On-brand customer gifts

On-brand customer gifts

As a business owner and marketing professional, I’ve had a wide range of experience with corporate and client gifts. This includes choosing client gifts for my own practice and choosing “swag” on behalf of client brands.Swag can be used to show appreciation to customers and staff, to be memorable to broader audiences, and to attract attention—such as at a trade-show booth.Hands-down, the best corporate and client gifts I’ve tried are journal books!

Journal books check all the boxes when it comes to professional gifting.

Personal value

In my experience, the gift of a blank journal book is almost always met with delight. They are appreciated because the recipient imbues them with their own value. It’s not just another “thing”, but an item they create their own meaning for.

One of my clients said: “I’ll write all my marketing ideas and plans in here!”

Another said: “This will be perfect for my daughter and me to draw in together.”

Upon receiving this gift, some ask: “What should I do with it?” That may be my favourite response because it creates the opportunity for relationship-building conversations. You can ask about the recipient’s personal interests before making suggestions: you can keep notes from your golf lessons in it; you can record all the insightful or funny things your kids say; it may be time to start writing that book you dream about…

To be highly valued, the journal book gift must be beautifully designed. At the end of this blog, I provide simple recommendations for how to do that.


When the recipient recognizes personal value in a gift, they attach a positive emotion to it. That positive, personal association with you will be repeated each time they look at or interact with the item.

Journal books go way beyond in this regard—they are truly a gift that keeps on giving in a meaningful way.

Deep brand awareness

Businesses give “swag” or corporate gifts at least in part for brand awareness. Deep brand awareness is much more than display and recognition of a logo, however. Deep brand awareness is associating a personal and positive experience and emotion with a brand. A person is also more likely to treasure and use an item that is not blatantly promotional.

A beautiful blank journal book can have that power.


Journal books are not prescriptive gifts like keychains or water bottles. Their uses are limitless and that gives them high personal value. They can be used for writing, doodling, brainstorming, and equations. They can be used to capture study notes, project-related information, thoughts and ideas. They can be used at work, at home, in the car, lab, or workshop.

They can also be complemented with other gifts, such as pens, bookmarks, and bags.

Tips for designing successful corporate journal book gifts

The importance of the sensory experience of a gift cannot be overstated.

To be appreciated and treasured, the gift must bring pleasure.

In the case of a journal book, this can be achieved through visual and tactile senses. For example, people love touching the smooth, matte covers Bytown Journals uses for its journal books.*

In the case of design, two key things make all the difference:

  1. High-quality photography or custom illustration
  2. Evocative imagery over brand visibility

Many feel that the investment in a corporate gift must be justified with a very visible logo. But that promotes only shallow brand awareness. Only happy employees are likely to proudly walk around displaying a corporate logo, so why not give a gift that’s more likely to be shown off?

There are many ways to prioritize evocative design over logo display while staying fully (and deeply) on-brand. At Bytown Journals, we offer bulk discounts on our inventory of creative journal books, and we work with brands to design high-value, custom journal books at great prices.

*Disclaimer: Bytown Journals is a sideline project that I am involved in with creative partners.