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Ideas: Maximize ROI Using Gift Certificates as Holiday Promotional Incentives


Some of the most effective consumer promotions around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays may be those that include incentive gifts with high emotional value. In fact, the best holiday promotional incentives could have a relatively small dollar value as long as they generate enough positive emotions to make them impactful. This brief article describes how your business can attract more consumers and maximize ROI by using gift certificates with high emotional value as promotional incentives.

Holidays and Emotions

The Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season is a remarkable American tradition, packed with emotional feelings and events: the wonderful aroma of turkey roasting in the oven, family gatherings, parties, Christmas music, gifts under the tree, neighbors competing to have the best decorations, donations to the needy, and so much more. Nearly all would agree that thoughts of “over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go…” are powerful generators of very positive, nostalgic memories and emotions.

If your company can take advantage of the highly emotional aspect of the holidays in your promotional efforts you may discover a surprisingly impactful and highly cost-efficient means to draw consumers in to your business. If your gift or promotional incentive can associate you with the positive emotions of the holidays it will not only generate consumer draw, but will create positive impressions about you that can be memorable, motivational, and long-lasting.

Some Gift Certificates Have High Emotional Value

Gift certificates for free turkeys are a great example. Turkeys received as gifts or as promotional incentives carry a lot of emotional value. During the holidays a thought of turkey is a thought of Grandma’s kitchen, and all of the warm, wonderful, loving, and nostalgic feelings that come with it. Like flowers or chocolates at Valentine’s Day, your ROI is higher, because the perceived value of the item is so very much more than its dollar value. And turkey is almost universally appreciated: Studies done by the National Turkey Federation show that over 95% of American families participate in a holiday meal where turkey is served.

A Relatively Untapped Opportunity

There is still a lot of opportunity – Relatively few companies have discovered the high return on investment that can be gained from using gift certificates for products of high emotional value as promotional incentives during the holidays. This relatively untapped marketing tactic can work for you. Following are some examples of what some companies have tried with turkey gift certificates during the holidays, with great success. Use these ideas as springboards for your own holiday promotions:

  • A car dealership offered a free turkey to anyone who took a new car for a test drive during the two weeks before Thanksgiving.
  • A radio station used turkeys as prizes in holiday on-air contests.
  • An auto tire dealership gave a turkey to anyone who bought a set of tires in November.
  • As a philanthropic and public relations effort, a high profile company offered to match all public donations of turkeys to a local food bank.
  • A national firm gave each of its thousands of employees a turkey gift certificate for Christmas, and offered to help coordinate the donation of the certificate to local charities if the employee chose to do so.

Appearance is Everything

Because the highest ROI comes from the highest emotional value, self promotion of any kind included with the item makes you look selfish and cheap. Leave your advertising slogans for pens, hats, golf balls, and other promotional items that serve entirely different purposes.

The items you give on holiday occasions should have high perceived market value as well; otherwise you will be perceived as being cheap. Private label items and gift certificates good on a broad range of products carry a low value perception and should be avoided. Stay with well respected brand names.

Don’t Sacrifice Emotional Value!

In terms of emotional value, a gift certificate is seen as equivalent to the item it is good for, plus has some convenience value as well. But if consumers encounter difficulty or inconvenience in redeeming the certificates, their frustration may be enough to negate the emotional value of the item. Here are a few considerations to help you avoid these problems and maintain the highest possible emotional value of your incentive:

  • The gift certificate should be good for only one type of product, rather than a cash-equivalent certificate good for any of a broad range of items.
  • Make sure the certificates are redeemable at any retailer carrying that type of item, not just at specific stores. The broader the reach the more convenient it will be for your customers.
  • The gift certificate 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 customers having to search for a retailer who will accept it.


To maximize consumer draw, customer satisfaction, and ROI always look for holiday promotional incentives with the highest possible emotional value. Gift certificates for free turkeys are hard to beat. Your customers will respond with more interest in your company, and more long-term customer loyalty.

©2006 PFR Corporate Gifts, Inc. May be reprinted unedited in whole with proper credit given.

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

PFR Corporate Gifts, Inc.
779 East 9400 South, #131
Sandy, UT 84094

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