Is Branding the Gift or the Giftwrap?


— by Dan Wallace

Freshman year in college, long on theory and short of cash, I had what seemed like a brilliant idea: Don’t wrap presents, and feel free to regift. In my mind, the giftwrap seemed superfluous. The gift itself was what mattered! — and gift recipients would certainly appreciate acts of conservation.

As it happened, my experiment was a failure. In fact, this episode is still part of family lore. For years after this incident my brothers and I regifted an unopened package of Paco Rabanne cologne, the current whereabouts of which is still unknown.

Somehow I overcame this early social naivete and entered the field of product development, marketing and branding. I’ve come to see gift giving as a metaphor for what talented entrepreneurs and marketers do. Brands and branding should be the gift, the giftwrap, and the manner of giving —  in an inseparable whole, a synthesis.

Toward this end, some marketers are calling products and services offerings. On a metaphysical level, brands are a gift to others: an offering. You could argue that there is a spiritual quality to this work. Both gifts and brands are socially significant.

Gift giving is highly ritualistic, symbolic and normative. And so it is with brands. Everything we say, do and buy is a social signal about who we are. The brands we use express our beliefs and desire. 

Brands are the totemic adornments, chariots and tunics of the modern era. Just make sure you wrap these items carefully!


Dan Wallace develops products and is a marketing & brand consultant. He is co-authoring a book, “The Physics of Brand,” to be published by HOW in 2016. This blog post was written for the 15th annual FUSE Conference in Chicago, hosted by IIR. You can follow Dan on Twitter @ideafood.

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