gifting at off the beaten path moments not only results in a more fun, creative, and unique gift (I mean, think about what a Halloween care package could be!) but it also drive social sharing/posting as well as drives engagement because the employee knows they were thought of when maybe most companies wouldn't have thought of their team. 

Custom unbranded gifts for a company's all-hands annual virtual meeting, January 2023. 

3. They gift in a "tone-deaf" manner 
This is a tough one. It's difficult when you're a leader and you want to do something nice for the team to boost morale when things are rough. Maybe you just had layoffs, or maybe bonuses and budgets were cut. It's nice to want to gift something when morale is low but it's also really important to be mindful about how you gift in these situations. What we've seen to be the most impactful here is the following: 1) be super transparent about what you're doing. Include a note from leadership, from the manager talking about the elephant in the room and you may want to even be open about where the budget IS coming from.  "It's been a tough few months and we've had to make some really hard decisions. This is a small token to show you we're thinking about your growth and we are here for you if you want to speak about the changes." 2) Gift something small. Something big or luxury will make people feel like that money was irresponsibly spent, even if they like the gift. 3) Before you gift, do an office survey about what they would like to help morale - then, when you gift something they feel as if they had a say in this spend, because technically they did. Bringing the team along for the ride goes a long way when trust is tarnished. 

At Happy Box, we pride ourselves to be gifting experts - need help creating a gift campaign to engage, retain, or onboard the team? Want to hear what white space gifting moments have worked the best for our hundreds of corporate gifting clients? Book a consultation with myself of my co-founder (and sister) using the links below, or inquire to learn more today via our inquiry form.

Book time with Ariel, Co-Founder, Chief Creative Officer
Book time with Hannah, Co-Founder, Chief Strategy Officer 
Learn more about Corporate Gifting with Happy Box 


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