3 lessons for choosing a quality gift that engages and motivates

The landscape of planning a reward and recognition program right now has changed, but the idea of giving a memorable gift hasn’t. When you’re planning your program, it can be easy to overlook the gift side of things because it’s one part of an overall program. It’s just “one more item” on your to-do list, right? But choosing the right gift can be the difference between an average incentive program and a memorable one, no matter whether for an in person or digital program. And we’ve seen this over and over during this time.

Research shows that one high-quality gift actually goes much further to engage and motivate people more than a choice of multiple less-valuable options. That’s something we’ve witnessed firsthand at Maui Jim during our 20 years in the experiential gifting business. Here are three lessons we’ve learned that you can apply to make your next event as successful as possible.

Lesson 1: Give a gift they’ll value as much as you value them

A recent study published by the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, entitled “Managing Service Experience with Experiential vs. Material Complimentary Premiums,” highlights the importance of high perceived value in gift giving.

“The primary purchase and the gift equally affect the overall evaluation of the entire product bundle, and a low-quality gift diminishes the perceived value of high-quality primary purchases,” the authors of the study write. “So determining what gift to include as part of a promotional strategy is not a trivial managerial decision.”

In other words, it pays to spend time and effort selecting a gift your recipients will value, both on the day of your event and for a long time afterwards. After all, you’re seeking to build relationships and encourage people to take action on your behalf — often by asking them to give up their hard-earned money or valuable time. Think of how you’d like to be rewarded in a similar situation. It’s likely not with an inexpensive trinket.

To ensure that you’re choosing a quality gift with high perceived value, be sure to look for products from recognized, respected brands. Also, it’s important to consider items that aren’t frequently discounted. You don’t want your recipients to walk into a store the weekend following your event and see the gift they just received marked down 50 percent.

Lesson 2: Offer an element of choice without making it overwhelming

It’s clear that the quality of the gift matters. But isn’t it still important to offer your diverse group of stakeholders a choice of various high-value gifts — items tailored to different demographics like gender, age or geographic location? Again, the research suggests otherwise, and an example from everyday life helps explain why.

Consider a trip to the grocery store. You need spaghetti sauce, and you’re staring at a shelf of 12 different brands and 47 different varieties. Once you finally make a decision, you’re on to cereal — where you encounter even more options. And so it goes throughout the supermarket. No wonder so many of us dread grocery shopping!

That experience is what scientists call “choice overload.” Research shows it triggers frustration, mental fatigue and sometimes even a sense of loss when people realize that they can’t choose everything on offer — definitely not the feelings you’re looking to generate at your next event.

“If you have to waste your time choosing between options that are marginally different then it takes too much energy,” says Axel Lindner, a neurobiologist at the Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research and co-author of a recent study on choice overload published in Nature Human Behavior. “It takes so much effort, and the effort discounts the value of what you eventually get.”

To avoid this problem, it’s a good idea to seek out a gift that provides an element of choice within one high-value category. Sunglasses are a great example. Not only do they appeal across demographics — people of all ages, genders and locations where there’s a need to wear sunglasses to protect their eyes from glare and dangerous UV and blue light — but they also come in a variety of styles to appeal to different lifestyles.

When you offer a sunglass fitting experience, you give your recipients the option to try on and pick out their perfect pair from a wide selection of styles. Golfers can select lenses specially designed for the links. Fashionistas can choose a cat-eye pair. Everyone gets an option and goes home with what they want — without feeling overwhelmed or forced to make a decision between shoes and scarves, watches and luggage.

Lesson 3: Make the experience as memorable as the gift itself

You’ve selected a high-value gift. You’ve made sure it provides options without being overwhelming. Now you just hand it to your recipients and call it a day, right? Not so fast. There’s one final element to the process that helps ensure engagement, and that involves creating an experience out of gift giving.

The Incentive Research Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that funds research studies and develops education serving all segments of the global incentive and recognition industry, stresses the importance of experiential gifting. “For rewards to matter in a world where all things are varied, abundant and accessible,” a recent IRF report declares, “the reward must, more than ever, have a personal meaning and a personalized delivery associated with it.”

That’s a fancy way of saying that the gift matters, but so does the way it’s delivered — what someone experiences when they receive it. Numerous studies into gift giving support that claim and suggest that an authentic experience over a simple gift helps create vivid memories and forge lasting connections. That’s essential in today’s world, where your stakeholders have countless choices for where to give their time, money and loyalty.

As you make your gift selection, seek out providers that staff events with their own employees, people with product knowledge and expertise who can provide a true brand experience for your recipients. Make sure your supplier brings adequate inventory, so no one goes home without their first choice of gift. And keep post-event service in mind as well — if your recipients have any issues with their gifts, a poor customer service experience reflects on you.

One gift, many meaningful connections

With the wide range of event and meeting executions nowadays, it’s still important to deliver a memorable experience and a meaningful thank-you for your special guests, standout performers, golf outing participants or essential workers. Keep these three lessons in mind. No matter how diverse your group, you’re more likely to capture their interest and their support by creating memories that will last a lifetime — with a single high-value gift delivered in a memorable, engaging manner.

For more information contact corporategifts@mauijim.com

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For more Incentive Travel content like this, explore more on SITE’s Motivate blog, here.