Bruce Fox Blog

Awards & Corporate Gifts: Trolling For Trends

Posted by Dave Miller on Sep 7, 2016 1:30:00 PM
Read Time - 5 Minutes


Hurry up and scroll down so we don’t hafta look at this creepy thing anymore!













There, that should be enough scrolling.

So, what’s up with the troll doll?  Well, I wanted to address the topic of what trends we’re seeing in the world of recognition awards and corporate gifts, and I didn’t want to mistake fads (like the troll doll) for legitimate shifts in what appeals to buyers and recipients of awards and gifts.  There are numerous points along the bandwagon route where passengers can jump on.  And off.  Fads (e.g. Pokemon GO) are short-lived; trends (e.g. “augmented reality”) are far stickier and have greater lasting power.

Identifying valid trends, and distinguishing them from mere fads, is essential to your business.  Ask your supplier partners what’s trending in their world.  In doing so, you’ll discover rare jewels among the pet rocks—valuable solutions and possibilities that endure and set you apart.

Here are some lasting trends we’ve seen developing in the recognition award and corporate gift industry:

1. Off The Wall

Consider what today’s workplace environment looks like.  Pods, cubicles, job-sharing and virtual offices all mean there are fewer walls to put a nail into for a wall-hanging award.  An open concept yields more horizontal space than vertical, so items for the desk are more popular—and practical—than ever.

2. The Full Meal Deal

It’s much more commonplace these days for the award package to include an array of other items in a neat, single-drop kit.  With our awards, we’ve packed magnets, hats, jackets, business cards, romance cards, congratulatory letters, gift cards, catalogs, etc. that are aligned with the program objectives.  Everything and the kitchen sink…or would that be kits in sync?

3. What’s Old Is New Again

Keep your parachute pants and leg-warmers ready!  Trends, designs, and materials are all fair game for recycling.  Reclaimed and repurposed materials are very much in vogue.  Just tune in to almost any DIY network program and you’re likely to see objects and materials—or even entire spaces—that are reborn.  Nostalgia is not suited for everything—have you seen the new “Vacation” movie?—but it can be a powerful emotional cue as a design element.  Here’s something my daughter and I made recently for her room—a 5-foot diameter peace sign made out of old license plates:

I take some comfort in knowing that she’s not the only 11-year-old hippie on the planet.

4. Stunt Doubles

We once had a customer who wanted their large-scale awards sent to a Caribbean location for presentation at the closing banquet.  We asked them how they planned to re-pack and ship back to the recipient.  Cue the blank stares, complete with crickets and tumbleweeds in the background.  Our alternative was to offer a single stand-in award to be presented at the event.  Meanwhile, individual awards were produced and drop-shipped to arrive when the recipients got back home.  This greatly reduced the costs for shipping, the inconvenience to the recipient, and the risk of damage to the awards.  Winner, winner at the banquet dinner!

5. Distress Signals

S-O-S…scuff our stuff!  Aged and distressed finishes, with the exception of acid-washed jeans, have lived beyond the fad stage and are still very much in demand.  Where we once spent a great deal of effort polishing metals to a flawless finish, we are now purposely oxidizing and adding patina finishes as an expression of timelessness. 

6. Kitsch Where Kitsch Can

So “kitsch” isn’t an entirely fair term, but it’s a fun word, so I’m going with it!  In the context of recognition, it’s not the garish connotation that applies, but one of sentimentality—where those in the know “get it.”  Incorporate a theme or event or a mascot for an indelible impression.  Is your client taking award recipients to an island resort?  How about an award designed to look like sand and water?  Souvenirs are powerful reminders—there’s a reason every airport on the planet has snow globes and shot glasses for sale.

7. Functional

Workspace is premium real estate, and most people don’t want another desk potato taking up precious elbow room.  We’ve seen a spike in awards that also function as clocks, calendars, business card displays, pen caddies, and—more recently—mobile device caddies and charging stations.  People like gadgets that are useful, and awards that remain in view are certainly more effective than those that are stashed or trashed.

8. In Living Color

One of the best TV shows ever!  But that’s beside the point…

As with any other media you can think of, awards and gifts have evolved from black & white/plain brown wrapper to vivid, high-resolution colors.  Logos have become much more complex and ornate—drop-shadows, half-tones, and vignettes.  (Look no further than thread counts for embroidery these days.)  The era of the single-color, monolithic logo is all but extinct. Spot color is fading faster than a red awning in Phoenix.


9. The Great Divide

Where recognition was once directed at 20% or so of the audience, it has now been extended to as much as half the field.  But the overall budgets are largely static.  Here’s the math of what that looks like in a hypothetical program with 3,000 eligible participants:

Total Population 3,000 eligible 3,000 eligible
Total Awards 600 recipients 1,500 recipients
% Recognized 20% 50%
Level 1 100 @ $200 = $20,000 250 @ $100 = $25,000
Level 2 200 @ $125 = $25,000 1,250 @ $40 = $50,000
Level 3 300 @ $100 = $30,000  
Total Budget $75,000 $75,000

As with any product niche, awards and gifts are subject to the trends of the marketplace.  Each of the trends listed provides an opportunity for you to ask your customers, “Have you considered…?”  This keeps the conversation going, pushes the boundaries of what is possible, and classifies you as a savvy solution provider who is in touch with what works.  Enlist and challenge your suppliers to help you…and find new suppliers if they can’t.

Get Started

DaveBlogImage1.jpgDave Miller is VP of Sales & Marketing at Bruce Fox, Inc. and a professional writer by virtue of the fact his company is paying him to write this blog. When Dave gets cold, he stands in the corner, where it’s 90 degrees.  The goal of his blog is to “edu-tain” (educate + entertain) promotional products distributors, with a focus on custom work.  Dave also finds it very awkward to write about himself in the third person.

Tags: Benefits for the end clients