Logo Loot

I love editors. Know why? Because when I submit a column with the working title “Corporate Crap,” they change it to “Logo Loot.” So much better. Read on:

my life's logos v.2

LAST WORD: Logo Loot

Lexpert, September 2005

by Marzena Czarnecka

I go to a lot of the wrong-type of parties, the types of parties where very little in the nature of fun is had, where a good chunk of the guests have atrophied social skills, and where most of those present are “working” or, to use a more precise albeit more hateful term, “networking.” Yes, I agree that I should get a real life and get out more, but get off your high horse–they’re the same kinds of parties you go to too. And they’re not all bad. The drinks are usually free, and the food quite decent (plus, the expectation that you drink and eat as you “network” provides a great excuse for ending boring conversations: “I’m just going to go freshen my drink. Pleasure to meet you… I’ll see you around.”). Occasionally, someone imbibes too much and makes a fool of himself much to everyone’s amusement and the occasional opportunist’s (I don’t just mean me) profit. Sometimes, I even manage to make a useful connection that translates into work and cash down the road, and once a year or so, I meet someone really worth talking to.

But even when there’s a cash bar, the food sucks, and I spend the whole evening trying to shake a whiny “senior” associate who will never make partner, the party’s rarely a complete loss. My attendance is usually rewarded with a gift from the corporate gift cupboard: something tasteful or not, easily portable, and stamped in an obvious place with the host law firm’s logo.

If it weren’t for logo loot, there would be virtually no coffee mugs in my house, and I would have to spend a fortune on pens. I have logo-ed shoulderbags, key chains, ball caps, portfolios, and mousepads (the clothes, I confess, I immediately donate to the Sally Ann. Manly XL-sized golf shirts really aren’t my style). I have Hot Wheels cars, rulers, water bottles, stress balls, bookmarks, and bandanas (it’s a Calgary thing). I’ve even made a profit on law firms’ spirit of giving by selling some of these tidbits for 25 cents each at a garage sale.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Me, I love getting this stuff. I especially liked it when everyone was giving away stainless steel coffee mugs. My favourite corporate gift of all time, an emergency kit for the car, is still in the trunk of my car, in its logo-ed yellow bag. The weirdest–although in retrospect, most useful–gift I’ve received are tiny packets of logoed tissue (what’s the message here? Think of us everytime your blow your nose…) But I frequently wonder–just what is the giver getting out of this?

Stamping logo on client gifts and loot that’s distributed at events such as law school career days has been such a long-running practice at law firms–and businesses generally–that few have really thought what they really get for the thousands of dollars they shell out on corporate gifts each year. Law students decision to apply at Firm X or Y certainly isn’t guided by the quality of the former’s pens or the attractiveness of the latter’s mugs (and if it is, you probably don’t want them to be your future partners anyway) but student recruitment committees spend hours agonizing over what sort of loot to give out at these events (and make some terrible decisions. Remember the logo-ed “Breakfast of Champions” cereal? Ouch). Clients don’t make any decisions based on the shirts, caps, and bags they receive from their legal service providers, yet try suggesting to a law firm that it doesn’t have to have a client gift at its golf tournament (and not just golf balls. Everybody has logo-ed golf balls, from Jean Chretien to my three-year-old son–although his are just logoed with a black marker).

It’s about the impression, you counter. You’re a top-tier law firm, you’re expected to do this sort of thing. Pfui. If you’re a top-tier firm, you’re expected to deliver top-tier legal services. Yeah, having logo-ed pens at closings and logo-ed notepads at meetings is a nice touch, but giving out mugs, briefcases, and golf shirts? Hardly necessary, and more often than not, extremely tacky. “And here, with our bill for $65,000, is a $30 3-in1 laser pointer-flash light-key chain. Cool, eh?”

Frankly, I think most clients would probably prefer a break on their bill, or, if give you must, something somewhat more meaningful–say a donation equivalent to the amount of cash you’d lay out for 600 mugs or 100 golf shirts to a worthy charity. Or, putting that money towards a “Mingling 101” course for the lawyers who “work” the client events. I give away lesson one for free: a client event is not the right place for a bunch of partners to bunch together into a corner and bitch about firm management. Especially if I’m milling around in the background.

Marzena Czarnecka is a partied-out Calgary-based freelance writer, happy to offer a Mingling 101 course to anyone who asks. No logo loot, however, will be on hand.

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