They may be cheap and cheerful or commissioned works of art. But premiums, promotions and gifts are the easiest way to recognize colleagues, clients and customers and advertise the brand. By Sandra Eagle, May/June 2008
Business gifts, premiums and promotions all play a part in company and organizational branding, a vital component in event and meeting planning.
In our first-ever premium, promotion and gift-card survey, 194 respondents took time to answer 35 questions in our study, fielded in April. Whether event organizers are buying conference bags for the annual general meeting, fleece jackets or golf shirts for staff, promotional giveaways like pens or flashlights or lunch bags, the need for giveaway trinkets and legitimate business gifts is a year-round challenge.
Last year, according to our respondents, the average spend on an employee gift was $113.35. Respondents spent more ($174.10) on the average cost of a gift for clients or customers, while spending half as much on the average suppliers gift ($82.62). The average spend on a speaker’s gift was $85.30.
Overall, the average total yearly budget for business gifts was $21,289.39 and the average company’s total yearly budget for premiums/promotional items was $34,378.13. About a quarter of our respondents (23 per cent), say that company policy has changed to include more non-sales staff in motivational rewards.
Finding a product at the right price was the number one challenge for 49 per cent of respondents, while 40 per cent reported difficulties in finding suitable merchandise. Laurie Macpherson, director of corporate services for the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers, based in Ottawa, needs to find items and gifts at both ends of the promotional/business gift spectrum. “I buy thousands of inexpensive bulk items for engineering students in universities across the country. It’s high volume, but we want to make it fun and reinforce the professional engineering message. One year, we gave out flying disks; for another, we handed out brightly coloured neoprene luggage tags; and my all-time personal favourite was a transformer that changed into a pen. At the other end of the spectrum are the commemorative gifts for outgoing presidents and volunteer members of various professional committees of Engineering Canada. The most difficult part of the job is sourcing gifts that are different, but still relevant to our profession.”
Maggie Allen, training co-coordinator with Telus, based in Toronto, buys items for retail and internal sales reps across Canada. Most of her items are logo’d, and she relies heavily on her supplier to meet tight deadlines and ship nationally. “We try to be both cool and practical. I like to buy items that people can use all the time, and that way, our logos get noticed as well. I don’t want to buy things that won’t get used and just sit around gathering dust.”
Andrea Bright, CMP, events and meeting co-coordinator for the Ontario Nurses Association, based in Toronto, says her group had a long discussion with her board of directors about environmental concerns. “After much discussion and debate about an environmentally friendly bag for our biennial convention, we ended up meeting halfway. We got away from the big-wheeled backpack that we have given out before. Part of the problem is that we want an ergonomic product, but we wanted to get away from wheels and plastic. We also have a stipulation that our promotional items be Canadian or union-made. There are many concerns with the origin of the product, including that we are not endorsing child labour.”
Another widespread comment from respondents is the use and placement of company logos. While 45 per cent of respondents say logo’d items were used to reward employees, most try to be discreet and unobtrusive. Wendy Taylor is an administrative assistant with PPG Canada Inc., based in Mississauga, Ont. Her company buys golf apparel, umbrellas and hats for customers, company logo’d jackets, shirts and fleece tops for employees. “All of the clothing we buy is logo’d, but it depends on the purpose of the garment on how we do that. For sales staff, we go as far as having the logo on the right-hand cuff of a sleeve. For trade shows, we would have the logo more prominent. We don’t always want to have the logo screaming, so we do a lot of tone-on-tone and script.” Lisa Gaudier, merchandise and event planner at the CTV Network, based in Toronto, echoes that sentiment. Gaudier buys items for sales account executives. “When I put the CTV brand on merchandise, I like it to be as small as possible without compromising the logo. We want our merchandise to be used and worn, and for my clients, the subtle branding is appreciated.”
They’re convenient, can be bought in almost any denomination and are easy to obtain. Retailer gift cards, either bought by individuals en masse or used as part of a branded incentive in-house programme, have been bought by 45 per cent of respondents in the last year. A third of respondents (33 per cent) plan on buying gift cards within the next 12 months from a variety of sources, mainly large retailers such as Hbc, Canadian Tire, Sears, Cineplex Odeon, Home Depot, Chapters and Tim Hortons. The majority of respondents (58 per cent) use gift cards to reward employees, 30 per cent use them to incent employees, while 25 per cent use them to boost employee morale or to recognize special occasions such as birthdays or company anniversaries (22 per cent).
Forty-five per cent of respondents say gift cards are used to reward non-sales staff, while 35 per cent use them for sales staff and 29 per cent use them for customers. Non-sales staff rewards ranges between $25 to $100 (47 per cent). Only 8 per cent of respondents measure return on investment with gift cards.
We had 194 respondents to our Premiums Survey.
36% of our respondents are corporate in-house planners, 28% are non-profit government or association planners and 18% are independent third-party planners.
For employees, business items (43%), clothing (43%), bags (36%), travel accessories (35%), sports items (26%) and electronics (21%) are the primary gifts purchased.
For clients, business items (51%), bags (41%), clothing (38%), travel accessories (31%), wine/alcohol (29%) and sports accessories (26%) are the primary gifts purchased.
Finding a product at the right price (49%) and finding suitable merchandise (40%) is a challenge for our survey respondents.
Annual meetings and conferences (65%), event promotions (61%) and trade-show giveaways (43%) are the reasons for the bulk of promotional purchasing.
32% of respondents say that up to 49 employees at their company are eligible for all incentives. 32% say 50 to 499 employees are eligible, and 15% say 500-plus are eligible for incentives.