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What Helpful Ideas Can Birthday Presents Teach Us About Marketing?

August 30, 2022

Do you love presents? Some people love to receive them, and others love to give them. Even if gifts give you anxiety, you have probably had the experience of getting or giving a near-perfect gift. 

Every gift has two essential components: the contents and the packaging.

Of course, the content is what matters. The person receiving the gift ultimately cares about what’s inside the box. But how you wrap the present also makes a difference. 

You could have the best present at the party, but if it is wrapped in a used garbage bag, the gift recipient will probably open yours last (or just throw it away without realizing it has the latest Yeezys in it). 

Now, the opposite could be true. Your present could look so great that everyone wonders what fantastic item is inside, but when someone opens it, they find out it is the unwashed towels from the local Orange Theory. Unless this is for a disgusting white elephant gift exchange, the recipient will be disappointed. 

Here is the marketing lesson: it is easier to change the packaging than the content – and both matter. 

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Your content is the part you should work super hard on nailing down:

  • Who are you? 
  • What is your business about? 
  • How are you different than the competition? 
  • Why should someone buy from you instead of everyone else?

The packaging should be more flexible and iterative:

  • What color wrapping paper interests your audience more?
  • Which headline produces more email opens?
  • Does a friendly or authoritative tone work better?

You don’t have to change the contents to tweak the packaging. In fact, it is probably better not to chase down every trend and fad with your content. But there is nothing wrong with experimenting with trends in your packaging. (Sometimes, you may have to change your core values, but it ought to be less frequent than experimenting with packaging.)

The contents are who you are; the packaging is how everyone sees you. 

One quick note, you still have to be honest about who you are in your presentation. Anything else is real clickbait. If you give someone a present in a Tiffany’s bag, they will be disappointed to find costume jewelry from Wal-Mart in it. But it would help to experiment with different wrapping paper, bows, ribbons, and box shapes to get more people to open your gift.  


  • Your content and packaging are two different but intertwined things – think of a wrapped gift as a metaphor.
  • You can tweak your packaging to help find a wider audience. 
  • Make the essence of your offer more immutable than your presentation, but don’t lie about who you are or bait and switch.