Struggling to tread the fine line with corporate gifts?


Words & Photos: League of Beers

Buying a corporate gift for a supplier, your boss or a great employee is a tricky business. In South Africa, there are so many different cultures and ways to express appreciation that you need to toe the line to make sure you don’t offend someone or overstep the business relationship.

There are some definite no-no’s and then there are the boring, trusted favourites. Your job is to try to find something in the middle of the two. We explored four common options before coming up with the crème de la crème of corporate gifts.

1. Clothing is a risky move. Unless you’re buying a tie (yawn) or a pair of socks (way to awkward), you need to know the size of the person and acquiring that information may lead to some very (very) strange conversations.
When this works: That being said, you may do well finding an innocuous scarf or pashmina for a women at your local mall. Although you just never know who’s taste to appeal to and the gift will be less than memorable.

2. Business stationery. Really? People still do this? This concept works well at training sessions and events or functions and works for goodie bags to stay top-of-mind of the recipient. But if your goal is to thank the person, you’re unlikely to win their loyalty with a branded item for your company.
When this works: The only time this will work is if you find a thoughtful item and brand it with their company logo or name. Something like a soft, leather iPad cover will work. Try finding one at an iStore near you.

3. Edible arrangements. It seems that no one is safe from that 80’s fad of buying fruit baskets. The only thing a fruit basket is capable of proving is that your company is stuck in the past. Buying someone a fruit basket is the equivalent of buying them a VHS of Sleepless in Seattle.
When this works: Never. The only time you’re allowed to do this is if you’re on a cruise ship and the person is masquerading as Carmen Miranda.

4. Inappropriate items. It has to be said that anything you would consider buying someone for Valentine’s Day is a no-go when it comes to corporate gifts. Sorry folks, but this means no lingerie, no teddy bears and no intimate cards. You’ll also want to avoid any gift that insinuates the person doesn’t take care of themselves: nail clippers, a waxing appointment or a session of Botox will not fly here.
When this works:If you are married to or involved with the person, you can buy them whatever you want. Just check if you’re comfortable explaining it to your tax guy.

5. A mixed case of craft beer. In our opinion, this is a great corporate gift. It is unusual, lends itself toward high class and high quality and is premium (because buying a cheap corporate gift sends a terrible message) and it lends itself to celebrating year-end or birthday festivities. Craft beer is a big trend in South Africa at the moment and this type of gift shows that your company is relevant and supporting local industry. Try The League of Beersfor this. They arewell-known for their selection of quality craft beer; plus they deliver to your door.
When this doesn’t work: As far as we can see, the mixed case is appropriate for any gender or corporation. It changes each month, so the idea doesn’t get old.

If you’re ever unsure as to what to get for a corporate gift, it’s best to check with someone you know who shares a similar personality or position in another company. Remember to package the gift in a professional manner and make sure the company understands it is a gift of thanks, not expectation.

Good luck this Christmas!