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Blog // Creativity
March 30, 2010

Gifts And Business Cards

A few months ago I wrote about the role of “free” in my work. I hadn’t got around to replying to the comments when Hugh MacLeod posted some excellent thoughts on the role of “gift” in contemporary marketing. After listing some examples of people who use “gifts” well, he wrote, “These eight smart, kind, great […]

A few months ago I wrote about the role of “free” in my work. I hadn’t got around to replying to the comments when Hugh MacLeod posted some excellent thoughts on the role of “gift” in contemporary marketing. After listing some examples of people who use “gifts” well, he wrote,

“These eight smart, kind, great people, some more well-known than others, are masters at what I call “Selling by Giving”.

They put stuff out there, as gifts. Great content, great ideas, great insights, great personal connection. By giving so much of themselves, for free, every day, they build up huge surpluses of goodwill, so when you’re finally in the market for something they’re selling (and they’re ALL selling something, trust me), they’re first on your list.”

As always I found Hugh’s words challenging and provoking. Giving is a powerful concept. We give gifts to people we have associations with. Gifts are tokens of that relationship. In a way, gifts are promises.

And, that makes me want to draw a distinction – between any decision we make to give away our work against the attitude where others may expect something from us, for free.

Currently I use Moo.Com for my business cards. Each card has one of my photos on one side and the usual contact details on the other. I’ve used 20 different photos this time round and I offer people the chance to chose the photo they want to take with them.

It’s a small gift (these cards are somewhat expensive). It’s also what Hugh calls a “social object,” since the photos usually create a conversation; about photography, or travel, or creativity in general. It’s a gesture that manages to raise the mundane game of exchanging cards into something more personal and exclusive.

It is also a long way from the situation where people expect something for free. We have low expectations when it comes to the quality and interest of business cards and the transaction that goes with exchanging them. I think that’s why the “gift” works and becomes “social.”

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