The Gift Card – The Lamest, Most Uncreative Holiday Gift in the History of Gifting

Gifts Cards are a Lame Holiday Gift

The holiday season is fast and furious for me as a digital marketer. I have the opportunity to help several companies with a wide range of holiday campaigns, from Search Engine Marketing campaigns to Facebook campaigns to Email Marketing campaigns. It’s an exciting time of year for digital marketers. But, as I’m brainstorming and developing campaigns, I’m often researching top gift ideas as part of the process (across industries). And it’s not long before I come across the dreaded gift card.

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while, as gift card buying has hit an alarming rate. I have nothing against the idea of a gift card. Instead, I have a big problem with the idea of giving one to family members and close friends (the people you will be gifting the most during the holidays). In a world where most people are moving at light speed to balance work, kids, friends, etc., I think the gift card has been a byproduct of this madness. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to see gift lists now filled with “Gift Card From {enter company here}.” And that’s downright pathetic.

Sure, it’s easy, it’s fast, and overall, it gets the job done. But if you take a closer look, it’s not hard to find several key problems with giving gift cards to your loved ones. Let’s explore this in greater detail below.

Nothing Says I Love You Like a Piece of Plastic with a Number on It…
I love you honey, and that’s why I bought you a piece of plastic that looks like a credit card with a 30 digit number on it and a dollar amount. :) Think about it, if you know someone really well, have been observing what they do, while listening to them over an entire year, would you really give them a gift card for the holidays? No, you wouldn’t. You would think about what they like, observe what they need, identify things they would love to have, and then create a gift list filled with those items. Then, when the holidays arrive, you would have a great list of presents to buy them, without having to settle for a lousy gift card.

I don’t know anyone that believes a gift card communicates “I love you more than anything”, or “You’ve been a great friend over the years”, or “Thank you for being a great mom or dad!” Come on people, give up the gift cards. And you wonder why the divorce rate is so high! :)

Low Risk, Low Reward
Anyone that knows me understands that I am not risk-averse. Like business, gifting is a high risk, high reward activity. If you take risks gifting-wise, it could pay off huge dividends for you. On the other hand, if you stay conservative and buy something like a gift card, you may very well get a lukewarm response. Hey, can you blame the recipient? You just handed them a piece of plastic!

When you buy a unique gift, you come armed with the element of surprise. This can be incredibly powerful when gifting. If you hit a home run, that gift will be remembered for a long time. It also shows that you went the extra mile, thought about the person, identified their likes and dislikes, and made a decision to buy a gift. That alone will go a long way… And, if your effort fails, the worst thing that could happen is they don’t like the gift. They’ll still remember that you took a risk and bought them an actual gift. That’s right, an original gift idea, versus that flimsy gift card.

By the way, a recent study by Plastic Jungle found that Americans are sitting on $30 billion in unused gift cards. Think about it, someone receives a gift card, doesn’t really care, forgets about it, and the card is left unused. Wow, what a great gift idea…

A Better Approach to Gifting
OK, so you know where I stand with gift cards. But I’m not here just to hammer gift cards. I’m going to provide a bulleted list of recommendations that can help you break out of the gift card cycle. The approach I’m going to list below is relatively simple to follow, and can make a big impact on your gifting results (yes, I always think in terms of marketing) . Sure, you could still fail and choose the wrong gift, but you could also end up looking brilliant. Remember, high risk, high reward.

Try This Approach to Gifting:
* Identify and list all of the top interests someone has.
* Document the various things they do in a typical week or month.
* Identify pain points for that person. For example, if they jog a lot, do they have the right gear, the right sneakers, do they have a treadmill, are they tracking how far they go, etc?
* Listen to them. That’s right. If you actually listen, you can identify several possible gift ideas. The problem is that most people don’t listen…
* Take Risks. As mentioned earlier, don’t fall for the lame gift card. Sure, it’s easy, but so is buying lunch from McDonalds. The former will make you look dull, while the latter can kill you. Both are bad. Try and come up with something that could surprise them gift-wise. Remember, the element of surprise is powerful.

Leave The Gift Cards Behind, Be Unique, Be Creative
If you follow the bullets above, I’m confident you can find several gift ideas per person that have the potential to blow them away. Gifting should be fun, it should not be an afterthought, and it should not take three minutes at Barnes and Noble or Lowes. Instead, you should take the time and effort to come up with unique gift ideas for family and friends.

Remember, you can be successful at this… You’re not lame. You’re not boring. You remember what people say. You’ve noticed what people need. And when you come through like a gifting superstar, they just might remember what you gave them forever. And as they jump for joy after opening your gift, they can throw the wrapping paper on the person next to them. You know, the person that just got a lame gift card. :)

Happy Holidays.