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Parting Gifts – Guide to Corporate Gifts for Departing Employees

corporate giftsReese Witherspoon may turn down her next goodie bag at the Oscars, but attendees at your next event will still be expecting one. Here are some great ideas for a cool corporate gifts bag at five different types of events.

Earlier this year, the Internal Revenue Service played party pooper by notifying celebrities just before the Academy Awards that the six-figure goodie bags that they received qualified as taxable income and must be reported on tax returns. Playing off last year’s highly popular Johnny Cash bio starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, the IRS in a statement urged stars to “walk the line” and fulfill their civic duty.

While the government’s crackdown on celeb goodies at the Oscars might have put a damper on that event, it’s done nothing to dissuade other event planners from lavishing party attendees with loot-filled bags at all kinds of events – from charity fundraisers to corporate product launches. In fact, at most events these days, “attendees expect to walk away with something in their hands,” says Susie Bramhall, president of Crayon Communications, a publishing company based in Las Vegas. Bramhall, who has also organized a number of fundraisers for schools and other charities over the years, says she hasn’t planned “any event recently that doesn’t include a goodie bag of some sort, even if it’s something very small.”

Of course, there’s a payoff in offering goodie bags at events beyond sending attendees away happy. “Providing goodie bags at events is an important way of passing on the corporate message,” says Kimberly Weld, brand communications manager of Moxie Interactive, a digital marketing agency based in Atlanta.

With that in mind, Successful Promotions canvassed some goodie bag pros to find out the best products for five different types of events: product launches, company picnics, charity events, golf tournaments and black-tie galas. Study up, so your attendees won’t go home dejected.

The Product Launch
The best giveaways for product launches are useful items that relate directly to the new product, says Duval Hopkins, account director of Maloney & Fox, a marketing communications agency based in New York City. For instance, in a recent launch of a new beverage, Hopkins included in the gift bag a cutting board “because people would need limes for mixing the cocktail,” she says. Related objects for new beverage introductions could include stirrers in various shapes, shot glasses, flasks and glassware. Since product launches are designed to impress clients, prospects and other VIPs, it’s also important that goodie bag items have at least a little caché, say experts. “You want the recipient to feel like he or she is getting something exclusive,” says Bramhall.

Such was the case at the International Boat Show, sponsored by the Newport Harbor Corporation in Rhode Island in September. About 800 exhibitors displayed and demonstrated 51 new boats and yachts and 11 new boating products for the first time. Rebecca Knapp, senior partner coordinator for the event, said that her team selected $150 Vineyard Vines tote bags filled with goodies to give to VIPs, press and sponsors. (Vineyard Vines is a high-end clothing company based in Martha’s Vineyard.) Other products to consider are hot items of the moment: Think imprinted iPod cases, the latest cell phone (like the LG Chocolate Phone), form-fitting T’s in the coolest new colors or tickets to a hard-to-get local event.

Weld also offers advice on decorating the gift containers. She has used a clear, flexi glass box and placed in it shredded paper in Moxie’s orange and green colors to cushion the trademarked item in it. Such decorations serve a dual purpose, she says. “Besides looking pretty, the minute you look at it there’s instant recognition of company colors. The gift helps the person remember you.” Company colors can be used in other ways, Weld says. “Once we used M&Ms in a parting goodie bag, and of course, we selected the company colors of orange and green.”

Product Launches: Goodie Bag Must-Haves

  • Brand-name apparel
  • M&Ms in company colors
  • Logoed iPod case
  • High-end chocolates
  • Items that can be used with the new product

The Company Picnic
Branding is important at all events. But in the case of an employee get-together, such as a picnic, “attendees already know your brand, so you needn’t worry about the integrity of your logo – so have fun with it,” Weld says. She advises creating a T-shirt for the picnic, and incorporating your logo with cool, graphic detail, in such a ways that it is humorous. “Moxie Interactive’s logo incorporates an orange box, overflowing with ideas, so we use that basic box concept and overflow it with lots of creative object relating to an event,” she says. Weld also advises rolling up a T-shirt into a log shape (tied with raffia) and including movie tickets or a gift card. “This way you are giving two corporate gifts in one,” she says Jane Roper, a meeting planner based in Miami, once created a fun-filled gift bag for attendees at an employee appreciation picnic on the beach. Inside an off-the-shoulder drawstring bag featuring the company’s logo were the following items: a logoed beach ball, a Frisbee, one-time use cameras and promotional water bottles. “We wanted the items to be things employees could immediately use with their families,” Roper says. “Pretty soon people began throwing the balls and Frisbees around, and the goodie bags became part of the fun of the event.” Promotional tote bags are another popular item that could also be used to hold the gifts in a case like this.

Company Picnics: Goodie Bag Must-Haves

  • T-shirts
  • Visors
  • Single-use cameras
  • Water bottles with custom labels
  • Flip flops

Outdoor Charity Event
If you’re planning an outdoor event, such as a walk-a-thon, festival or other charity gathering, there are two words you should keep in mind, says Roper: nourishment and comfort. Roper recently planned a 5K walk for a charitable group, and stuffed simple goodie bags with all kinds of essentials, like energy bars, thick socks and soothing foot gel.

Weld agrees that charitable goodie bags should be filled with items that “show you care.

“Your participants guests are taking the time in their busy lives to support your charity” and goodie bags can be a way to support their efforts, she says. Keeping in mind that most non-profits have strict budgets for such items, Weld recommends items like koozies (she suggests the soft version, which can be folded easily into a handbag or back pocket) and water bottles. “These can be easily branded with your event logo,” she says. Another top pick: Sunscreen and insect repellant towelettes, which can also be branded with a logo. These promotional gifts are a quick and inexpensive way to show your gratitude.

Other items that might be appropriate include headbands, caps and knapsacks. If your budget is on the large side, you might consider slipping in one larger pampering item or two to let attendees know how much you appreciate their support. For instance, at the nine-day Snapple Sunset Music Festival, held last June in Newport, RI, to raise money for several charities, 100 VIP guests received gift bags in their hotel rooms that included Snapple drinks and plush bath robes. The robes “sent the message to guests that we wanted them to relax and enjoy their time with us,” Alofsin says.

Outdoor Charity Events: Goodie Bag Must-Haves

  • Sunscreen towlettes
  • Colorful caps
  • Mini-fans
  • Spa items
  • Cool nylon bag

The Golf Tournament
Golfers are typically gadget lovers, so stuffing knapsacks with all of the latest and, greatest in golfing gadgetry is the way to go for golfing gift bags. Some items to consider: multi-tasking tools that feature divot tools, groove cleaners, ball markers and cleaning brushes; watches embedded in wrist sweatbands (yes, such a thing exists); and nifty golf wheels that help duffers maneuver difficult shots. Another idea: custom imprinted golf balls, or – even better – ones with photos emblazoned on them.

Golfers also “go crazy over the niftiest new apparel,” says Morgan Alonzo, a meeting planner based in Durham, NC. Whenever Alonzo creates a gift bag for a golf event, she includes at least one piece of high-tech apparel, such as a shirt that is both sweat-resistant and contains SPF. “You’ve got to go with something that’s high quality and high-tech – a $2 T-shirt won’t do for the golfing set, because these are typically people who make good money and have high expectations.

Weld is a big fan of travel accessories for golfers as well. “I consider luggage tags – particularly ones in brushed stainless steel – as a very cool gift,” Weld says. “Our clients travel a lot on business and also for the holidays, and they thrive on cool travel items,” she says. Such tags, of course, can be easily customized with a logo.

Golf Tournaments: Goodie Bag Must-Haves

  • Moisture-wicking shirt
  • Multi-tasking golf tool
  • Sweatband with watch
  • Leather luggage/golf bag tags
  • Golf balls with funky photos

Black Tie Event
When Bramhall organized a black-tie event for a non-profit group in the Midwest, she carried a Hollywood theme throughout the event. That meant that gift bags reflected a night at the movies. “I like the idea of mixing casual with black tie,” she says. That in mind, she used a popcorn box as the gift-bag holder. Inside were gourmet popcorn bags, small bags of high-end coffee and hot chocolate and gift cards for movie rentals.

After the Pirates of the Caribbean sequel was released last summer, Alonzo helped a charity carry out a black-tie affair that piggybacked on the popularity of the pirate movie. Gift bags contained silky black eye patches, tiny bottles of high-end rum and instructions (written in calligraphy on parchment paper) on how to make a variety of rum drinks. “The bags had fun stuff in them but were still classy,” she says.

While Bramhall recommends that all black-tie goodie bags tie in with the event’s theme, there are some standard, upscale gifts suitable for any swanky event. For instance, lead crystal candlesticks, beautifully designed pens, digital picture frames and elegant watches are items that are appropriate for any swanky gala.

Presentation of the gift bags is also important, Bramhall says. “You can place them at each table, which will add to the decor. If your colors are purple and yellow, for example, line some bags with yellow cellophane, and some with purple, and rotate them on each table.”

Black-Tie Galas: Goodie Bag Must-Haves

  • Anything crystal
  • An elegant pen
  • Watches or jewelry
  • High-end coffee or cocoa
  • Small bottles of liquor or champagne

Reprinted with permission of Successful Promotions, copyright 2007

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