Promotional Products and Culture: When is a Company Logo Acceptable?
We live in a world that is getting smaller thanks to globalization. This means that the chances of interacting with other businesses and people from different parts of the world are far more likely. Especially in comparison to a decade ago. Whether you are traveling for vacation, a business conference, or a student exchange program, cultural barriers are going to happen in spite of even the best of intentions. After all, Americans are bad to operate from their own point of view. This got me to thinking. When in cultural exchanges is it okay to give a gift? More importantly, when is it okay to give away a promotional product with a logo on it while exchanging gifts? So, today, we are going to do a quick overview of when it is culturally expected to give a gift, and how appropriate promotional products would be in that context.
Gift Giving and Promotional Products
Europe Varies on Promotional Products
Gift giving is an expectation in some European countries, like France, England, and the Netherlands. However, the process is less ceremonial compared to the traditions of Pacific island cultures like China and Malaysia. Gift giving is generally a thing when you have an invite to someone else’s house. Wrapping is important. The gift itself is not expected to be grand in terms of cost, you want to at least give off the impression that you know what the host likes. Promotional products with logos on it are considered tacky, with the exception being sports or any other type of memorabilia in England. It’s also tacky to give alcohol as a gift because it implies that the homeowner has poor taste in alcohol.
If a picture is 1,000 words, then a gift is worth 10,000 in countries like China, Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore. There is a strict code of conduct and a series of steps that the giver and the receiver need to go through for it to be considered polite. For instance, it is important to refuse the gift at least 3 times before finally accepting it for each receiver. Also, each country has its own number and colors that are considered good or bad luck.
While corruption and bribery is generally something that these governments are trying to curtail, it is widely acceptable for companies to exchange gifts upon meeting. In fact, a huge part of doing business in these countries include buying each other meals and alcohol in restaurants.
The good news is that promotional products are huge in China and Japan. They like their gifts to give off a professional impression so, they outright encourage giving and receiving gifts with a company logo.
The only exception to all of this is India, who expect gifts to be small and modest. Due to the Muslim and Hindu influence in the country, it’s impolite to open a present in front of other people.
The Middle East doesn’t like Promotional Products
The Middle East is a mostly Muslim-dominant culture, along with parts of North Africa. This means that gift giving will still have some ritual, but not to the extreme in Asia. For instance, what is most important is that the gift is taken by the right hand or both if it’s too heavy. The only occasion for gifts is for when you are in someone’s home. Flowers are only for significant events and alcohol is a huge no-no.
They are fond of things that are in relation to learning, like books and pens. They also are fans of things like cashmere, silver, and crystal. Just make sure that you are making an effort in acknowledging and avoiding religious taboos.
It is not common for gifts exchanges between businesses in this area, so you are better off avoiding promotional products. You should also make it clear that you are not bribing anyone either.
Avoid Promotional Products at All Cost in South America
South American countries are rightfully suspicious of their government as well as large businesses as a whole. So, you are better off not mixing business with gift giving in this part of the world. They even go so far as to make it taboo to talk business while you are in someone’s house. Promotional products with company logos are tacky in this continent. Make sure when you have an invite to someone’s home that you bring enough gifts for even the children of the family. Bring something that helps them get to know you, like a traditional gift from your home country. Flowers will do in a pinch, just don’t be empty-handed.