10 reasons why ‘Gifts of Experience’ are more meaningful

RedBalloon For Business

The rise of experiential giving and why memory-making is so powerful.

There’s no better way of showing you care about someone than giving them a gift. But not all presents are created equal. We’ve always believed in the power of ‘stories over stuff’, and it seems others are catching on.

Research has proven that being given an experience over a tangible item actually makes people happier. Studies by Cornell psychology professor Thomas Gilovich and colleagues found “Respondents from various demographic groups indicated that experiential purchases – those made with the primary intention of acquiring a life experience – made them happier than material purchases.” Van Boven, L., & Cornell Psych professor Gilovich, T. (2003).

Why? Perhaps because in today’s throwaway society, it’s the memories we hold onto which are truly precious. Here are 10 reasons why a RedBalloon voucher makes the perfect gift:

1. Create lasting memories

The late, great Olivia Newton-John once said “My memories are inside me – they’re not things or a place – I can take them anywhere.”

Experiences create memories, and memories last forever. Explicit memories are those we can consciously recall. The Queensland Brain Institute describes this as “the process of encoding, storing, and retrieving experiences and knowledge….It is hard to overstate the importance of memory. It is what makes us who we are.”

You simply can’t put a quantifiable dollar value onto a wonderful memory. It’s priceless. And, just as people will enjoy holding onto their happy memories, they’ll also remember who gave it to them.

2. Elicit a powerful emotional response

Linked to this is the emotional response someone has when given a great experience. When we’re feeling good about something, we release ‘happy hormones’ – dopamine, seratonin, oxytocin or endorphins.

A 2022 Psychology Today article explained the science behind this: “Reminiscing about positive memories increases activity in the corticostriatal regions of the brain, which are involved in the processing of reward, as well as in the brain regions that get suppressed during stress…We don’t even have to urge ourselves to be resilient, remind ourselves of our strengths, or expect the best. All we have to do is remember.”

Fond memories create plenty of lasting goodwill. In other words, it’s time to spread some joy!

3. Get personal

We all know that a thoughtful gift is always more appreciated than something that has no meaning (like the scented candle that’s been ‘doing the rounds’ for the past five years). RedBalloon vouchers can be uniquely personalised – not just the gift/ experience itself, but the messaging, too.

So you can, for example, give a cheese tasting or a fine-dining experience to a staff member you know to be a real ‘foodie’. It shows that you’ve thought about them and what they enjoy. You can also write their name on the gift and explain why you chose it.

People really respond to something that’s been handpicked just for them. It makes them feel special. It makes them feel valued.

4. Make unforgettable stories

A cash bonus is all very nice, but long after it’s been spent, what remains? An experience, on the other hand, lingers on in peoples’ memories as a kind of demarcation in their life. It is talked about; like ripples on a pond, the knowledge of it is disseminated, shared, and retold.

Cash will never hold the same impact as a RedBalloon voucher; how could it? An experience provides something that is absorbed into the very imprint of who we are as people. We learn from it and carry it with us forever.

5. Give extended value

The gift of an experience extends far beyond the impact of its receipt; it’s almost like a three-pronged present. There’s the initial happy, surprised moment of receiving the gift. Then there’s the anticipation of doing it (as we know, sometimes looking forward to something is better than the thing itself, like certain holidays). This is followed by the sheer enjoyment of the experience itself… and then, there are the memories that follow. That’s a lot of bang for your gifting buck.

6. Cut the clutter

This may seem self-evident, but many corporate gifts are tomorrow’s landfill. Do people really need those folders or lanyards? Those branded caps? It may be time to rethink what you’re spending on branded merchandise; and more specifically, where that merch is going to end up.

An experience is a gift that touches the earth a little more lightly. Do any of us really need more stuff?

7. A healthy dose of wellbeing

We’re proud that many of our most popular gift vouchers involve experiences that draw people back to nature. Good health and wellbeing are irrevocably linked to this type of immersion. One of our partners in outdoor retreats, Unyoked, cites a study which found those who spend at least two hours in nature throughout the week reported consistently higher levels of health and wellbeing compared to those who don’t. (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-44097-3)

Thankfully, the corporate world has recently become much more attuned to things like mental health in the workplace, stress and burnout. Employers are stepping up and taking more responsibility in these areas, and an ocean or bush experience can go a long way toward keeping people grounded and happy.

8. Positive brand association

When you want to do something different, offering a unique gift like a RedBalloon experience can really showcase your company’s creativity and innovation. It comes back to creating those stories with your staff – perhaps you can add some photos to the company ‘brag wall’, or post a write-up on the intranet.

It’s pretty much the same theory as CX, but in an HR context. A 2016 article by PWC found “If you have a great experience with a brand that activates a core emotional response (make me feel secure, make me feel part of the group, etc) then that will play into building loyalty.”

And isn’t loyalty from its staff one of the greatest attributes a company can possess?

9. Shared and very special moments

As we move toward Christmas, it should be noted many RedBalloon vouchers are able to be shared by staff with their family and friends. They can take their partner glamping, tour an oyster farm with the family, or bring their folks on a sunset cruise. There are literally thousands of options.

These gifts are often things people wouldn’t dream of treating themselves to. So in a sense, you’re giving people much more than the experience itself. You’re gifting them time with their loved ones, and the ability to reconnect and relax together. These are meaningful and lasting bonding opportunities.

10. A lighter environmental footprint

While we’re all striving to reduce our carbon footprint where possible, and no one is 100 per cent ‘there’ yet, the fact remains experiences are significantly less harmful overall in comparison to gifts that require raw materials, production, and transportation. At RedBalloon, we don’t produce anything or require massive supply chains. An experience is much less carbon-intensive than a manufactured ‘thing’.

Our friends at Planet Ark agree, advising a sustainable gift of “An experience – gift an adventure, workshop, class, dinner, movie. Even better if it brings people together.”

Bringing people together, making wonderful memories, treading lightly on the Earth and having a brilliant time along the way – these are the things that keep us excited about our business. We hope we’ve given you some food for thought when it comes to your staff gift-giving this year.

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