The Latest Ideas and Trends for Corporate Gifting
By Beth Buehler
When I receive a surprise package delivered to my doorstep or mailbox, it definitely captures my attention. How about you? With this thought in mind, Destination Colorado talked to two Colorado-based companies, International Gifting Company and Too Haute Cowgirls Popcorn, to discover the latest ideas and trends for corporate gifting.
Based in Aspen, Lady Fuller is president of International Gifting Company (IGC), which got its start in 2009 when her blue jean stores (The Blues Jean Bar) began to hold large-scale blue jean fittings at corporate campuses around the country, such as Google, Oracle and Facebook in Silicon Valley. Originally called Blue Jean Events, the initial idea was to bring retail to busy professionals. The concept was split off into its own business, renamed ICG, and expanded to work with more than 250 vendors in order to host multi-branded pop-up shops and marketplace events on-site and online.
In Denver, Amy Kirkpatrick is the co-founder and owner of Too Haute Cowgirls Popcorn, which was initially established in Carbondale and is focused on handcrafting five gourmet caramel popcorns in Colorado. The popcorns are popular for serving at meetings and events and delivering as sweet gifts.
Here’s what these two entrepreneurs have to say about the latest ideas and trends for corporate gifting
Destination Colorado: How has corporate gifting changed in recent years?
Lady Fuller, International Gifting Company: Before the pandemic, corporate gifting was becoming center stage at incentive trips, and IGC often felt we were the main event. We found that clients were moving away from a standardized gift (e.g., pair of sunglasses) to more choice-driven gifting experiences. We often told our clients, choice is the new go-to gift. We are one of the only gifting companies that offered shopping experiences, where guests choose their own gifts. Already have sunglasses? No problem, here is a backpack, headphones, a blanket or shoes!
The corporate gifting industry was massively affected by COVID and came to a complete standstill at the end of March 2020. As a result, we took a huge pivot during lockdown, and started to offer gift boxes delivered to homes, including Vacation in a Box and At Home Gift Box for clients, Desk Productivity Box for employees, and virtual gift experiences. All of these new ideas and the ability to customize our offerings have been very successful.
Amy Kirkpatrick, Too Haute Cowgirls Popcorn: With the explosion of online platforms, box companies, curators, etc., it’s a very competitive space. In our experience, companies buy our products because they are looking for something very unique that their clients would not have likely experienced before, and they understand that small firms like ours don’t compete on price but rather quality and uniqueness. You’re not going to find our popcorn in a dollar or discount store. Corporate gifting has become a highly niche category and small firms like ours are celebrated and supported which is really lovely.
Buyers also like to support mission-driven companies more. When you work with us, you know you’re helping to support women and children with barriers to employment and education. We do that through volunteerism, financial support, and a newly created summer internship for a deserving but marginalized college student.
DC: What are your top tips for meeting and event planners in regard to selecting gifts?
LF: First, having unique and fresh ideas is super important. We ask clients a series of questions to gauge their vibe, and we usually come back to them with 10 to 20 new ideas they may have never seen before. Clients love this collaborative and curated process and come back to us over and over, since we make each experience personal. Next, I think meeting planners really need to understand their clients’ level of comfort with traveling, meeting in person and preference for virtual meetings. We are having such great success with virtual experiences (e.g., yoga, music, cooking, gardening, coffee break and casino night).
Finally, I think planners really need to know their audience’s demographics. Often we find that meeting planners haven’t given enough understanding to this part of the puzzle, and they miss giving their clients the last 10 percent of wow.
DC: What are some current trends with gifting?
LF: Our virtual experiences and boxes—we’ve had such amazing success with gift boxes. So many fun ideas!
AK: Customization is certainly on trend. We have seen an increase in corporate customers producing an insert for our gift boxes, if they’re for specific meetings or virtual events. And there is an increase in requests to add logos to the customized cards inside, which is a nice touch. Buyers also are looking for fun, unique, and easy gifting options with clean and simple packaging. People are vocal about the desire to not use Styrofoam and to limit plastic in the shipping process, which we stopped using years ago.
With the work-at-home reality that is likely to stick around, we are seeing corporate customers send individual gifts to their employees and clients. In particular, it seems many corporations are sending birthday gifts. They send us a list for the month or entire year, and we send a personalized happy birthday box to the recipient’s doorstep.
DC: What can your company do on-site or online for meetings and events?
LF: We can do anything on-site like the Jean Bar. For at home gifting, a Virtual Work Box.
AK: Most planners buy our perfectly sized bags in bulk for on-site events. They use them in gift bags, at snack bars, as place settings, for in-room treats and more. We also can do customized clear bags with a company’s logo and message on the bag. Popcorn icebreakers are great for in-person events … anything to get people talking and laughing and loose, all without alcohol. Our popcorn allows for that because people are usually chuckling when they read the names and are always eager to open a bag.
In addition, we do a lot of multi-destination shipments of all of our gift boxes. Corporate customers get a bulk discount, and we make it very easy. All they need to do is send us their spreadsheet of recipients, and we drop-ship to all locations. As mentioned earlier, we can customize the box with either a custom logo sticker, card, and/or other inserts.
DC: Do you ever tie gifting into particular activities that are happening at a corporate meeting/event?
LF: We do Western Bars that are super successful in Colorado. We do cowboy boots, jean jackets, leather branding, etc. Total fun!
AK: I didn’t even know it until I started asking my customers in locations outside of Colorado how they found us, but I learned that some of our biggest customers were Google searching for Western-themed items for their particular event. We tie in well to anything related to the West.
Utilize these latest ideas and trends for corporate gifting to add a little magic back into surprising attendees and employees with something new and different!
Beth Buehler has been editor of Colorado Meetings + Events magazine for 16 years and helped launch Mountain Meetings magazine in 2013. She has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado.