Give holiday GIFTS - not swag

The world of hyper-customizing physical products is here. 

B2C brands like Nike, Apple and Shutterfly let us hyper-customize our shoes, gadgets and photos however we want. 

So then why do most holiday corporate gifts still suck?

It largely comes down to a dirty 4 letter word… S-W-A-G. 


Swag or promotional products were never intended to be gifts, they were intended to advertise or promote brands in an inexpensive, blanketed and non-customized way.  

And there’s nothing wrong with that, who doesn’t like a good fidget spinner? I love mine from ADP. But don’t send me YOUR swag for the holidays or [insert meaningful occasion here].

I mean, who gives their kid a Peppa Pig doll for Christmas with their company’s logo on it, with love from Marketing Santa? 


That’s right, nobody. 

It sounds ridiculous when you say it like that, but unfortunately many organizations are still giving the equivalent of branded Peppa Pig dolls to their key stakeholders (employees, clients and prospects). 

And it’s not their fault. Most “corporate gift providers” are promotional agencies disguised in corporate gift clothing and still hawking crystal, chip-board and cheaply-made tsotchkes as acceptable holiday gifts to the detriment of their clients. 

So while I own a gifting agency that strives to create unique, creative gifts for our clients that don’t suck, I want to give you some of our secret sauce for free. So if you don’t want to hire my creative, good-looking team, you can still DIY some awesome holiday gifts with these 5 quick hacks. 

  1. Find a unique, quality product that can be decorated. With the re-emergence of American manufacturing, there are numerous USA manufacturers popping up with with quality, gift products that can be easily decorated and customized (at Musser & Company, we partner with over 18 USA manufacturers; from big brands like Shinola to small businesses like Autumn Summer). The best materials for decorating are products made from wood, leather, glass and aluminum. These materials can be easily customized through laser technology.

  2. Find a decorator. Type “laser-engraving services in [your city]” into Google. A score of vendors should pop up who personalize cutting boards, coasters, YETI’s etc. through laser-engraving. If your laser-vendor is any good, they will definitely be able to customize your gifts with your logo and recipients’ names. If you find a rockstar engraver, they’ll be able to co-brand your gifts with your brand, client logos AND names. If you can’t find a local laser-engraver, try typing in “Embossing/Debossing services;” another effective decorating method.

  3. Create a cool gift box. The un-boxing process has become a massive exposure opportunity on Instagram and LinkedIn video, and so we definitely recommend putting your customized gifts in gift boxes. You don’t have to learn how to handcraft wooden gift boxes from scratch and carry a nauseating amount of overhead like we did… You can find nice wooden boxes from your local craft store or Etsy for cheap and stain them yourself for an extra touch of gifting flair (or make your intern do it).

  4. Include a wax-sealed letter. It is very easy to create your own custom wax-seal online and once you have it created - say good-bye to boring, branded stationery. It takes a few tries to learn the wax-sealing process but you’ll be a crafty pro in no time. Include personalized letter telling your employee/client why you appreciate them on nice cardstock or parchment paper. It may seem like nuance, but these little touches go a long way

  5. Deliver the gifts in person whenever possible. If your employees and clients are local, this beautiful, thoughtful gift you’ve designed is the best reason ever to say hello! If you aren’t personally able to deliver the gifts, make sure someone on your team close to you in rank delivers them (not the time to send your intern). It’s a great time to check-in and get a pulse on how your employees and clients are doing, while deepening these valuable relationships.

I hope this swag rant bemused you and these 5 DIY tips for holiday gifting inspired you. And if you’re thinking, “this guy must be on that Bob Marley stuff if he thinks I’m going to do all that work for my employees/clients,” you can always just pay Musser & Company money and we’ll design holiday gifts covered in awesome sauce for you.

Caleb Musser 

Founder & Creative Director

[Note: In this post, we focused on why swag is misused for corporate gifting and what to do instead. We did not tackle the tired, worn-out holiday gifts like holiday hams and fruit baskets. Namely, because we all know those gifts are lamer than a 1-winged duck.]