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Bah Humbug. Pardon me for being a skeptamist, but does anything say, “I did as little as possible” more than a generic e-mail holiday greeting? I just received this one (amongst many) and am reprinting its touching message here in all its insipid entirety to make my point:

“As the Holiday Season is upon us, we find ourselves reflecting on the past year and on those who have helped to shape our business in a most significant way. We truly value our relationship with you and look forward to working with you in the year to come. We wish you a very happy Holiday Season and a New Year filled with peace, love and prosperity.”

I haven’t actually done business with the company that sent me this sentimental bit of falderal but if I had I don’t imagine I’d feel truly valued regardless of their promise that I am.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like a card picked out of a catalog and imprinted with a company name and a mailing label offers much more heartfelt sentiment, especially when the postage comes from a machine and not a stamp. But still.

While I’m busy bashing the holiday spirit with my bah-humbugging, let’s not forget gift cards. Believe it or not, gift cards were the most requested holiday gifts again this year, specifically, cards from Visa, Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, Wal-Mart, Target, and Starbucks. Besides echoing the “I did as little as possible” sentiment of generic e-mail holiday greetings, gift cards both telegraph a complete lack of interest in the recipient’s interests, taste, etc. as well as confirming the giver’s complete lack of imagination, enterprise, and thoughtfulness.

Bah Humbug

Sure the cards allow the receiver to buy whatever they want and certainly eliminate the concern about what to do with the ugly sweater, foolish gadget or inappropriate gag gift, but they also negate the carefully chosen book, the delicious hand baked cookies, and the breathless “how did you know I wanted that?” or “I LOVE it!!” response that a little thought and enterprise generates.

Of course asking for gift cards is even more bah humbug loathsome than giving them. For some odd reason, people who would never think twice about begging for money on a street corner have no shame about asking for spare change as long as it’s digitally transferred on a little plastic sheet. Why not just have friends and family members send money towards your car loan or mortgage payment? Or better yet, just give them your bank’s routing number and have them make a direct deposit directly into your account. That would be easier for everyone.

From a branding point of view, gift giving is not only a great way to show your clients, customers, coworkers, and cohorts how much they mean to you but also the perfect way to express a little bit of your authentic self in your gifts and greetings. Regardless of the amount of money you spend, the effort you make and the thought you contribute is what tells your recipients exactly what you think — or don’t think — of them.

No bah humbug here — I hope you enjoy a warm and loving holiday surrounded by family and friends and a thoughtful, optimistic, safe, and very prosperous New Year full of excitement, opportunity, and love. I look forward to continuing this ongoing conversation with you and I thank you for reading and commenting. It means more to me than you’ll ever know. Happy everything you celebrate!