For many organizations, the “corporate anniversary gift”
is just going to be another trinket in their arsenal of stuff,
when it should really
 be an authentic expression of
the anniversary itself.

By Jason Dressel

When you think “corporate anniversary gifts,” what comes to mind? Probably something you’ve seen before with a logo on it. A mug. A courier bag. A jacket. Maybe something a little fancier with some wood or metal. Engraved is always nice. And these “corporate anniversary gift” ideas are perfectly fine, especially for organizations that have employees and other constituencies with a rabid appetite for their branded swag. 

But for many other organizations, the “corporate anniversary gift” is just going to be another trinket in their arsenal of stuff. Let’s be honest: how often do you get a mass-produced gift from the company that you really need? So here are just a couple of our “corporate anniversary gift” ideas for your next brainstorming session. 

1. Time Off! We all need it. Years ago I didn’t like the idea of giving an employee time off. While everyone would certainly appreciate some time off, the concept of giving an employee time away from the company in celebration of the company’s anniversary struck me as off-note. “Happy anniversary, honey. I got us a spa day for you and your girlfriends. I’ll hang at home with the kids and dog.” Not a great anniversary gift if you’re happily married. But over the last few years companies have formalized their CSR work and have provided employees more flexibility with when and where they work. At the same time, that increased encouragement for employees to volunteer as an ambassador of the company and their ability to work from home has decreased the amount of time they have. So giving employees some hours or a day to volunteer somewhere or spend with their family now strikes me as OK. It recognizes employees’ efforts and willingness to do what’s been asked of them and reinforces the company’s commitment over time to having happy, engaged people. 

2. The Object with a Story Behind It. Most organizations consider ideas like time off or donating to a worthy cause on employees’ behalf, but still conclude that the “corporate anniversary gift” should be a real “corporate anniversary gift.” Especially in companies with complex and varied employment models, this is a good conclusion. And we at The History Factory tend to agree with that POV. But working from the premise that whatever mass produced gift for an employee base of thousands won’t be an item of need, we suggest that it should be an item of meaning. Remember: this is an anniversary, so there’s a nuanced distinction from other gifts. The gift should reinforce the mission, values and character of the company and brand. Ideally, the gift should have a story behind it. We mine company archives all the time to find objects with stories behind them. Giving a mug suddenly becomes more meaningful if it’s the same design as the founder’s mug from 100 years ago. The gift is no longer about the object, but the object as a symbol of what we all work for together. People tend to like the style of old stuff and they like stories. Put those together well and you may have a winning anniversary gift.

But what do these two ideas have in common? They’re personal, memorable and impactful.  If the company gives you a day off out of the blue than you’re going to remember that. But we’ve also found that a gift with authenticity and meaning also can hit the right note of emotion. And that’s what anniversaries should be all about. The anniversary gift should be an authentic expression of the anniversary itself. That reminds me: there’s a whole other list of ideas that you shouldn’t do but I’ll save that one for another day. Spoiler alert: employee cash is at the top of that list!