red turkey icon red ham icon red steak icon

The High Emotional Value in Holiday Business Gifts

The most effective holiday employee gifts, with the highest ROI (in terms of enhanced employee relationships and goodwill) are those that provide emotional value beyond the dollar value of the gift.  In fact, some of the best employee gifts have a very small dollar value, but generate powerful positive emotions that make them very impactful.  This article describes how CEO’s and Human Resource managers can take advantage of high emotional value in holiday employee gifts to maximize ROI.

Emotional Value

Consider a situation that occurs often in just about any household:  Mom has an old roasting pan in the kitchen.  It has little dollar value.  In fact, she could buy any of several similar (perhaps even better) varieties for a few dollars in any department store.  But this one is a treasure because it was a gift from her now deceased grandmother.  Every time she uses it fond memories of her childhood come to mind.  It carries an emotional value far beyond the market value of the pan.  There is probably no dollar amount she would accept if someone offered to buy it from her.

Although you may never quite reach the emotional value of Mom’s roasting pan in your holiday employee gifts, this principle will still make all the difference.  Greater employee goodwill, loyalty, and productivity can result from holiday gifts with higher emotional value, and with greater cost efficiency.

For example, the gift of a turkey at Thanksgiving costs just a few dollars but arouses wonderful nostalgic feelings and memories associated with that traditional American holiday.  Few would not be warmed by memories of Grandma’s house, the aroma of roast turkey in the kitchen, and being surrounded by beloved family and friends.

Other examples are turkey or ham for Christmas and Easter, and the traditional gold watch at retirement.  Food especially carries high emotional value for special occasions and is almost universally appreciated as employee gifts.  Let family and cultural traditions work for you!

Appearance Is Everything

Because the highest ROI comes from emotional value, imprints of advertising slogans or logos, etc., on holiday employee gifts will usually decrease their impact.  Self-promotion of any kind included with the gift makes you and your company look selfish and cheap.  Leave this for pens, hats, cups, golf balls, and other promotional items that serve entirely different purposes.

The food items you give on special occasions should have perceived high quality or you will be perceived as being cheap.  Private label items and gift certificates to mass merchandise stores also carry a low-value perception and should be avoided.  Stay with well-respected brand names.

Regardless of how convenient they may be, cash or cash equivalents should rarely if ever be considered as employee gifts.

Value Recognition

The value of the gift, both emotional and market value, is primarily recognized at the point of giving by both the giver and the receiver.  For example, an employer who gives a gift certificate for a holiday turkey to an employee is better appreciated and fondly remembered whether or not the employee actually redeems the certificate.  The retiring employee appreciates the gold watch whether or not he actually wears it.  The employer has realized much of the benefit regardless of what happens after the point of giving.

However, you can maximize ROI by giving employee gifts that will also have recognition value at other points in time, such as the point of use and the points of recollection.  This is illustrated by the theoretical model below.  The Y-axis shows perceived value.  The X-axis shows the passage of time, with points of value recognition indicated.  Three examples are shown by the lines representing gifts of a Thanksgiving turkey, a gold watch at retirement, and a cash gift.  The area under each line represents total ROI (enhanced relationships) for that type of gift.

Emotional Value of Gift Certificates

The cash gift carries the lowest ROI.  Retailer-issued gift certificates and gift cards and other cash-equivalents show similar results.  Even though it may have a high market value at the point of giving, cash carries little emotional value and is quickly forgotten as it becomes mingled in the pocketbook with other cash.  Most of the time the recipient will not even remember what was purchased, so the cash carries little recollection value.

The gold watch is appreciated at the time of giving and is fondly remembered for years thereafter.  But if the recipient chooses not to wear it there is little value at the point of use.

The Thanksgiving turkey has the highest ROI of the three examples of employee gifts because it carries high emotional value at the point of giving as well as at the point of use and the point of recollection.  Recollection value will be especially high if the employee receives the turkey year after year.  Gift certificates which can be applied to only one type of item (for example, a turkey or ham) are generally perceived the same as the item itself and will produce similar results.

Gift Certificates

Gift certificates are nearly universally appreciated as equivalent to the item they are good for.  So they carry most if not all of the emotional value of the item.  They are also significantly more convenient employee gifts and may enjoy some important tax advantages for both the giver and the receiver.  For food gifts, certificates also avoid handling problems and costs, as well as food safety concerns with perishables.

Don’t Sacrifice Emotional Value!

If the employee discovers that he must pay taxes on the gift certificate, or if he has trouble redeeming it, his frustration may be enough to negate the emotional value of the gift.  Here are a few considerations to help you maintain the highest possible emotional value:

  • The certificate should be good for only one type of product, rather than a cash-equivalent certificate good for any of a broad variety of items.  This will qualify it for the IRS de minimus exclusion for employee gifts, making the gift non-taxable for the employee.
  • Make sure the certificates are redeemable at any retailer carrying the item, not just at specific stores.  The broader the reach the more convenient it will be for your employees, especially if they are spread out across a wide geography.
  • The supplier should have a proactive retailer pre-selling program in place to make sure retailers will accept his certificate.  This may dramatically reduce the frustration of your recipients having to search for a retailer who will accept it.


To maximize employee satisfaction and lower your costs, always look for holiday employee gifts with the highest possible emotional value.  Gift certificates for free turkeys or hams are hard to beat.  Your employees will appreciate your gift-giving with long-lasting recollections and the resulting benefits of loyalty and productivity.

©2018 PFR Corporate Gifts, LLC   May be reprinted unedited in whole with proper credit given.

For other articles related to employees, gifts go to our “Best Practices” section.

PFR Corporate Gifts, LLC
1469 North 1200 West
Orem, UT 84057

Telephone  801-569-2381
Fax     801-569-1629

Email   [email protected]

Gift certificates for turkey, ham, and more. The perfect employee gifts!