Liz Reese
Design Director

February 13, 2020

After pestering my father over a period of months to take me along on his milk route, at long last he agreed. I was around 5 years old and it was my birthday. As he sat me on the leather seat of the milk truck, he gave me my gift: a pack of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum wrapped with a red bow.

While a pack of gum may seem like a strange gift, my birthday present was special to me, it was the recognition I was growing up. You see, my parents did not allow us to chew gum as young kids!

As my father pulled up to the bustling dairy, I was proudly sitting next to him, chewing on my first piece of gum ever, taking in the moment and feeling on top of the world. I remember everything so vividly as if it were yesterday. The hardness of the truck’s leather seat, the scent of fresh milk, the bottles zipping along the conveyor belt, empty and then full.

But more importantly, I remember the product and the Brand—Wrigley’s Spearmint gum. To this day, I associate the taste of spearmint with that memory and it takes me straight back to my fifth birthday every time.

The tradition of giving gifts dates back to ancient times. As humans, it is embedded in our DNA. Artifacts of necklaces made from animal teeth and twine suggest that even the earliest cavemen exchanged gifts as rewards or for recognition within social groups. As we evolved, we adopted gift giving traditions for communal ceremonies such as weddings and birthdays, and each culture possesses its own set of unique traditions for gift exchange.

Regardless of cultural difference, giving gifts has helped bond people together for centuries. Gifts can be interpreted as an emotional exchange between two or more people, a method to reward someone, or a token to show affection or demonstrate how much you love someone. It is often reciprocal: the gifter feels rewarded by giving to the giftees and making them smile.

In terms of contemporary gift exchange, we live in a multicultural world where gifts continue to play a significant role in traditions and ceremonies. Moreover, there are now so many occasions we can celebrate
including but not limited to graduations, baby showers, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween, and Christmas, to name just a few.

While giving gifts may feel overwhelming with all these holidays to consider, it becomes easier to understand when one considers the psychology behind it. Recall the last time you purchased a gift and think about how you checked off the following criteria:

  • Who am I buying it for?
  • What is the occasion?
  • Why am I buying it?
  • How much am I willing to spend?
  • When do I need to buy it?
  • Where do I go to buy it?

Even on subconscious levels, we all undertake some of these mental decisions when thinking about buying

a gift for someone. Usually, you are thinking about the recipients and what they would like. More often than not, you actually have a meaningful bond with the giftees and know some of their likes and dislikes. For instance, a friend of mine is allergic to chocolate, which unfortunately precludes her from my chocolate gift list during the holidays! Alternatively, my uncle Bill is a keen fisherman and that cues me to buy something related to his hobby. It’s no wonder why it’s the hardest thing in the world to find a Christmas present for the relative you see only once in a blue moon!

Barring any allergens, you can’t go wrong with gifting candy. From gold embossed heart-shaped boxes adorned with bows for Valentine’s Day to small stocking stuffer candy tchotchke at affordable $2 price points, you can find something for anyone within the confectionery aisles of your favorite store or even online. From a brand standpoint, successful confectionery brands are often innovating and doing it well. For example, Lindt Chocolate’s iconic chocolate bunny for Easter has paved the way to include Father Christmases and frog shapes as part of their expanding seasonal portfolio. Furthermore, Lindt has successfully used form language to appeal to many more buyers, thereby building brand equity and stretching Lindt’s reach to many different channels.

It’s not just mainstream shopping aisles that are evolving: I was traveling abroad recently and found a multitude of confection brands all screaming, “Buy me!” at the Dubai airport. As I was wandered through the terminal aimlessly, I noticed that some brands were starting to personalize their packaging with destination messaging such as ‘A gift from Dubai.’

Toblerone stood out to me as a brand who was doing personalization well because of an additional outer sleeve that slid over the existing packaging. This added touch gave Toblerone real estate to extend into
destination messaging without affecting the normal production line. Consequently, Toblerone created a new platform and messaging system to appeal to different buyers looking for gifts to give to their loved ones who stayed home or to keep as a personal memory of their travels.

It is important to note that the Internet has allowed us to reach new heights when gifters are seeking purchases. The overwhelming amount of choice the Internet offers has, in turn, created new challenges. For example, online shoppers need to rely on recommendations (likes) and reviews as a way to make an informed purchasing decision, whereas brick and mortar stores allow shoppers to physically assess a product’s quality and potential as a gift.

Although the Internet does not provide the ability to physically interact with items, it does offer the opportunity for easier and more accessible personalization, which more and more people are looking for so that they may give a gift that’s perfectly unique. For instance, a dear friend of mine gifted me with a memorable confectionery gift that spoke directly to our friendship. She gave me a beautiful box of 12 marshmallow squares and each were individually foodsafe-printed with pictures from our latest vacation together. This confectionery was unique, unexpected and fun to open. But more importantly, it provided a personal and direct link to our memories together.

Overall, the gifting category in confectionery is becoming an increasingly growing market with a countless number of personalization possibilities and occasions. From a brand standpoint, the next time you are planning on launching a product as a gifting item, it is important to create a strategy, think about the giftee and the gifter, the opening experience, and ask yourself if your brand’s offering can be relevant, personalized and able to produce a lasting impression. Just as my father wrapped my first pack of Wrigley’s gum in a red bow and allowed me to come along on his milk route with him, brands have the potential to evoke warm memories and strong personal connections that money alone can’t purchase.

Whether you’re giving a gift or a brand seeking to launch a gift offering, it truly is the thought that counts!


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