This Season's 7 Trends for Do-Good Gifting

BBMG Survey Finds Consumers Looking to Spend Less While Giving More

By Published on .

Ian Beck
Ian Beck
Marketers long ago dubbed the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's the "Season of Giving." This year, the dreary economy—combined with an uptick in consumer interest for green products, local goods and cause-related giving—has many holiday shoppers rethinking how they can spend less but actually give more.

At BBMG, a brand innovation firm that specializes in sustainability, we track values-driven consumers from all walks of life and maintain the Collective, a private online community of 1,000 of these highly influential consumers. Our ongoing research and conversations through the Collective help create and promote greener products, policies and corporate practices.

Polling these consumers on their holiday shopping, we found that half are planning to spend less than they did last year, with many looking explicitly for gifts that do more with their dollar. About 25% plan to either buy gifts where proceeds are donated to a good cause or make a charitable donation in the name of a friend or loved one. This commitment to do-good gifting means values-driven consumers are carefully researching their purchases—and driving several seasonal trends:

  • Buy one, give one: More conscious consumers are expressing the desire to "purchase with a purpose," and they respond well to "buy one, give one" programs such as those at the heart of companies such as TOMS Shoes and FIGS.
  • Greener by design: Sustainable ideas continue making short lists, with a heavy emphasis on organic, recycled and solar-powered gifts. Among the lower-impact highlights mentioned by respondents: energy-efficient kitchen appliances; bicycles; Fair Trade coffees, chocolates and teas; LunchSkins reusable bags; and PACT underwear, which offers a "holiday lights" line to help light 1,000 homes in Haiti.
  • Custom works: In addition to direct donations or gifts that give a portion of proceeds to charity, many nonprofits now sell their own customized gift items. Among the more creative outfits, the New York chapter of 826 National offers fun ideas such as superhero capes or space-travel gear that support children's writing workshops.
  • Keep it local: Half of those polled said they are committed to increasing spending on items that are locally sourced and environmentally friendly. Supporting neighborhood shops vs. buying items online helps ensure that gifts are unique and will help neighborhoods thrive. This relates to the ongoing interest in the farm-to-table movement, with many consumers citing gift ideas such as urban-gardening accessories or a CSA membership.
  • The Etsy effect: The "do-it-yourself" movement continues to catch on, with more and more consumers actually becoming "craftitioners" in their own right—finding inspiration from sites like Design Sponge or PS I Made This to produce crafts, cards, food and even furniture.
  • Good times: Clutter is out; memories are in. This year, the majority of participants are looking to eliminate clutter and waste altogether. In lieu of giving stuff that's seen as less eco-friendly, many will be giving experiences in the form of trips, meals, concerts or classes.
  • The best gift might be no gift: Among friends, conscious consumers are quick to advise each other on saving their pennies and keeping things out of the waste-stream. As one said, "The last thing I need is more stuff. How about a hug instead?"

Online community manager Ian Beck directs and supports the Collective, BBMG's private social network of 1,000 conscious consumers.
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