The Best Gift I Ever Got

Matching business gifts to personality makes for perfect presents. Ad specialty buyers and end-users share why they love their favorites. Find inspiration for your own client gifts here.

The best business gift is definitely in the eye of the beholder. One person’s favorite is personalized while another’s is mass-produced. Some are high-quality while others are highly useful. Some favorites are big in size while others are big in heart. And some recipients love their gifts so much they become givers of that very item.

The common denominator seems to be uniqueness – whether in thoughtfulness, coolness or its I-can’t-function-without-it factor. Here are eight great gifts and why their recipients love them. Some variation of all of them is available from your trusted ad specialty suppliers.

A Gift that Sparkles

One public relations pro has landed her clients impressive national publicity from coverage in sought-after media such as on the Today show and in O, The Oprah Magazine. Yet for all her success stories and professional awards, Taryn Scher hasn’t forgotten her fun side. Her brand is pink and sparkly, from her pink office walls and website to her shiny diamond logo. As Scher says of her clients, “We make them sparkle!”

So when she landed one client a feature on Good Morning America, they showed their appreciation with a gift that celebrates her unique style. “When a custom pink superhero cape arrived from SuperflyKids with our company logo as a thank you, I about died,” says Scher, who goes by the title The Sparkle Boss of TK PR rather than founder of her Greenville, SC,​ business.

The client and maker of the gift was SuperflyKids who creates superhero capes with designs like classic lightning bolts and stars, personalized with kids’ initials to help them save the day.

“There are days that I literally feel like Wonder Woman, juggling hundreds of emails, phone calls from clients and my family, and sometimes you just need superhero-like powers,” says Scher. “This cape says it all.”

Scher loves the cape so much she wears it in her bio photo on her company website. And when she isn’t in need of its magic strength, she hangs it on the back of her office door as a conversation point.

“It’s hard to miss being all hot pink and sparkly,” says Scher. “But every once in a while when I’m having a day where I have eight meetings, 200 emails and 30 other things to do in between, I put it on for a little extra superpower.”

AlfaPrints (asi/34064) and Bright Image Promo (asi/42044) are two suppliers of capes, should you want to acknowledge any of your clients as superheroes.

Fulfill A Theme

A grab bag at a small technical conference contained the best business gift one man ever received.

“It’s something that I use every day and the company’s logo is prominent,” says Nathan Corbier, founder and president of Corbier and Associates Corporation, an IT consultancy firm specializing in website design.

The item is a MicroBuff Mini, a soft microfiber cleaning cloth for digital devices. The small cloth sticks onto a clear plastic credit card-sized card, ready to be pulled off whenever Corbier wants to tackle dirt and smudges.

“When I need to clean my glasses, my laptop screen, my phone screen or anything with a glass or plastic surface that I don’t want scratched, I pull this thing out,” he says.

Corbier was attending the SharePoint Saturday conference near Minneapolis representing his business when he was given the grab bag. As he began using the cloth, he noticed the little gift was an attention-getter. People wanted to know where they could get one and how much they cost. That gave him an idea – to start giving the cloths as gifts himself.

He designed his own business cards with paper on one side and laminated plastic on the other so there was a surface where the MicroBuff Mini would stick. Now he gives these little gifts to existing clients and potential ones.

“People are more apt to take my cards once they notice ‘that weird thing’ on the back,” says Corbier. “I’ve found card retention and call back is better.” 

While this gift wasn’t specially chosen for him, he says, “I will most likely always remember the firm for giving these things away.”

Sign of Appreciation

It’s hard to receive a better logo gift than your very own logo – custom-made in a 3-D metal sign – as a surprise.

“For my 39th birthday, all of my employees came together and decided to spend their own money to get me our main BlueGrace corporate floor sign,” says Bobby Harris, president and CEO of BlueGrace Logistics. “This is my most prized possession because it was a way for the employees to give back and thank me, as well as show me how much BlueGrace is truly in their hearts.”

Employees of this transportation management company based in Riverview, FL, had noticed the lack of signage inside their building and decided to fix that problem. Now the sign is on their main floor, visible to all who enter the reception area.

Yet these employees had a second gift to give. They created another sign with white space around their logo, leaving room for employees to sign their names. That was Harris’ birthday card. Since then, new employees have added their signatures which now number more than 185.

“It’s a visual reminder for me and the rest of the employees of just how big we are getting and how fast we are expanding,” says Harris.

Harris says he’s received nice corporate gifts over the years, from pens to turning globes, but his best gift was this show of pride in the company’s growth.

“It may just be a normal sign, but to me it was a sincere gift from my family, my friends and the people I most trust with my business,” says Harris. “I seriously could not be more pleased with any other present – this was perfect and I will never forget the moment or the memories of me receiving it.”

Fancy Footwear

Eric Willey takes pride in his hometown. So he was thrilled to receive a wearable gift that’s not only cool but was created in his own backyard.

“The socks are comfortable and durable, but I like them most because it represents Kansas City, where I was born and raised,” says Willey, general manager and sommelier at Bluestem restaurant. “I also like them because I feel trendy, as Sock 101 is very popular with friends and colleagues.”

Willey was working with the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association in efforts to promote the city when he received the gift as a thank you.

Sock 101 is not your granddad’s boring dress sock. These colorful socks have gained a following for those seeking a sartorial yet fun style, both in Missouri and nationwide. From the Kansas City Zoo to businesses such as banks, tech companies, veterans groups, sports teams and fraternities, these socks with customized logos are being gifted by the pair for big events and celebrations. The three “sockpreneurs,” or founders, have enjoyed national publicity for these trendy socks which get noticed when wearers cross their legs.

Willey says he receives frequent compliments on his socks, especially when he pairs them with his VisitKC tie.

“At first glance, people think it’s just a cool design until they look closer and see that the socks actually have the VisitKC logo. “I wear them strategically when I’m involved with an event for or with the city.”  

Look to suppliers like alphabroder (asi/34063), Gildan Activewear (asi/56842) and Bodek and Rhodes (asi/40788) for sock options.

Gourmet Gifts

When one business outgrew its office and needed to expand, they hired a moving company. They were surprised to receive a thank-you gift of an exotic olive oil and vinegar set from Veterans Moving America.

“It was well presented,” says Nick Cain, Chief Operations Officer of American Remembrance. “VMA’s logo was the first thing you saw on the front. These weren’t garden-variety oils, either, so there was plenty of information on the individual bottles about each flavor. And there was information about The Chef Shelf included.”

The gift was high-quality and unexpected. “No moving company had ever given me a gift and I was especially impressed to receive one that was unique to me,” says Cain. Specifically, he had mentioned to his VMA contact during the office move that he liked to cook, so the oil and vinegar kit “was a cool choice. I think the fact that it was so personal and unique was one reason it stood out.”

The Chef Shelf, based in Fort Worth, TX, offers specialty food items from cookbooks and cookies to spice rubs and soups. Their newest gift is gelato in flavors from Dulce de Leche to Bolivian Single Origin Chocolate.

Cain was so happy with the gift, he has become a giver. His company works with funeral homes to make their funeral services more integrated with technology online and help in their digital marketing. Some of the American Remembrance SEO packages are expensive, so the company likes to let premium clients know how much they appreciate choosing them to invest in.

“What I like most about The Chef Shelf is that there are a lot of options,” says Cain. “We can try and tailor it to the customer – just like it was done for me.”

In the ad specialty industry, you can look to suppliers like Etching Industries (asi/52770), A Plus Wine Designs (asi/30223), Panola Pepper (asi/75787) and any number of food suppliers for similar gift ideas.

Skating into the Future

One popular employee appreciation gift came with wheels.

When the co-founders of a marketing agency based in Baltimore wanted to hold a vision meeting, they headed out to a park. There, Planit’s 80 employees learned about the firm’s 20-year history, were introduced to the new vision for moving forward and received a freestyling gift.

“The best company gift I received was a custom skateboard from our co-founders,” says Caitlin Mills, director of public relations at Planit. The custom skateboard was designed by the agency’s own creative team to symbolize their company’s “ride into the future.”

“This is a way to take us toward our vision,” says Mills. “Also, to not be afraid to fail – take risks, get back on and enjoy the ride.”

The gift got employees behind the company’s vision in a style true to their culture. “Skateboards kind of represent bravery,” says Mills. “I believe the skateboard culture is a bit unique in itself, just like our culture here.”

While the agency already had a few skateboard fans in its ranks, the gift encouraged more to try sidewalk surfing. Whether displayed in an office or put into action, the boards communicate the company’s mission.

“Some employees use the boards to roll around the office from meeting to meeting or to let loose after a meeting,” says Mills. “Certainly more of us have tried skateboarding now that we all have our own board.”

Handmade and Heartfelt

When Karie Stern began her career working for a large Chicago real estate company, she received a gift she’s enjoyed for 20 years. As marketing coordinator, Stern worked with a vendor, a high-end advertising specialty business, to send corporate holiday gifts. She worked closely with the vendor coordinating details and shipping. At the end of the project the vendor gave her a special gift – a hand-blown red glass heart paperweight with the vendor’s logo “engraved tastefully” on the side with the artist’s name on the other.

“I still have that paperweight. I love it and think of that woman and her business fondly today,” says Stern, who is now PR consultant with Markers Market, based in San Francisco.

As Stern worked her way up the ladder, she gave referrals to the vendor through the years. She also chose corporate gifts using the tips she’d learned from her – giving gifts that are unique and functional, inspired by the company’s core business, made with the best materials and with the logo intricately incorporated into the gifts’ design but “not glaringly loud.”

Stern noticed her vendor differentiated her gifts by finding unique items, often handmade. She learned how to look at artisan items made with a variety of materials from glass, fabric or leather to see how they could be personalized with logos. Today, she has come full-circle, working for a company created in the same spirit as that gift from long ago. Makers Market is an online store with handmade items that can be personalized for corporate gifts.

The care in choosing a gift extends to the wrapping, too. “Think about the best packaging, as the packaging and card makes the first impression,” says Stern. (Editor’s note: See “A Perfect Package” feature article in this issue.)

An Oldie and a Goodie

For one woman, her favorite gift is a toss-up between something old and something new.

The recent gift is a small item she can’t live without – a pocket-sized battery backup. “It is something that I keep in my purse at all the times,” says Ann Mowrey, director of public relations at Easy Rest Adjustable Sleep Systems. “I’ve used it so many times to recharge my phone on the go and I don’t know what I’d do without it at this point. I love it.”

The battery back-up was a gift from a company that works with Easy Rest. Mowrey’s company, based in Baltimore, has an annual subscription to this company for their cloud-based services. Of course, their logo is prominently displayed on her go-to tech tool.

Years ago, she received another gift which she thought was a bit odd at the time. However, the five-piece barbecue grill set has turned out to be one of the longest-lasting business gifts she’s ever received.

“I still remember that it came in a hard plastic case with the company’s logo on it,” says Mowrey. “The case is long gone but most of the tools are still being used to this day, and I frequently think of the company representative who sent it to us.”

The company who gifted her with the barbecue tool set was in the advertising business. “We were a client of theirs and placed a lot of advertising with them around the country,” she says. “They always sent us a Christmas gift, but this is the one I always remembered.”