Corporate Gifts: Tasteful or Tacky?


Gift-Giving Tips for Business Owners That Deliver the Right Message

As a business owner, you’re probably constantly thinking about ideas to gain new customers and retain the ones you already have.  You may have even tried corporate gift-giving strategies to woo potential customers and drum up new business.

Giving gifts can be a solid tactic to keep your business in the consciousness of new and existing customers. However, it can also backfire in a myriad of unexpected ways.  Thankfully, with a little thought and prudence, business owners can avoid potential pitfalls with generous gestures. Here are a few tasteful gift-giving tips that will help business owners select and extend gifts that send the right message to their customers.

Set the Right Intention Before You Buy or Give Anything

The most crucial point to remember about corporate gift-giving is the intention behind the gesture.  For instance, if you give a gift that is clearly intended to win a contract or appears like an attempt to buy a customer – this can be construed as bribery – a stigma you certainly don’t want attached to your business reputation.

However, if the gift is a genuine display of goodwill or appreciation, then this is totally acceptable.  Sound judgment rules the game of tasteful corporate gift-giving, and ulterior motives should be set aside when using this business strategy to obtain or retain customers.

Timing is Everything: When (and When Not) to Give Corporate Gifts

It’s a commonly accepted practice to give corporate gifts around the holidays.  After all, the holidays are a time of celebration and benevolence.  To wit, food and beverage gift baskets are often the go-to choice business owners opt for when giving gifts to customers during the holiday season.

The wrong time to give a corporate gift is when there is some kind of business deal in play.  For example, if you give a gift in the midst of negotiating a money-making contract with a client, this might not be the most appropriate timing.  In this scenario, the timing of the gift could be construed as unethical.

Get the Price Right

This can be a big dilemma for many business owners attempting to make a great impression on customers via gift-giving.  Too cheap, and you could come off looking, well, cheap.  Too lavish, and the gesture could be viewed as overdone or contrived.  The trick is to find that price-point sweet spot where you’re giving something of quality without being extravagant.

Additionally, aside from working within a corporate budget, business owners should also consider the repercussions gifts might have on their customers.  To explain, if the gift is super-pricey, your customer might be on the hook for paying taxes on the gift.

In reality, the IRS has various stipulations on the cost and conditions of giving gifts when it comes to the recipient’s obligation to report it on their tax returns.  According to corporate gift-giving gurus at Spoonful of Comfort, gifts under $100 are considered “de minimis” and generally need not be claimed on tax returns.  All this considered, it’s important to be mindful of the price of corporate gifts to avoid potential tax woes for new or existing customers.

A Word About Giving Branded Merchandise (Be Selective)

We’ve all seen them, and we’ve all received them at some point. We’re talking about the tchotchkes, keychains, and drink koozies with business logos slapped on them that are tossed out as promotional ploys.  While there is a time and place for this type of branded gifting, this type of giveaway is exactly that – a giveaway.  Branded bric-a-brac might not be viewed as a genuine gift and should be avoided as a tactic to win new customers or keep existing ones.

On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with placing your brand on a tasteful gift basket or a high-quality item you intend to present to a customer.  In fact, an item of value with your business name or logo on it can make a great impression on your clients.


As you can see, corporate gift-giving poses a lot of potential and pitfalls for business owners. The main takeaway point to remember here is that with the right intention and investment of thoughtful consideration – your gift-giving efforts can make a brilliant impact on your current and future customers.


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Founded in 1994 by the late Pamela Hulse Andrews, Cascade Business News (CBN) became Central Oregon’s premier business publication. •

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