How to Bring Magic to Your Holiday Gift

Nic Thomassen    |    November 11, 2019

How to Bring Magic to Your Holiday Gift

Nic Thomassen    |    November 11, 2019

What do you want this holiday season? What gift would get you excited? Those questions lead to what we call the golden rule of gifting: Give to others what you would want to be gifted. Sounds simple, yet how many mediocre “thank you” gifts have landed in your break room come holiday time? Another gift basket of consumables that gets mixed with the other five strewn about the café… until the giver of the basket is not even known to the eater of its edibles. Sure, a salami or chocolate covered pretzel can be a savory gesture, but it’s soon gone and forgotten… like the melting snowman in your front yard.

The leading categories for holiday gifts are still food, beverages, and calendars – meh.
We can do better.

Instead, let’s dig in and harness your gift giving prowess in a more creative and thoughtful manner. Since swag is what we do, we’ve been honing our holiday gift game for some time, always trying to create something special for our clients. Here’s our playbook for how we architect our own holiday gift – just maybe you’ll find a few morsels of inspiration along the way.

1. Start with the why (and who) of the gift

We often talk about swag as a sales tool. Your holiday gift is not that. It’s a chance to truly thank the people, partners and clients that helped you get here. No strings attached. When the salesperson on your shoulder starts chirping or the marketing voice in your head wants to analyze the ROI, remember the why. In the spirit of the season, from Christmas to Hanukkah, Festivus and the rest, let’s be generous.

According to ASI, more businesses will send a gift this year than ever. 42% of businesses plan on giving a holiday gift to employees and 37% plan on sending a gift to clients.

Who is this for? Is the goal to thank a larger crowd or select individuals? It’s a choice of breadth vs depth. When employees snack on the crackers or kettle corn of a gift basket, it does actually serve a purpose in touching a wider amount of folks, albeit at a lower impact per person. We instead go for a higher impact per gift by focusing on our main contact, the one we work with day in and day out. We can therefore put more into each gift and truly honor that relationship.

Need a bit of both? Try a tiered gift: something smaller for the masses and a step up for your main contact (or even another step up for the VIPs). Your audience is unique, so only you can find the right mix here.

Who are you? This is also a chance to represent who you are as a company and what you stand for. We’re big believers in a healthy lifestyle and therefore themed a past gift around a “New Year, New You” message. We also love getting out in the wilderness, so we paired that with a little mindfulness in our “Enjoy the Adventure” kit. You can reinforce your values while still saying thanks… which, I would argue, does so in an even more unique and authentic way.

2. Wrap your gift in a compelling theme

When we write a blog post, the first thing we do is brainstorm a long list of titles for the topic at hand. It seems backwards, right? Develop the title before the content? However, by focusing on the headline first, it shapes and brings clarity to the writing. The same can be said of a holiday gift. A strong theme pulls the whole piece together, from product selection to design aesthetic. It allows you to purposely build out the story through the rest of the process, which makes for a stronger gift.

So start whiteboarding your theme ideas… from trendy to traditional, heartfelt to humorous. What will resonate with your people (and again, what speaks to you)?

3. Tell the story, with merch

Now, let’s dig into the swag. With your theme in place, the product spitballing will flow much better.

      • What are you seeing in retail?
      • What could be created from scratch via importing?
      • What graphics could transform a basic item into something more?
      • Would merch from a retail brand help elevate the gift? Could a certain brand reinforce the vibe you’re going for (think Patagonia or Timbuk2)?
      • What print methods align with the desired mood (e.g. laser etch, embroidery, discharge screen printing, etc)?

The beauty of a good theme is that each individual item doesn’t have to be mind-boggling. If the item is done well and decorated with good graphics, it comes together with the rest of the kit to reinforce the overall message: the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

If you like an item, but it’s a mismatch with the overall message, dump it. If you wouldn’t personally want the item, move on. At this point, if you’re still struggling with the product mix… go back a step and develop your theme further or even test another one. It’s usually a sign that more time is needed on the previous step (HT to Getting Things Done).


Choose your own adventure gift
This year, we’re serving up 4 different gifts for our employees to choose from. The signups are done online via our Redemption Page. I can’t divulge the gift details yet, but one item will be size specific. Companies tend to avoid size specific items all together (guessing sizes for your people is fraught with danger). However, this gives you a whole new option for gifting to employees or clients. Yes, the element of surprise is a bit lost, but the flexibility of choosing a specific item and size is a nice trade off.

Pairs well with snacks
An all edible gift is not our top choice; however, we do like the addition of a tasty treat within the kit. Something that pairs well with the theme and/or a specific item (e.g. As a part of a “Keep Cozy” kit, place a  chocolate on a stick inside an insulated mug, with a warm message to boot; or a use pack of “Hit the trail mix” inside an “Enjoy the Adventure” pack.

4. Amplify with design

new year banner

Good design can amplify the impact of the gift (bad design can stifle it). Each item, and therefore the design on each item, is an opportunity to speak to the theme. As such, we suggest you lay low on the self-branding. Remember the overall goal is to say thanks, not to shout your name loudly. Plus, do people really want your brand emblazoned boldly on a gift? You’re not Nike.

If you don’t have an in-house design team (or they’re busy doing marketing-y things), we’re happy to help. Think of us as your band of elves merrily designing swag in a far-away land (or just as an extension of your marketing team). The holiday spirit is growing thick as I write.

If you’re starting to feel excited about owning your own gift, you’re on the right track.
Let’s keep adding on.

PRO TIP: Add a custom greeting (card)
What’s the first thing they’ll see when opening your gift box… a card (hopefully). So, make it custom! With your designs rolling for the merch, it’s easy to parlay those efforts into a greeting card of your own making, and with your own message of thanks.
Bonus points: turn your text into a poem. Who doesn’t love a fun poem, especially around the holidays. Hmm, maybe I’ll re-write this article in iambic greeting card

5. Tying it all together: Retail Finishing and Kitting

We slighted the gift basket earlier, but it does get something right… it wraps the items together in a nice package. Let’s look at ways we can do the same for your kit. We’re not in retail, but we look to it for style cues and inspiration. Here are the top ways to finish your gift:

    • Hangtags – A simple (and cheap) way to add a retail touch to your item; drop in a clever message or a description of the product while you’re at it.
    • Ribbons – Greet your receiver with a shimmery ribbon as they engage your gift… wait, does that ribbon have a custom logo on it? Yes, it does.
    • Tissue paper – What’s more gift like than layers of tissue gently surrounding a present? Take it a step further with a custom printed pattern or color.
    • Crinkle Paper – It’s fun, it’s squiggly, it comes in many colors, it’s crinkle paper… the party in a box! It’s made from 100% recycled content too. Nestle your product in some of that recycled crinkle goodness.
    • Kraft tape – It’s even possible to customize your kraft tape (hey you’ve seen Amazon do it, right?)

You may be thinking, how will I attach and assemble all this goodness… don’t worry, this is where our helper elves come back in (this time known as our warehouse crew). They handle all aspects of finishing and kitting. Go ahead, get crazy with your kit.

Think outside the box, literally
Let’s wrap it up with one more piece: the box. It’s the outer shell of your gift, the first thing you encounter… and it has more design real estate than anything else within it (listen; designers are cheering). Don’t squander that lovely space, use it to create tension as to what’s inside, clues to the contents, and most of all (you guessed it) to reinforce the theme! A full color graphic treat awaits your receiver if you take advantage.

moose box

Don’t have the budget for a fully printed custom box? We don’t always either… you can still customize the outside of the box with a stamp or sticker. It gives a nice crafty, hand touched vibe.

stamped box

Size Matters
How big is your box? How heavy? Choose a large product, and you’ll need a large box, which in turns costs more to ship. Not that you can’t think big with your merch, but know there are consequences down the line. Trust us, we’ve shipped hundreds of thousands of kits and have seen the dollars saved with careful planning.

Keep the size and weight in mind at the product brainstorm stage!

This is also true for how the items are kit together… which is why we create a mockup to scale of all items going into the package and then digitally play with how they best fit together. Playing digital Tetris is always better than having issues on the kitting floor. In addition, we consider the presentation value and the overall balance of looks vs efficient packaging.

This final step can often be an afterthought but spending extra time on finishing and kitting can create magic in that moment of unveiling. Maybe it’ll even end up on Instagram.

Thought that counts
In the end, it really is the thought that counts. And the driving thought behind all of this is simply a means to say thanks. So, let your gift be a well thought out piece. The person receiving it will feel those efforts and probably be thankful themselves.

Thank you for joining us down this holiday gift lane.
See you again next year. Cheers.