The Data Behind the Gifting Season: Who Are All of These Shiny New Things Intended For?

Bryan Melmed, VP of Insights at Exponential

The seasonal marketing onslaught can be overwhelming for anyone, but those in the marketing industry face an additional burden in trying to understand the method behind the madness. It's an instinct is easily carried over from work into everyday life. We consider every ad beyond the message, pondering its intent, strategy, and targeting. We pore over product packaging, evaluating copy and positioning. And if you're like me, during the gifting season we wonder who all these shiny new things are intended for.

Mercifully, I have terabytes of behavioral data at my disposal to answer this very question. And so, a brief and somewhat scientific guide on who would be interested in some of the more perplexing gifts I've seen on offer this year.

A guitar

In my mind, a worse offense than gifting a kitten. If someone knows they want to play guitar, surely they have one already? But as with kittens, sometimes a person wants more than one. This is especially true if they have a full-sized guitar. For jamming on the go, most guitarists would welcome a travel guitar. (Or a banjo, if they have a beard. Or a ukulele, if they're at a liberal arts school.)

How do you identify this person? Obviously they have a love of music that extends past the ordinary. We find that guitar owners are 24 times more likely to have a power amp and almost 30 times more likely to own an audio mixer. They're also 15 times more likely to own a Macintosh Pro. There's an aesthetic at play here as well. Writers are a stunning 39 times more likely to own a guitar. Liberal arts students are 12 times as likely. And the acoustic-ness extends to music choices (33 times more likely to listen to Coldplay), fashion (21 times more likely to wear Levis), and alcohol (12 times more likely to drink bourbon).


If this seems like a dangerous gift, you're right - most people have a preference and stick with it. But for some people -- almost always young women -- exploring the world of perfume and cosmetics is a treat in its own right. How can you tell? Beyond the obvious (jewelry, handbags, boots) you'll find these people are 19 times more likely to be active users of Snapchat and 50 times more likely to be reading about the latest bars and clubs. Interest in teeth whitening, fitness, and music festivals rounds out the profile. If you're still not sure, our data suggests a gift certificate for a spa or wine tasting is just as welcome.


One of those things that's practically unfathomable to a guy. As with perfume, the trick is knowing who would rather have a few chosen pieces and who is happy to accumulate options. Those who are open to a gift of jewelry tend to be women with families and a keen interest in their personal appearance. The key question is if you can picture them reading SkyMall without irony. Women who love jewelry are 21 times more interested in dog beds, 39 times more interested in popcorn makers, and 20 times more interested in fancy tea kettles. They're also buying scarves, handbags, and purses.


Again, the trick is identifying people who would really love a drone, but haven't already bought one themselves. Here the data points to gadget-loving dads - twice as likely to be male, four times more likely to have children, and 77% more likely to be between the ages of 40 and 60. For a wealthy audience, they seem to be somewhat practical, prioritizing purchases for their family over gifts for themselves, and in choosing Volkswagens and Volvos over BMWs. If you're worried about the guilt factor, help these dads accept a lavish gift by positioning it as an educational toy (and opportunity to bond!) with their children.

Action Cameras, such as the GoPro

Here lies the one audience who really wants a product that they aren't likely to purchase themselves. Really simple formula here. Rock climbers are 367 times more likely to be interested, skiers 270 times more likely, snowboarders 260 times more likely, snorkelers 244 times more likely, and BMX cyclers 161 times more likely. If they're into extreme or outdoor sports, it's hard to go wrong here. (I've even pondered getting one to document the New York City Subway during rush hour.) The one thing that people seem to miss is that women with these interests are as interested in action cameras as men are.

Wireless Headphones

I know wires are a pain, but what's one less wire going to do for you? But if you're a traveler, it's a big deal. We see interest pick up along with long itineraries - travelers to New Zealand are 19 times more interested, and those heading to Rio 15 times more interested. (Olympics promotion, anyone?) There's a gender skew here - men seem to be fussier than women in being 23% more likely to be interested. Or maybe it is just that men are more likely to be business travelers? We see those working in sales are 11 times more interested. Even pilots are 8 times more interested.