Commodity gifts miss the point

A lot of something from John Kuraoka:

"What I think is significant, from an advertising and branding perspective, is that this trend also seems to point to a rise in commodity gifting. Rather than searching high and low (or making) that perfect gift for each person, consumerism has evolved to the point where consumption itself is the gift. No wasting time knitting sweaters in each person's favorite colors; instead, just pick up an iPod, or a Bratz toy, or an X-Box game. These are commodity gifts, and one's organizational ability is demonstrated by how little one pays for each name-brand item."

Also from Kuraoka:

"Here's a relevant story. Once Upon A Time (for that's how fairy tales begin), a woman volunteered to teach on a poor South Pacific island. She made many friends among the people. When it was time for her to return home, a little boy brought her a farewell gift: a beautiful and unusual sea shell. She was intrigued, and asked the boy where he got it. He told her that that type of shell could be found only on a remote stretch of beach on the far side of the island. The woman's eyes widened as she pondered the long trek the boy made to bring her the shell. "That's a walk of many miles," she said. "It must have taken you all day."

"Yes," the boy said. "Long walk part of gift."

Ad Blog: news and views from freelance advertising copywriter John Kuraoka

Sez your sappy hostess of the Strong Copy blog and the maven of Faith River: Even as the bratty and spoiled person that I am, I absolutely agree. There's no substitute for the Long Walk. My wedding ring is centered around an outstanding emerald -- emeralds being even more valuable than diamonds -- but the real treasure is that my husband went to the mine in Brazil and chose this stone, and brought it back to be set amid 20 diamonds in a special custom ring for me. Not only is it gorgeous, but it's sweeter and more meaningful than a mall ring because the Long Walk is forever a part of it, and a part of the gift my husband gave me. [An aside/disclaimer: Don't write to me in defense of your Samuel's ring -- I know that's just as valid to you... just saying, I love the trek and the creativity that went with mine.]

'Tis the season for the drive-thru or easy way out, but consider: My mom hand-made pillowcases for my daughters and stepdaughters, hand-crocheted a poncho for my dear Ave and made all of us socks and scarves. Wrapped and sent them. Made the Walk.

My mom-in-law once again (as she does every year) chose and beautifully wrapped several dozen little presents for Jon, me and all the (5) girls. Even if Grandma & Grandpa C were joshing us on some of them, the huge box of pretty packages they sent made our home infinitely more festive. You know what's amazing? the C's are very generous with Xmas $ for all 5 of the girls _and_ they made sure we got the Long Walk from them, too.

What did I give my loved ones this year? A week-long, sun-soaked vacation far from the frozen tundra that is Montana. Granted, my extended family might view a week with me as punishment rather than present, but the point is, at least I didn't get them a trinket from Pier One. As my in-laws always say: "PLEASE don't give us anything that has to rest on a horizontal surface!"

Experiences, on the other hand, rest only in the memory and the heart, and I figure that's a vast enough landscape to store endless amounts of both experiential kitsch and genuine this-is-me moments.

Brand message: What can a business do to add that value? Thing One: do something outstanding, and remember it's not always about the money. Thing Two: make sure your customers know it.

I still say it comes down to communication and service on an interpersonal level. That can happen face to face, via carefully crafted written words (email or print) or at the blog level. Yes, blogs make that touch because there's an immediate opportunity for discourse. Give 'em WALK, and you've got a loyal customer.

Merry Christmas, y'all, and this season... notice all those who make the walk for you.