Special Events

GIFT BAGS: YOU CAN TAKE IT WITH YOU

EVENT GIFT EXPERTS will tell you: When it comes to planning the perfect corporate event gift, it is the thought that counts.

LIGHT TOUCH

For Ilene Mackler, branding event gifts is a subtle art. It is one she has been practicing for more than a decade as owner of Owings, Md.-based Power Presents, which works with clients as diverse as Estée Lauder, Motorola and the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Mackler says her job is to ensure that upscale gifts from sources such as Baccarat and Tiffany & Co. retain their cachet and remain among their recipients' valued possessions.

For instance, she says, she wouldn't steer a client away from imprinting a logo on a polo shirt breast pocket. “But a $125 Bobby Jones shirt? No, you don't put it there,” she says. “You have it embroidered on the bottom, where somebody tucks it into their pants, because then they can wear it out on Saturday night to the movies.”

Mackler adds that restraint in branding is a policy her own business takes to heart. While some stores or suppliers who provide event gifts may package items with store-branded wrapping materials or include advertising materials, “I will not put my name on [a gift],” Mackler says. “Trust me — I look at some of the names of people who get my gifts and oh, would I like to call them. But I don't. I will not solicit my client's people.”

STAR POWER

Prestigious brands are also on demand at New York's On 3 Productions, which has made its mark drawing together cutting-edge treasures and the event guests who crave them.

Company president Samantha Haft says today's savvy manufacturers and designers “have come to recognize the value of putting products in the hands of celebrities, or in the hands of the right audience in general.” On 3 facilitates the process by matching suppliers with users through custom gifts created for high-profile event clients.

She offers the example of the Sundance Channel's more than 500 gift bags — each valued at about $3,500 — which tempted Sundance film festival party guests with such treats as Nautica ski gear and one-year membership passes to hip Crunch Fitness gyms.

In addition to over-the-top bags, “gift lounges” are emerging as an event trend, according to Haft. Unlike bags of pre-selected gifts, interactive lounges allow event clients to give guests the items they want in the right size and style, while eager manufacturers get valuable face time with their target market. Most importantly, Haft says, the event guest gets “that shopping experience we all love.”

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Two gift companies are letting event location guide their gift services, leaving destination groups with a lingering taste of local flavors.

Malvern, Pa.-based Best Regards, which counts Astra Zeneca and American Express among its clients, makes a point of sourcing regional items, says principal Deborah Plugh. For a pharmaceutical group meeting in Alaska with a “frontier of marketing and technology” theme, Plugh's crew created a “bush pilot” package filled with locally grown coffee, native Alaskan huckleberries, and a “glacier blue” mug that turned white when filled with hot liquid. “People didn't just get it and put it in their bag,” Plugh says. “The speakers even made it part of their presentation.”

For Maurice Dubuc, owner of Hollywood, Fla.-based Award Excellence, providing planners with convenient gift planning helps ensure a consummate South Florida experience for guests.

One way the company partners with planners is through its strategic alliances with local hotel and resort properties. The company's “merchandise showcase” site created specifically for Hollywood's Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa includes a “group merchandise planner.” The online form allows event planners to organize arrival gifts, event gifts and awards by entering budget and quantity data and a description of the group and event. The form even includes an option to request union-made or American-made items — a key concern for certain groups, Dubuc says.

Award Excellence extends convenience to event guests as well, he adds, making it easy for them to take home their zippered-coconut cases or Everglades history books. “Even something as simple as bathrobes,” Dubuc says. “We don't do terry, we do waffle weave so they can get it into the suitcase. They don't have to buy another piece of luggage.”




RESOURCES

Award Excellence, 954/929-4949; Best Regards, 610/647-3626; On 3 Productions, 212/979-2197; Power Presents, 410/363-3009

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