Changes with tchotchkes

In every businessperson's heart there is warm place set aside for tchotchkes.

In every businessperson's heart there is warm place set aside for tchotchkes. You know, tchotchkes. Premiums. Novelties. The little giveaways that every PR department has to keep in stock for trade shows, employee gatherings, and customer events.

Pens, flash drives, umbrellas, mouse pads - every imaginable thing upon which to put your logo and give out to the public.

As I write this column, I'm looking around my office to take stock of the tchotchkes that survived my kids or the wastebasket and made it onto my desk or bookcase. I have a Nissan calculator. A miniature foam-rubber paper-clip-holding easy chair from The Weather Channel. A flash drive from Ticketmaster. A Hitachi letter-opener. A SunAmerica yo-yo. A PRWeek coffee mug. Some have even whispered I have a tchotchke-addiction problem.

My single greatest tchotchke achievement came when we launched Korn/Ferry's six core strategies in 2006, which we brilliantly titled "Six for '06." We distributed a pen to every employee that displayed one of the six core strategies every time you clicked it. You would never be in a meeting without the six core strategies just a click away.

I somehow forgot to apply for a Silver Anvil for that idea.

From my perspective, Google deserves a place in the Tchotchke Hall of Fame. I had the great fortune of having the title of chief marketing officer at Korn/Ferry, which landed me on the Google direct-mail list in the early 2000s when it was aggressively introducing its new advertising concept of paying for clicks. I received a plush Google beach towel, a high-quality, durable Google frisbee, and, my all-time favorite, a life-size light-up plastic goose. My youngest son used it as a night light for many years.

Tragically, Google went on to become the most successful internet startup ever. In turn, some genius over there decided it was no longer necessary to generate business though the distribution of fabulous swag.

I also had the good fortune to participate in the mother lode of tchotchke giveaways. I have long been a member of The Seminar, which is an annual gathering of the chief communications officers of the largest global companies. Historically, attendees were encouraged to donate a corporate tchotchke as a giveaway to every participant.

When I went to my first Seminar gathering in 1994, the bag of tchotchkes fit into a small gym bag, which in itself was a tchotchke donated by Nike. By 2006, the collection of tchotchkes was so large that it required an oversize duffle bag that had to be shipped to the home office via FedEx.

Inside the duffel bag was the most amazing collection of corporate crap ever assembled in one place. It included, but was not limited to key chains, Zip drives, pens, golf balls, Post-it pads, candy bars, flashlights, pedometers, highlighters, coffee mugs, calculators, frequent flier miles (a personal favorite), books, laser pointers, mints, and model cars.

The funniest thing is that when I finally schlepped the duffel bag home, my entire family went through it and found only about four things they actually wanted.

In response to the economic downturn, however, and perhaps also due to the cost of shipping, The Seminar has since limited the tchotchke donation (or "goodie bag" as it is also called) to just 10 items.

I hereby note, however, that if any reader would like to influence me editorially by sending a tchotchke, I'm all ears.

Don Spetner is EVP, corporate affairs at executive recruitment firm Korn/Ferry International.

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