Event giveaways and gifts

The art of discretion and guilty pleasures

As the festive season approaches the western world, we consider the Heroes and Howlers of client gifts and giveaways at events.

The conference and trade-show world has long been a magnet, if you’ll pardon the pun, for giveaways. Branded pens, passport wallets, mouse mats, stress-balls and eco-carrier bags have all had their day. The scramble for ideas to provide a brand memento from an event gains a perverse intensity.

Our advice? Above all, champion your brand and corporate values. Consider any perceptions you want to shift or reinforce. For a business audience, and especially the C-suite, know your audience. Understand their self-perceptions and reinforce their view of themselves. 

For us, there are three psychological markers which steer the selection process:

  • Quality
  • Discretion
  • Guilt. Oh yes, guilt!

Quality will make the moment last

A quality gift will always outlive a gimmick or a joke. So think laterally. If you’re planning an event, does the location provide inspiration? For example, imagine the event is hosted in an iconic skyscraper or ocean view resort. Precision engineered binoculars in a soft leather case, discretely blind embossed with the company logo, could well hit the mark. For the Millennials, a Go-Pro with selfie-stick in a discretely branded, high-impact case, should do the job. Or consider a Google VR headset, with a subtle watermark of the brand on the head-strap.

Discretion is the better part of branding

The key is discretion. Too many brands treat giveaways as a mobile ad hoarding. Few B2B brands, bar those in the luxury sector, have the kudos to be flaunted. It’s enough just to brand the box or ribbon. Or maybe provide a signature detail, like a discrete brand accent colour on the tip of a pen or key ring. Or, for a soft moleskin passport wallet, simply monogram the brand on the inside. There’s a fine line between taste and tacky, utility and lifestyle appeal. If you want that timeless giveaway, subtlety rules.

Share the guilty pleasures

Never under-estimate the power of guilt. Many executives who travel to events, often in fashionable, luxury locations, leave loved-ones behind. Sure, there’s the jet lag and long days. It’s work. But it’s rarely interpreted that way back home. And so the best giveaways or gifts can be taken to loved ones or shared around the office, still nurturing a lasting bond with the brand. Think monogrammed chocolates, scented candles or a recipe book from the destination.  


Gifts should draw on insights into the audience’s life, their emotional needs and perceptions of the brand and sector. For longevity, think quality lifestyle products with discrete branding.  And consider whether the giveaway or gift is for the customer’s personal use or their loved ones back home. Meet emotional needs and your brand will be visible in the most important place it can – the hearts and minds of your guests.

Andrew Reid, Director Corporate Strategy at Shelton Fleming, a creative agency that produces live events which transform how you see the wider-world, business and brands. We do this by designing intelligent, personalized experiences for global brands.

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