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Monday, February 14, 2011

New attitudes toward generosity and gifting

My wife recently encouraged me to buy an expensive D-SLR camera, to replace one that I had irreparably damaged on a kayak trip last fall. I agreed, under the condition that she might go easy on my birthday and Christmas gifts this year (the camera would do the job).

Not long after that, I encouraged my wife to purchase a painting that she fell in love with while we were on vacation. She consented, under the condition that the trip and the painting would be considered her holiday present.

I thought that our behavior might be unique, but within an article in Saturday’s New York Times I found evidence that we might simply be part of a growing trend… where gifting has moved toward giving someone permission to spend on a themselves, to fulfill an expensive hobby or passion. It was a fascinating story, and you can read it by clicking here.

Implications: The great recession taught us to avoid waste. The trend that his hinted at by this story takes the pressure—and the risk of potential waste—off of those who toil and stew about what the perfect gift might be for someone they love. Instead of trying to be mind-readers—knowing what the absolute perfect give might be—we are becoming facilitators… encouraging our spouse or significant other to fulfill a dream or desire (and not feel guilty about it).

Is your product or service too complex for someone to give as a gift? (Julie may have been intimidated to know what kind of lens capability, speed, storage and connectivity I would look for in a camera… and I don’t have a clue when it comes to choosing a painting or any other decorative decision.) Perhaps the solution is not to market your product or service as a gift that someone gives, but as a dream to be encouraged.

In this scenario, I can imagine a whole new range of things (aspirations) that begin to compete for the gift dollar. Travel? Higher education? Anything which, purchased for oneself, might feel selfish… but when purchased with the encouragement of a loved one, could be the most generous gift of all.

PS: It’s Valentine’s Day. Still need a great, last-minute gift idea?

[Note: For a counter trend to this posting, see the story that follows—Financial Infidelity—immediately above.]

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

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