As business owners, event planners, brand managers, and marketers, we know that offering attendees a branded token to remember us by can increase brand recognition. However, how do we ensure that our swag doesn’t end up in a trash or donation pile in a couple of months?
A survey paid for by VistaPrint and conducted by OnePoll, found that adult Americans love collecting swag that is unique (38%), useful (38%), and sustainable (35%). Finding swag ideas that not only are unique, but also useful, is important for making sure that your swag has permanence for years to come. Sustainability in today’s day and age is a value for consumers. As we see the impacts of climate change, this is a consumer trend that we will continue to see across all industries.
The recent survey mentioned above found that 10 items, in particular, stood out as very popular: t-shirts, pens, mugs, water bottles, tote bags, sunglasses, hoodies, calendars, and umbrellas. Below is a breakdown of how to do these ideas well for an event or conference, so that your brand stays top of mind. Remember, the uniqueness of swag can help your brand stand out too. Choosing from tried and true swag ideas is a good way to get swag in the hands of your fans, but trying something outside of the box that aligns with your brand is another great way to create viral moments for your brand and to engage with your customers the old fashioned way, through tangible branded swag and gifts.
Top 10 Swag Items as Noted By Conference Attendees:
Branded t-shirts, especially high-quality t-shirts, are a great way to increase brand awareness. Think about a slogan or something cheeky that will be memorable and make your brand stand out.
Usually, t-shirts that fit well, are made of high-quality materials, and that have high-quality printing are the t-shirts that people keep and wear for years to come. T-shirts made of organic cotton or organic cotton blends are a great way to incorporate quality with sustainability.
Pens are an item that even in the day of laptops and smartphones that people use to write with when taking notes at home or in the office. A high-quality branded ballpoint pen can keep your company top of mind for receivers of this swag item.
One item that is useful to have extras of at home and in the office is mugs. The use of branding and a clever slogan are a great way to keep your brand top of mind for consumers without being too in their face.
If you want to get something outside of the box in the mug realm, one of the latest crazes in the thermos world are “ember mugs” or coffee mug warmers that keep hot beverages hot via a small hot plate. Also on the top 100 items list was travel mugs. An item like a ceramic or travel mug that conference attendees are guaranteed to use is a good way to make sure your brand stays top of mind for receivers of your swag.
Water bottles are another item that you can never have too many of. With increasing consumer awareness of the dangers of waste from single-use plastic, there is an increasing demand for sustainable ways to carry water with you. Branded water bottles made of glass, aluminum, or even plastic, are great ways to reduce plastic waste from single-use plastic items from bottled water brands and are great items to have branded swag to give to your consumers. Similarly to the swag mentioned above, find ways to make your brand stand out through a water bottle giveaway. Choose high-quality materials with a clever tagline or slogan that will make your brand stand out. Boring and low-quality will not have as great an impact as interesting and high-quality.
As our dependence on devices, like smartphones, increases, so does our dependence on headphones. Anyone living in the age of smartphones has probably experienced losing airpods or earbuds while traveling or on a trip. This is another item that consumers need replaced frequently and that it is always useful to have a second set at home. Putting your brand on an item like headphones can keep your brand top of mind when someone is digging in their
bag for this useful tool and can create a positive association with your company, that your company cares about its customers’ comfort and convenience.
In the age of plastic bag bans, the tote bag giveaway is now an ever more useful item for conference attendees. Think of utility with tote bags. Is your tote giveaway useful? Can consumers use this tote for various needs, like grocery shopping? Is it a high-quality tote bag that can carry several pounds of items? Quality, utility, and sustainability are all plays that can be used here. Furthermore, choosing a style that is unique in a useful way, with colors and a slogan that makes your brand stand out can be a way to make your brand top of mind through a tote bag giveaway.
Sunglasses ranked #7 on the WePoll and VistaPrint poll. This is a great item to give away at conferences or events. A high-quality pair of sunglasses can be an item that conference attendees use on their days off at a conference, as well as, in their lives for years to come. Sunglasses offer protection from UV rays and help reduce glare, making them useful for outdoor activities, driving, and even for simply walking around on a sunny day. Sunglasses may also be perceived as a high-value item, especially if your brand chooses sunglasses from reputable brands. Ordering sunglasses in your brand colors with your logo on the temples is a great way to offer conference attendees that stop by your booth something useful and fashionable to take home.
Similarly to t-shirts, sweatshirts or hoodies are items that conference attendees can get use out of post-conference. Materials to look for in a sweatshirt are cotton, polyester, fleece, and blends of these fabrics. Think about a sweatshirt design that will appeal to the target demographic of the event. For example, if you run a fitness equipment brand and you are offering sweatshirts as a swag giveaway for other people in the fitness industry, consider a sweatshirt that could be worn during a workout. Think about if your swag fits the occasion, will be appropriate for the event where you will have a booth, and if your intended audience will appreciate the swag gesture.
A calendar, notebook, or planner can be a nice useful stationery item to give out as branded swag. People often need to take notes at an event, so notebooks can be a great way to provide utility during an event. Calendars may be becoming relics of the past, but are still used by many in office settings for those that want to mark major dates and timelines on paper or on an office corkboard.
An umbrella is another item that people need but don’t always have on hand when it rains. Having an umbrella at a conference in case of rain when attendees likely did not plan for rain, especially on a multi-day event far away from home. Giving away an item like this not only provides utility but can be a way to ensure that your brand’s logo and banding gets in the hands of your prospective customers. Throw a QR code onto any swag to bridge the gap between in-person marketing and digital to get your lead to convert via a landing page.
Some other ways to impress leads and prospective customers are through branded gadgets or tech, thinking about sustainability in your swag strategy, always consider what your leads will find useful. Giveaways, like books, that contribute to professional growth and development, as well as giveaways that prioritize an attendees’ well-being, like a fitness tracker, can be unique ways to have your swag stand out at a big conference or expo.
According to the OnePoll and VistaPrint survey, there is some swag that has staying power, but anecdotal evidence shows that thinking outside of the box can pay off for brands. Some companies are going above and beyond with interactive experiences that utilize augmented or virtual reality, web3, or gamification instead of a standard giveaway experience. Similarly, on the topic of conference travelers, attendees of your event may need items like: portable chargers, and travel adapters. Think of the user experience of the attendees of the specific event that you are hosting or hosting a booth at to design a branding and swag experience that matches the event and the people in attendance.
So, get creative! When it comes to anything marketing and branding, it is a crowded and competitive landscape. Branding, marketing, and events teams need to get creative in order to stand out in the eyes of your target consumers. It is also important to note that any swag giveaway’s success will depend on the target audience, event, and overall branding strategy.
Some perks of giving away swag are: swag can help to increase brand loyalty and build brand trust. Swag most obviously can help boost brand awareness by having your brand in the eyes and hands of your consumers and prospective customers.
“Tell Us Your Favorite Conference Swag [poll] #SHRM19.” HR Bartender. Apr 9, 2019. https://www.hrbartender.com/2019/business-and-customers/conference-swag/
SWNS. “Half of Americans love getting promotional swag from brands: poll.” New York Post. Sep 16, 2022. https://nypost.com/2022/09/16/half-of-americans-love-getting-promotional-swag-from-brands-poll/
Talker Research. “Top 50 swag items survey says are the best things to get for free.” Talker. Sep 16, 2022. https://talker.news/2022/09/16/top-50-swag-items-that-are-the-best-things-to-get-for-free/