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I wrote a few weeks ago that 65% of Australians last Christmas received a gift that they did not want (or like) the value of these gifts was estimated to be worth $985m. I’d like to know how many of these were given by companies?

I have heard some tragic corporate gifting stories recently. I often speak about Happy People  = Happy Profits. Well, one way to keep people happy is to give them a gift they will love.

This week I have been asking business people I know their corporate gift ‘war’ stories.

Peter said: “As a young accountant I worked in insolvency and when we arrived at the new client one of the first things we would discover is the 100s of promotional items they had in storage. Corporate ties. This was the 90s who wore corporate ties? No wonder they were still sitting there no one wanted them.”

When asked what creates a brand I answer “People create brands. The thousands of relationships that the people within an organisation make with customers, suppliers, distributors, affiliates, associates, all stakeholders make brands. These relationships are brittle and precious they are something to be nurtured and developed. The must be approached consistently.”

James said “a previous employer gave a Christmas Gift to all her staff (many 100s) a Perspex pen holder filled with purple jelly beans (corporate colour) and a DVD of her Christmas message. Those close to her strongly advised against the gift – she argued that the Perspex penholder with the logo would stay on people’s desks and remind them of the message. She went ahead. People used the DVDs as coasters or Frisbees. The DVD was not watched by people because they were so disappointed in the gift – and no one ever eats purple jelly beans they make you feel sick”

Alan told me “A supplier that I spend between $750k-$1m per annum with last year I received a company branded local sparkling wine. Very tacky indeed. It takes a brave company to stick its logo on a bottle of plonk and expect clients to drink it”

When I was at Ansett years ago as a young product manager I was asked to find the staff Christmas gift. I worked with an external supplier and I said ‘make sure that you can supply 18,000 of them and they will need to be delivered throughout Australia’. The gift was to be presented to Sir Peter Ables executive assistant (who was a matriarch to be feared) She selected a pretty Christmas bauble from the selection of gifts presented. ‘Agh’ said the supplier we can’t deliver that one. Very embarrassed they said ‘we just picked that one out at DJs. There is only about 20 in their store!’ So back they came with a small dried holly arrangement by one of Melbourne’s leading florists. The matriarch liked it….at $50 delivered per – this ended up being almost a $1m exercise. This was the late 80s and let me tell you people hated them…. They just said ‘what a waste’ what is the point.

I am changing gifting in Australia forever. And when I hear these stories of waste it just furthers my cause. Let’s reduce the clutter on the planet. I want people to be able to share their gift with family and friends. We want more than anything to have good times with people we love. Purple jelly bean anyone?

Don’t add to the clutter on the planet as we move into this Christmas gifting period … Think about what you give them… and remember a gift is all about them…not you and not your company logo it is not a time for promotion and blatant advertising – it is a time to say thanks.

What is the worst corporate gift you have ever received… do share.

Reader Interactions


  1. it sounds as though management can get so caught up in the business, so set on drilling in the message. Maybe they need to remember that they can still align their people to the goals of their organisation if they treat them as individuals, think a little more about how they can personalise the gifts they give.

  2. Apparently sparkling wine seems to be one great form of corporate gifting solution.

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  • Friday drinks must be here soon surely ... or I'm out! #friyay
  • In the 90s I left my cushy job at Apple.

I’d be a squillionaire if I still had my stock options.

I don’t regret it. Here's why:

After 10 years of corporate, I wanted to ‘do my own thing’. I started with freelance marketing.

My strategy? Hard work and build strong brands.

It seemed to work - new clients came from referrals.

But after 18 months, I came to a realisation:

All my clients wanted was “more customers”, not complex branding plans.

SO I thought I’d build a brand of my own. Something to get them “more customers”. RedBalloon was born. The purpose? Give people amazing experiences.

16 years on, RB has delivered 3.8 million customers to 2000 small businesses.

Now, when I give talks, I always get the same question: “How did you build such a strong brand?” Funny how it comes full circle.

I can’t answer that with a time limit.

Though I think I found a way - an online course. “How to Build your Business Brand” - years of experience in one place (link in bio if interested). But, that’s not the point of this post.

If I stayed with Apple I’d be unbelievably wealthy.

Quitting was still the best thing I’ve ever done.

So if you want to take a leap of faith, do it.

All I ask you is this:

Trust yourself and never underestimate the power of brand.
  • #tbt the originals circa 2004 🎈 it reminds that an entrepreneurs journey is long and full of twists and turns. What a ride! @redballoonexperiences
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