It’s time to stop the keep cup deluge

We're over keep cups and it's time for marketers to look for more sustainable and original gift ideas argues Gillian Corban

If you’re drowning in a sea of branded keep-cups, I feel your pain.

I also feel the pain of the environment and all the lost opportunities those cups represent.

It seems everyone is giving keep-cups away. The thing is, they’re only useful if you actually need one. Your client might have them in their car, the office and at home. But guess what? They don’t need more.

It’s time for the marketers of the world to manage our oversupply of keep-cups (and items of that ilk) and develop intelligent, sustainable solutions.

As someone who has been in the gift market for 30 years, let me pass on a bit of intel. If you’re going to give something, make it meaningful. Giving a gift is your moment to share your brand image, not create landfill or stock for an op shop.

Designed with imagination, a gift can communicate authenticity and usefulness. You can give something the recipient loves and that they value and keep for years. A gift can tell the story of its makers, as well as giving context to your business. Amazing but true: it can also still serve that original mission of thanking and acknowledging someone.

Cleverly designed gifts can also support a range of collaborations. They can create jobs and creative opportunities for designers, artists, poets, printmakers and artisans. Products can be limited, with numbered editions. They can showcase a brand and designer and tell authentic stories of culture and place, by weaving inspirational stories into the item itself.

Banging your logo on a piece of plastic or something generic can send totally the wrong message. Clients might perceive that you don’t care about the environment, don’t understand the waste issue and haven’t truly thought about them and what they’d like.

Sustainability is – in 2018 – where it’s at.

From my point of view, it always has been, but now, more than ever, people are watching. Look at the impact of Craig Reucassel’s War or Waste and the backlash around Coles’ plastic bag fiasco.

In the design world, clever ideas are always being explored to deal with sustainability and waste. Commercial grade paper is being made from recycled coffee cups. Algae and seaweed are being explored for use as covering materials in fields as varied as book binding and fashion.

Whether as an individual or in business, giving a gift is an opportunity to communicate who you are and what you stand for – and to be clear about why you have chosen an item to share with others.

If you’re giving a personal gift to a friend or family member, it always helps to know what they are interested in and would value and use. It’s old-school, but a personal note is always appreciated. And if you manage to delight, you’ve hit the jackpot.

For brands, gift-giving is an opportunity to communicate your brand’s meaning. That’s true especially if you create made-to-order items. They should carry your brand values and style as well as supporting your message. There are so many clever ways that items can be personalised with subtle logos, monogrammed initials, colour and messages.

And in the current environment of the #WarOnWaste, it’s important to be aware of the creative process. Many decisions are made during the design phase of a product – concept, iterations, sampling and various manufacturing stages. Items often travel long distances from the factory or workshop. This makes them valuable commodities and expensive on the environment. They are to be respected, not objects that somehow just landed in a shop or warehouse. When items are discarded, people tend not to consider the work that went into making them.

Let’s rethink corporate gifting. Let’s be clever. Let’s create gorgeous products using obsolete technology, repurpose old books and breathe new life into vegetable cartons as journal covers.

It’s time to find new materials and to repurpose, reuse and recycle. Let’s create bespoke product solutions and have the courage to understand why that’s important. We can minimise waste, still creating beautiful products that people love.

Gillian Corban is co-founder and managing director of Corban & Blair


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