The Art of Giving: 5 Tips for Effective Gift Giving at Your Trade Show

November 27, 2015

Dave Sarro

Dave Sarro is the president and founder of Promo Direct, which was founded in 1991 in Henderson, Nevada, and offers customized promotional products to business professionals across many industries.

What’s your first reaction after receiving a gift? I doubt it’s “That was nice, but I still don’t like them.” Most likely, it’s “That was so nice! How can I return the favor?” 

If so, then you’re hardly alone. Social psychologists like to call it the Law of Reciprocity — we innately want to reciprocate when we’re given gifts. And while psychologists take an academic interest in the principle, marketers love it for brand strategy.

As marketers know, it’s extraordinarily tough to connect with target customers. And while corporate gifts aren’t a new concept, they’re frankly an underrated way to establish trust, empathy, and goodwill between brands and customers. 

Matching Gifts and Brand Image

Corporate gift giving is most effective when the gift closely aligns with the brand’s value proposition and identity. This isn’t just about showing off; it’s about cleverly using gifts to grab attention and build long-term relationships with potential clients and customers. 

Dutch marketing agency Novocortex, for instance, is a master of creatively using products to generate brand awareness. During a campaign for a car insurance company, the Dutch agency used nonadhesive stickers with scratch marks in a brilliant way. After being planted on expensive vehicles, Novocortex secretly filmed drivers’ shock at the “scratches” and put their reactions on YouTube, then invited blog readers to test the stickers themselves. The shock turned to pleasant surprise when they realized it was just a sticker with a clever message — “Repairing your damages can be as easy as removing this sticker,” accompanied by an insurance discount offer.

Trade show gifts, too, can draw customers’ attention. At the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California, Nature’s Path offered trade show bags made from recycled grain bags. The bags were initially used to hold grain that included the company’s organic cereals. The clever giveaway served as a tangible reminder to attendees of the product itself and the company’s authentic brand.

The Perfect Gift for the Perfect Giveaway

There’s no perfect equation for eye-popping giveaway gifts — the clever message behind a giveaway is a job for your team’s marketers. But there are certain types of gifts that will maximize the benefits to your brand. 

Here’s what to look for in a product that offers maximum value to customers (and to your brand):

1. Think quality. Too many companies give away products that will break or fall apart after a couple of uses. I don’t know about you, but “easily broken” isn’t a quality I want customers associating with my brand. 

Be sure to give gifts that last. They’re more expensive, but they also carry more weight with customers than water bottles or lip balm might. I suggest a sling bag or backpack. These gifts will be particularly effective among younger attendees, so consider your brand’s audience accordingly.

2.  Prioritize brand awareness. It’s important that your logo gets satisfactory visibility, especially if your business is new. Opt for products that offer a high imprint area, like T-shirts and bags.

If signage is the most important consideration, then I recommend Hanes Colored 100 percent Beefy T for a quality gift that trade show attendees will wear again and again. Available in sizes S to XXXL, these T-shirts will appeal to people from a wide range of industries, too. Seriously, who doesn’t love a good T-shirt?

3. Understand your audience. Show your customers you’ve considered their needs by giving industry-specific gifts. Nobody likes the one-size-fits-all treatment.

If you’re aiming for a tech-savvy audience, the Matrix Swivel USB Drive 2GB will make a useful gift. Although nearly everybody can use this gift, attendees of your booth from the tech industry will particularly appreciate your thoughtfulness.

4. Push practicality. The best giveaway items are things people will use on an everyday basis. The last thing you want is for customers to walk away and discard their goodies in the trash.

The Bic Grip Stick Roller pen is a small but mighty gift. Nobody likes a cheap pen that stops writing after a week. People get attached to their favorite pens. They’ll use this one daily around the office, remembering you in the process.

Trade Show Success

Whether your brand’s clever use of gifts is designed to evoke shock, goodwill, or simply pleasant memories, ensure your gifts leave customers with a tangible representation of your brand. 

By aligning your gifts with your audience and brand persona, you’ll do more than attract people to your booth — you’ll leave them with a lasting reminder of your company’s generosity, thoughtfulness, and creative know-how.   


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