An Overview of Various Types of Gifts for Different Occasions
Any product tangible or intangible can be transformed into a gift and this process is regulated over social relationships and giving occasions. The intensity of the donor-recipient relationship and the occasion has an influence on the level of involvement in the gift-giving process. Thus, gifts are context bound and must be situation appropriate. According to involvement intensity and the situational context, we can distinguish among agaphic, agonistic, utilitarian, expressive and generic types of gifts.
Agaphic or altruistic gifts are meant to express love to the recipient and maximize his/her pleasure. They are sometimes called ‘pure gifts’ indicating a genuine altruistic act where reciprocity is not expected from a receiver. Contrary, agonistic gifts are aimed at maximizing the donor’s personal gain and satisfaction. In the case of agonistic motivation, donors are self-interested and are aimed at reinforcing relationships, improvement of their status, social recognition or establishment of recipient’s indebtedness. These two types are the opposite pols and, typically, a gift choice falls somewhere between this continuum. Moreover, benefits to the donor and coherence of the gift with the donor’s self-image tend to dominate in the gift selection process, however, benefits and characteristic of the recipient are also considered to some extent.
Utilitarian gifts bring importance to practical assistance for the recipient and are aimed at increasing recipient’s welfare. Choosing a utilitarian gift, people are more item-specific involved, therefore, the focus is on such features of products as price, material, size, color, quality, style and brand. Utilitarian gifts are exchanged between parties with relatively great relationship distance.
Opposed to utilitarian gifts, expressive gifts are usually exchanged between parties which are bound with strong social ties and relationship longevity, such as close relatives and friends. Expressive gifts also have greater symbolic value than utilitarian gifts.
Finally, generic gifts could be called ‘neutral’ as they serve little purpose. When gift-givers find a selection of a gift difficult due to little knowledge about the recipient or unknown relationship status, they choose a generic gift to reduce anxiety and negative emotions for both parties. Typically, generic gifts are such items as flowers, chocolates, candies, candles and liquor. Those items are solely perceived as gifts also due to their availability at ‘gift stores’. Gift stores are very powerful in creating standards for gifting and may cause a great influence on consumer behavior.
As a gift is a sign of relationship nature between the giver and receiver, gift-recipients do not only evaluate gifts based on the financial aspects and volume but also because of the symbolic meaning reflecting the relationship status. Sherry, McGrath and Levy (1993) stated in their study that ‘a perfect gift’ is a union of sentiment (symbolic value) and substance (monetary value). According to the study, levels of sentiment and substance define a gift. When sentiment is high, and substance is low, the gift is treasured, for example, a handmade cup given from a child to a parent. Contrary, low substance and low sentiment are signs of a generic gift. This framework argues once again that a gift is a symbol of the relationships. There are five key symbolic meaning of a gift that can be distinguished: uniqueness, togetherness, representation of a turning point in life, the richness of experiences summarized, and representation of self and other. According to Wolfinbarger (1990), in case of close relationships and connection between the donor and the recipient, the symbolic value of a gift dominates the economic value. Therefore, based on the nature of the relationship, different types of symbols are more likely to be chosen for gifts, and financial resources are somewhat disregarded.