As someone who has bought nice corporate swag and got tons of it as well, I think there is some truth in this. But, that thinking doesn't have to be regarded cynically. It can be a good thing.
"How best can we deploy these dollars?"
"What is the goal here?"
Walk through it...Giving gifts at this time of year is a way of saying many things: you are appreciated, remember me, I'm a player, hello,...
All that is fine.
But, the idea of giving gifts at this time of year is SUPPOSE to be about something else, about something more. It's about community, caring. Thinking of others.
It's about sharing values.*
Likewise, Google is trying to communicate its values. Or, rather, it is trying to say to its customers, we share your values.
I don't purchase much swag at Christmas any more. We take the money and make a donation to the Episcopal Relief and Development Fund's Gifts for Life and send out cards about it, encouraging others to look into the program.
I got my email from Google and I smiled.
(*Sharing values can be on a very simplistic, even tacky level, btw. We give one member of my family a good bottle of wine on Christmas. We're sharing our values regarding wine, which we feel they would benefit from. They typically pour dreck at their dinner table.)