Ringing in the season with memorable gifts.
Unique, well-planned corporate holiday gifts may be a budget item from Christmases Past for most companies during a recession. But some marketing-savvy Minnesota firms are still marking the holidays with special gifts that make a lasting impression.
Touched By Angels
Every year since 1958, Campbell Mithun has given a commissioned, artist-crafted angel statue to clients, employees and agency friends. Last year, the agency distributed more than 800.
The angels have made their mark. In his company blog, Campbell Mithun CEO Steve Wehrenberg last year recalled: "For the first three and one-half decades, we sent our angels mostly to clients. In 1985 or so, I remember my client, a junior product manager at Land O'Lakes, pointing out half a dozen or more in our lobby display case that his domineering dad, one of our top Pillsbury clients at the time, brought into their family's home. Apparently our angels mellowed one of Minneapolis' most feared marketing men of that time."
Campbell Mithun's 2011 holiday angel was an important assignment, says Kristine Olson, director of corporate communications for the agency. "As a creative agency built with digital as its core, Campbell Mithun wanted its 2011 holiday angel to celebrate the coming together of art and science-to reflect the agency, the industry and simply to demonstrate how art and science work together to create an object of inspiration and beauty," she says.
To that end, this year's angel started as a pencil sketch, evolved into a digital state thanks to the skills of industrial designer Charlie Wood, and was born using technologies such as 3D printing to prototype the final product. It's also a demonstration of collaboration, says Olson, where an idea is born through a partnership of creative thinking with a story at the center.
Making Spirits Bright
While most companies have scaled back or eliminated holiday parties, Spyglass Creative believes hosting a big bash is the ultimate holiday gift to share. Last year, the firm celebrated its 10th annual holiday party with over-the-top treats for all the senses including exotic animals such as llamas and tigers, stilt walkers, orange boas, hip-hop dancers, DJs, wearable party favors and an eye-popping interactive multi-media display. It's a packed party each year, with clients flying in from L.A., Aspen, Dallas, Paris and beyond.
"This annual gratis get-together is our way of sharing our gratitude for the support from our clients, business partners and associates," says CEO Molly Rice. "The truth is, in recent years our party has been one of the few holiday bright spots for many, as the business soiree has gone the way of the wooly mammoth."
It makes good business sense, too: "As a branding agency, it's a gift that has a welcome upside-our clients talk about it for months afterwards, tag and share photos from the party on Facebook, and capitalize on networking opportunities," Rice says.
Each year, guests leave with a parting gift of event memorabilia tied to the theme. Past gifts include psychedelic wonder glasses, personalized cocktail shakers, glowing bouncing balls, disco ball ornaments and special edition T-shirts. This year, Cirque du Spyglass is the theme, and Spyglass aims to live up to the challenge.
Made In Minnesota
For companies of all types, giving a Minnesota-made gift is a simple but time-honored corporate holiday strategy. Among the myriad of options:
* Mark this year's jubilant re-opening of a Minnesota classic, Faribault Woolen Mill (born in 1865 on the banks of the Cannon River in Faribault), with a corporate gift of blanket, throw or accessory. faribaultmill.com
* Celebrate Duluth Pack's 100th year in its Duluth factory with a gift of a bag for business or leisure. duluthpack.com. For another well-loved Minnesota-based bag option especially for women: Check out the variety at Urban Junket (photo), founded in 2005 by Tracy Dyer, a former Best Buy marketing executive and road warrior who clearly knows how to merge fashion and function in a range of bags. urbanjunket.com
* A Minnesota agricultural gift is a smart choice for many. Thanks to U of M research in developing cold-hardy grapes, Minnesota's wine industry has grown from three wineries in 1997 to more than 37 wineries today, and many are producing award-winning wines suitable for holiday gift-giving. mngrapegrowers.com. Or, this year's bumper crop of Minnesota apples yields abundant possibilities, since Honeycrisp can keep well into January with proper storage. Contact a local orchard: minnesotagrown.com.
* Minnesota-based Tastefully Simple's "Sweet Appreciation" gift ($49.95), has been a hit with firms such as LaBreche to give "because our clients could put the food in the break room and share it with everyone," says Laura Boyd, LaBreche president. " Plus, the gift had a nice tote for someone to keep for filing or storing things. One of our clients even raffled the tote to their employees." tastefullysimple.com
* Susan Albrecht, Macy's corporate sales, recommends a Macy's "Made in Minnesota Merry Basket" ($100), which includes Sturdiwheat Pancake Mix, Pop Crickle Cherry Pecan; a selection of Christmas Point soups and wild rice; and Golden Fig specialty foods.