It’s not just the thought that counts – gifting is a real headache!


Whether we like it or not, Christmas is all about giving and receiving gifts. We just can´t escape it. Some people start hunting for the best gifts as early as in July, keeping a secret stash of goodies hidden in the bottom of their closet. Other people (read: the most of us) are not so keen on planning and opt for sweating, cursing and desperately scanning the malls the weekend before the big holiday. Do the gifts tell us more about the giver or the receiver? And what could the marketers do about it?


In many instances, it´s all about the giver. The choice of a gift is a clear reflection on the giver’s desired self-identity. For example, the giver may want to show their excellent taste or the knowledge of what´s new in town. This is a good opportunity for the marketers to promote new, exclusive ideas and solutions. People find such new things when there is a buzz, often coming from the influencers on social media or celebrities. For the receiver, it may be a real treat to show off that handbag from the new hip designer. On the other hand, it could also be a plain torture for the receiver to go and eat in that new restaurant where the food is eaten among graves in a cemetery (check out this restaurant in Berlin, if you want to give or receive this type of a gift: – an innovative gift but perhaps not a very pleasant experience for the receiver!

Arguably a more altruistic strategy may be to give the the receiver what they want. In this case it may be a good idea to promote more popular products that are given bestsellers but considered a bit too luxurious for everyday life. Marketers have used this gift selling strategy possibly the most. Think of all those Belgian chocolates, silky bathrobes, perfumes, alpaca scarves and scented candles that are being promoted during the holiday season.

It’s not so rosy – there is a catch in this alleged receiver-centric luxury gifting! Not every person desire luxury and the receiver’s desires can be very individual. Therefore it´s also up to the marketer to remind the giver of all the possibilities. A person who values simple lifestyle may find the silken bathrobe stupid and useless. Gift suggestions according to the receiver’s type and profile may be a good idea, especially if the marketers bother to go beyond the clichés such as a pair of slippers to the granny.

A third strategy in gift-giving has recently gained much attention. More and more people choose not to follow the capitalist holiday craze and therefore opt for charity gifts. Giving to the charity is another great way for doing good and avoiding bringing unnecessary things to somebody’s life. The upside of this is that it makes both the giver and receiver feel (and look) like a better person. Tip for this season: the trend of 2018 is to gift recycled! Though there is of course the possibility that the receiver wouldn´t become happy when unwrapping that dusty flower-vase you have had sitting in your living room table for ages!

Finally, let´s not forget the classics for lazy people or when the giver-receiver relationship is not close enough. Gift baskets, sets and gift cards have their own clientele. In this case the marketer puts together an item that is tasteful and possibly the most appealing to any receiver. A gift card (which is a clever way to hide gifting money) has been demonized as a gift by many. It is perceived to represent the laziness of the giver to come up with anything. On the other hand, it could also be a practical and sober solution.

To summarize, we can have few nuggets as food for thought about gift-giving:

  1. Modern consumer culture focuses on gift giving as a practice that expresses and acknowledges both  the giver’s and the receiver’s consumer identities – it is a delicate balance.
  2. The name tag on the gift doesn’t just carry your name. It also carries your valuesystem, as you want it to appear to the receiver.
  3. There are no silver bullets in giftgiving. This Christmas just go with your hunch and you will probably be right!


Marianne & Apramey Dube

Doctoral Students


Photo: Pixabay