Nav: Home

Research explains why some presents are great to give but not to receive

December 08, 2016

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Several years ago, Elanor Williams' parents gave her a large Himalayan salt block for Christmas, knowing how much she loved cooking and entertaining. Although she appreciated the gesture, she promptly returned it to the store and bought an "extremely boring" tea kettle that she uses every day.

While she loves her parents dearly, the Indiana University Kelley School of Business professor uses this example to highlight a common mistake many people will make this holiday season: thinking more about the moment they expect when giving a present than the many moments after ,when their recipients keep and use the gift.

That difference in perception is one common mistake discussed in a new study published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science.

"The biggest mistake that people make is that they end up thinking about gift giving as a gift giver, instead of from the point of view of a recipient," said Williams, assistant professor of marketing and a co-author of the study. "They often end up neglecting important things for the recipient, including their preferences.

"The recipient obviously matters, but it's a lot harder (for givers) to think about them than it is to think about yourself, and I think that's where a lot of mistakes come from," Williams added. "They get stuck in this role of being a giver and have a hard time getting out of it and thinking like the recipient does.

"A good gift is going to be a match between the giver and the relationship and the recipient."

She co-authored the paper with Jeff Galak, an associate professor of marketing, and Julian Givi, a doctoral candidate, both at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University. The journal is published by the Association for Psychological Science.

According to the paper, "Why Certain Gifts Are Great to Give, But Not to Get: A Framework for Understanding Errors in Gift Giving," most of us mainly think about the moment of exchange -- will the recipient be delighted, surprised or touched when they open the gift? In reality, recipients primarily focus on how they can use the gift once it's opened.

The paper, which is based on a survey of existing research, addresses an area that until relatively recently has been overlooked in marketing and psychology literature: causal factors in gift selection and gift reaction. It rebuts several commonly held and mismatched views and offers good advice to avoid gift-giving faux pas:

-- While many people like fun, light-hearted gifts, givers underestimate how much recipients appreciate useful or practical gifts. Often, if a gift giver is not certain the recipient will enjoy a particular fun gift, the giver would be better off erring on the side of caution and getting a less exciting but more sure-to-be-used gift. Like a tea kettle, for instance.

-- Gifts don't need to be tangible. Often recipients get more pleasure from experiential gifts, such as tickets to a sporting event, a nice dinner out or a massage. While the gift giver may shy away from giving something that can't immediately be used or appreciated, experiential gifts actually can be preferred by recipients, the paper said.

"Receiving an experience from somebody makes you feel a stronger emotional connection to them," Williams said. "If we can make that better known, then people will get over that hiccup and realize that it's OK to give the representation (of the gift in the form of tickets or a gift certificate), because the eventual experience will make them happier and also happier with you."

-- On the other hand, research advises against giving socially responsible gifts, such as donations to a charity in the recipient's name, which provide little value to the recipient later, especially if one's relationship to the recipient is not that close.

-- Gift cards have become popular among both givers and recipients. The paper suggests that while givers may try to tailor the gift by giving a card to a recipient's favorite store, it may be preferable to give a more versatile Visa gift card that can be used anywhere and potentially fill a wider variety of the recipient's wants and needs.

-- It's often best to stick to gift registries and other pre-constructed lists, rather than give something that hasn't been suggested to elicit a surprise.

-- Thoughtfulness and price are not good predictors of how much a recipient will use or enjoy a gift after it is opened. The paper highlights the value of choosing a practical gift over something that givers expect will dazzle the recipient.

"We exchange gifts with people we care about, in part, in an effort to make them happy and strengthen our relationships with them," Galak said. "By considering how valuable gifts might be over the course of the recipient's ownership of them, rather than how much of a smile it might put on recipients' faces when they are opened, we can meet these goals and provide useful, well-received gifts."

In addition to being helpful to consumers, Williams said her research has applications in how retailers can maximize happiness among consumers, whether they give or receive, and could cut down on the number of returned gifts beginning Dec. 26.

This may include finding ways for people to feel comfortable in giving useful gifts, by marketing a practical gift with a fun accessory. Stores might present their blenders next to the margarita mix, for example. The accessory can add the "wow" factor.

"You can give a useful thing but also a little bit of fun," Williams said. "This might make givers a little happier to give the useful thing because they won't feel like they're making that mistake of a boring gift."
-end-
For a copy of the paper, contact George Vlahakis at IU Communications at 812-855-0846 or vlahakis@iu.edu.

Indiana University

Related Marketing Articles:

Alcohol marketing in popular movies doubles in past 2 decades
Alcohol brand placements in popular movies of all ratings nearly doubled during the past two decades, new research shows, but particularly in child-rated movies.
Prescribing patterns change following direct marketing restrictions
A study of how policies restricting pharmaceutical promotion to physicians affect medication prescribing found that physicians in academic medical centers (AMCs) prescribed fewer of the promoted drugs, and more non-promoted drugs in the same drug classes, following policy changes to restrict marketing activities at those medical centers.
Food and beverage industry marketing kids to deatlh
The Heart & Stroke 2017 Report on the Health of Canadians examines how unlimited food and beverage marketing targeted at Canadian kids is negatively affecting preferences and choices, their family relationships and their health.
Computers can take social media data and make marketing personas
Computers may be able to group consumers into marketing segments in real time just by observing how they respond to online videos and other social media data, according to a team of researchers.
Does corporate social responsibility marketing work? It depends who and where you are
Consumers in dominant collectivist cultures, such as India and South Korea, are more likely to support corporate social responsibility, or CSR, initiatives from brands based in their own country as opposed to foreign or global corporations.
DFG announces winners in second round of international research marketing competition
Two universities and one non-university research institution to receive 100,000 euros to implement their strategic ideas.
Children's health and privacy at risk from digital marketing
For the first time, researchers and health experts have undertaken a comprehensive analysis of the concerning situation in the World Health Organisation European Region regarding digital marketing to children of foods high in fats, salt and sugars
An upside of marketing food to children
If you think it's too challenging to get young kids to willingly take vegetables, think again!
Why marketing and HR executives need to coordinate their activities
Chief marketing officers and chief human resource officers need to better coordinate their activities to maximize company value, according to a new paper by strategic management and marketing experts at Rice University and Kent State University.
Poor countries are hardest hit by tobacco marketing
People living in poor countries are exposed to more intense and aggressive tobacco marketing than those living in affluent countries, according to a study published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization today.

Related Marketing Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Crisis
There's no greater threat to humanity than climate change. What can we do to stop the worst consequences? This hour, TED speakers explore how we can save our planet and whether we can do it in time. Guests include climate activist Greta Thunberg, chemical engineer Jennifer Wilcox, research scientist Sean Davis, food innovator Bruce Friedrich, and psychologist Per Espen Stoknes.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#527 Honey I CRISPR'd the Kids
This week we're coming to you from Awesome Con in Washington, D.C. There, host Bethany Brookshire led a panel of three amazing guests to talk about the promise and perils of CRISPR, and what happens now that CRISPR babies have (maybe?) been born. Featuring science writer Tina Saey, molecular biologist Anne Simon, and bioethicist Alan Regenberg. A Nobel Prize winner argues banning CRISPR babies won’t work Geneticists push for a 5-year global ban on gene-edited babies A CRISPR spin-off causes unintended typos in DNA News of the first gene-edited babies ignited a firestorm The researcher who created CRISPR twins defends...