The tricky business of corporate giveaways

Adam Main

Gift-giving tip sheet

Corporate gifts are always given with the best intentions, but have you ever considered their implications?

Whether it is an expensive bottle of wine or a cheesy travel alarm clock complete with a prominent corporate logo, the person or company giving such gifts should always be aware of the etiquette behind such presents, according to Beijing-based company RedBang.

Since 1998, the graphic design company has been supplying companies, conventions, exhibitions and hotels with customised maps and branded corporate gifts in products ranging from cufflinks to heart-rate monitors and English-Chinese dictionaries.

'Corporate gifts are a very good door opener,' said RedBang creative director Rurik Nystrom.

'They are underestimated and cost relatively little in the annual budget. They are very good for oiling your business. If you can give a person something they find useful, most likely they are going to keep it and remember you. This is good for business.'

Corporate gifts in many mainland companies, however, can be construed as a form of bribery and are often declined.

While that attitude among many organisations is now declining, there is still etiquette to follow when giving gifts, according a RedBang tip sheet.

Mr Nystrom said electronic products were popular corporate gifts with memory sticks now as common as business card holders and desk clocks a decade ago.

'Memory sticks are inexpensive, but the problem is that there are no good-looking ones,' Mr Nystrom said. 'You get pregnant-looking [memory stick] pens and ones made of cheap materials where the cap falls off. Memory is also important. Sixty-four megabytes was standard before, but if you give that now you'd look cheap. It has to be two gigs with lots of juice ... otherwise they'll give it to their secretary.'

Mr Nystrom said RedBang was selling a lot USB jacks that enabled Skype phone calls over the internet.

A good jack, emblazoned with a corporate logo, sells for about HK$300.

'While I'm not supposed to say this, alcohol is also a good thing for a gift. The price of the bottle should be a consideration.

'While an individual will usually buy an inexpensive bottle of Scotch or wine for himself, choose a premium offering when it is a gift. It will always be appreciated.'

Gift-giving tip sheet

When giving a gift to an individual, do so privately in friendship, not in a business-relationship context.

Do not give a valuable gift to one individual in the presence of others. This may cause embarrassment and perhaps cause problems for the recipient, given bribery rules.

Do not take photos of an individual receiving a gift, unless it is presented to an organisation as a whole.

All business negotiations should be completed before gifts are exchanged.

Present the gift to the leader of the team you are dealing with and try to explain the meaning behind it.

Avoid lavish, expensive gifts as this could put the receiving party in the awkward position of having to reciprocate.

When giving gifts to people of similar levels of importance, make sure they are of the same grade. If not, this could strain a relationship.

Wrapping paper is important because colour to Chinese can have various meanings. Red paper is lucky and is a safe bet, while gifts in yellow paper with black writing are for the dead.

Source: RedBang