Ultimate Corporate Gift Giving Guide: 2023 Edition

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Episode 8 | Built to Market Podcast

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It's the most wonderful time of the year! No, not cookie-sharing or pumpkin spice latte, or even football season. It's corporate gift-giving season!

Like Oprah's coveted favorites, this guide will lead you through a curated selection of top corporate holiday gifts for the year. Forget boring branded corporate gifts this year. Give your employees, customers, and community something they will absolutely love and, better yet - use.

We will dive into what makes the perfect gift for employees, customers, and leads. Discuss when to imprint your logo and branding and when to avoid it. In conclusion, we'll reveal the 2023 list of Ultimate Corporate Gifts, including some honorable mentions from years past that will surely please everyone on your list. Let's get gifting!

Who makes the "nice" list?

Everyone loves a good gift. Nothing says "thank you" like a curated gift - especially one people look forward to, find useful, helpful, or even delightfully unexpected. In the world of corporate gift-giving, this might not be the norm. We've all received a gift we've had no use for that we donated or, worse, thrown away. That's not good for the brand, and that's not good for the environment. 

So, who gets a gift from this company investment? You should consider three groups for a gifting program: your employees and fellow teammates, customers, and the community.

Employee and teammate gifts

Employee and teammate gifts can vary. If you have a small group, consider a branded item - most like the one you are gifting customers - and something personal for the team. After all, your employees are your number one advocates and cheerleaders. If your team is remote, allow plenty of time for delivery and consider those additional shipping costs in your budget.

Customer gifts

Customer gifts depend on the number of customers you have. If you are a smaller company with under 20 customers, you can curate one special gift for all your customers. For over 20 customers, I recommend that you tier your gifts based on customer type or size. This is mainly subjective. A few ideas for you to consider would be:

  • Customer size - how much they spent with you that year
  • Customer loyalty - how many years they have been a customer
  • Customer contacts - how many individuals do you need to provide a gift for if you work with more than one Point of Contact?

Community gifts

And last but certainly not least would be your community. Your community is made up of those who are your loyal fans: vendors, digital followers, and email subscribers. You may choose to treat your vendors like you do customers. But I highly doubt you have your digital subscribers' or social media followers' mailing addresses. So what gift can you give them that doesn't feel too salesly this time of year? Here are a few ideas:

  • Consider a freebie of very high value with an exclusive offer code. You would typically charge for this freebie and give it away only this time of year to loyal fans. 
  • Can't digitize your services? That happens a lot in the built environment. Instead, consider teaming up with a local organization to turn your followers into fundraisers - except you will donate on their behalf. You can donate a publicized amount in exchange for an action from your community, such as a tag or share.  

Branded gifts

Now, shifting our focus to logos and branding, let's discuss the importance of strategic placement. Few things are more detrimental than a poorly positioned logo. 

First, the easiest thing to do is partner with a promotions company. You digitize your logo once with them, and the professionals will ensure it looks good regardless of the item. This is the best option, even if you have a graphic designer with whom you can collaborate for this project. Professionals specializing in imprinting have extensive experience with thousands of logos on various items. They know how the logo is supposed to look and what colors look best depending on the item.

If you choose not to follow that approach, ensure you receive a digital proof of your item before printing. This proof previews your item, showcasing your logo's placement, size, and color before it goes into production. This is your one chance to make sure everything looks right. There's nothing more disheartening than investing hundreds of dollars in gifts only to have your logo fall short of its best presentation. If you are ever in doubt, call the imprinting company you are partnering with to ask questions and what they recommend.

Lastly, always send your logo in the format specified - usually an EPS file. And if you have brand colors, be sure to communicate those to your imprinting partner.

The list criteria

It's time to embrace the spirit of giving! Without delay, I've chosen the best of the best from the 2023 Ultimate Corporate Gift Giving Guide for you this year. These gifts are versatile, suitable for clients and employees, and some are so exceptional that you might be tempted to treat yourself!

Every item in this selection has undergone review and testing over the past year. You can be confident that you're receiving nothing but Illumine8's personally approved recommendations.

When testing these items, I look for things that tick off a few categories. First, if you are going to brand something, you want that item to be of high quality. There is nothing worse than putting your logo on a cheaply made item. What does that say about you and your brand?

Secondly, the preference is for inherently useful gifts. Something that makes life easier, something you might use daily or weekly.

Thirdly, sustainability is a critical consideration in product recommendations. This item, like a refillable water bottle or insulated grocery tote, might reduce waste. I strive to find items made of recycled materials or have a sustainability program.

Last, I promote the idea of prioritizing the customer's preference first. Some people want swag, some don't, and that's okay. Considering teaming up with a company like Givsly. Givsly will give your customers the choice of a gift or a donation to a charity of your choice. You end up spending the same budget, but you can feel good about either choice your customer makes.

Okay, let's dive in and get gifting.

Top 5 gift-giving picks for 2023



BioLite Alpenglow Lamp

This is a must-have if you know someone picky about the lighting. It's portable and easily chargeable with a standard USB-A cord, offering up to 200 hours on low or 5 hours on high. Whether you want ambient lighting to set the mood or task-based lighting for detailed work, this device has you covered with 8 light modes, including options like candle flicker or rotating colors. Inspired by nature, BioLite is a Climate Neutral Certified brand that produces innovative lighting solutions and extends light and energy access to over 5 million off-grid individuals daily. 



A quality bag is universally appreciated, whether for transporting work essentials, collecting kids' toys, or managing the aftermath of a playful puppy. The Medium Canvas Storage Bucket is our 2023 Corporate Gift Guide recommendation, surpassing the typical run-of-the-mill tote bag. Ideal for accommodating more oversized items that don't fit the standard tote, it's versatile for storing dog toys, kids' toys, magazines, gym gear, and more. I use mine for dog toys and another as a trunk organizer.

Shorebags is a woman-owned company and is committed to sustainable materials and production. 


TOPO Designs Y-Pack:

I first encountered TOPO designs at the Denver Airport this past spring for some season-ending snowboarding. Their apparel is excellent for recreation and weekend wear, but I recommend the Y-Pack for a customer or employee gift. During the INBOUND conference this year, I visited their pop-up shop in Boston, and the Y-Pack has quickly become a go-to backpack for work and travel.

The pack has a flap design, excellent for quick, easy access - no fussing with side zippers. It has a laptop sleeve for commuting and a side pocket for your water bottle.

TOPO uses recycled materials to make products that are durable and ethically produced.


40oz Rhome Travel Tumbler:

The "Stanley" trend is strong, but this 40oz Rhome Travel Tumbler can fit in your car cup holder. The Rhome Travel Tumbler is a go-to cup, keeping your ice cold all day without melting, even when working outside. The top keeps your drink safe from sawdust or the like.

Pair your tumbler with a branded sticker pack for added fun.


Phoozy XP3:
If you are an outdoor enthusiast, nothing is worse than reaching for your phone to see one of two dreaded lock screen warnings: "Your phone needs to cool down before you can use it" in the summer. In the winter, frigid temps can kill your battery faster than snow shoveling can throw out your back. This little koozie or your phone - hence Phoozy - solves all that. Throw your phone in this little pocket with cards and cash before you tuck it in your winter coat or waist pack. Bonus - it even has an anti-microbial lining! Hello, charged phone, goodbye germs.

Phoosey is also a sustainable company that eliminates all plastics in packaging, uses recycled materials wherever possible, and prints packaging with plant-based inks.

The final gift suggestion is here, and given that the majority of our top gifts are in the $25+ budget range, here's a standout gift option that aligns with the criteria and is budget-friendly.

One more treat...

Ice Cream Sock:

This may be a niche habit, but Illumine8 runs on ice cream. I can relate to those who eat the whole pint or have had the fateful experience of someone taking your frozen treat. I have many opinions about ice cream, but we can all agree that cold hands and melty ice cream are not preferred. Enter the ice cream sock. This little invention has so many uses. It can mark the ice cream as yours. It can help prevent melty ice cream when traveling from the store to the freezer. It can protect your hands when taking a bite straight from the carton.

Best of all, this little gift is light to ship and easy on the budget. What more could you ask for?

Here's to happy gifting! Enjoy embracing the spirit of giving this season and ensure you never present a poorly received branded corporate gift again!

Looking for more gift guides?

Our reviews from years past are full of ideas:

2022 Company Branded Gift Guide

2021 Business Holiday Gift Guide

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