The paradox of surprise: empirical evidence about surprising gifts received and given by close relations
Article publication date: 18 September 2020
Issue publication date: 23 January 2021
This study aims to explore surprising gifts received and given by close relations to identify the variables involved in creating surprising gifts. The analysis of the viewpoints of the giver and the recipient, reflecting their profiles, leads to recommendations for retailers.
An exploratory, small-scale, open-ended questionnaire (48 respondents) produces 43 (38) accounts of surprising gifts given (received), informed further by in-depth interviews (eight informants, both givers and recipients of surprising gifts).
This study identifies and elaborates on the variables (why, when, what, where, who and how, and their combinations) that define surprising gift giving, from both giver and recipient perspectives. The findings indicate a paradox: even if givers or recipients prefer a surprising gift, they might give or wish for an unsurprising gift to avoid disappointment.
Further research should confirm the findings using representative samples. Moreover, gender differences in surprising gift giving should be investigated further. Finally, the exact characteristics and properties that make common objects potential candidates for successful surprising gifts should be studied further.
The discussion has relevant implications for manufacturers and retailers. For example, if recipients are surprised, happy and satisfied, they likely exhibit higher brand recall. The recipient’s (happy versus not happy) emotions also have spillover effects on the giver’s. Thus, retailers should provide assistance in the store and advertise their salespeople as experts who can offer advice about selecting appropriate gifts. The exact characteristics and properties that make common objects potential candidates for successful surprising gifts should be studied further.
The systematic account of all six variables, not previously analyzed in the literature, provides rich insights into surprising gift giving. The discussion of the study of givers and recipients supplements these insights.
Vanhamme, J., Lindgreen, A. and Beverland, M. (2021), "The paradox of surprise: empirical evidence about surprising gifts received and given by close relations", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 55 No. 2, pp. 618-646. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJM-03-2019-0277
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