There is No Bad Swag

When I worked in the cable TV industry, there was one really big lesson I learned: Everyone hates the cable company.

I've been in the promo industry for five years now, still a newbie by some measures, but I've also learned a valuable lesson about this industry. This recent post by Hubspot on the good, bad and ugly of swag got me thinking about whether there is such a thing as bad promo when you consider all of the different audiences. While we agree with many of their points, we also know that one person's trash is another person's treasure.

Or to quote one of my colleagues from the industry:

There is no bad swag, only badly chosen - Heidi Thorne, @heidithorne

Rather than looking at the items themselves, we try to look at how giveaways will resonate with recipients. We think it's great that the attendees of HubSpot's conferences are all digitally connected, but my first-gen Motorola Xoom (<----street cred implied there) is wi-fi only, so when I went to Cloudforce earlier this year and all of the wi-fi was password protected I was totally bummed. But then I could take notes with the kickin' RIGHTSLEEVE branded red flair pen stashed in my bag...and yes, it was next to my Moleskin (<-----hipster implied there).

Oh, and we think the folks at ScribbleLIVE have our backs: They love their combo highlighter pens so much, they Instagrammed them:



It's not a matter of good or bad. It's about choosing swag smartly. -Patricia Keays

In doing an informal key chain survey around the office, I discovered a couple of things.

  1. A lot of people have branded key chains.

  2. People are passionate about their branded key chains (as they are about a lot of swag).

Katie Anderson, loves her Camp Kandalore key chain. She hasn't worked at the camp in over 7 years, but she still carries it around with her and smiles from ear to ear when telling me about getting it. But, let's set her feelings aside for a minute and crunch some numbers. If Katie has used her keys twice a day (once when leaving home and once when coming home) every day for the last 7 years, that adds up to over 2500 times that Katie has looked at her Kandalore key chain.

At less than one cent, that's the type of cost per impression that marketers dream about!

Would a Camp Kandalore Key chain have the same effect on me? Nope. But, I've had the Roxy keychain below for close to ten years. I got it on a trip to Hawaii for my brother's wedding so the sentimental value of that keychain is through the roof for me. I actually dove to the bottom of a dumpster and fished that key chain out of a puddle of trashed-filled water one time.

logoed keychains

logoed keychains

Pictured above starting at 12:00: Rob Montebelli, from the RIGHTSLEEVE spin-off company commonsku, carried his soccer key chain with him when he moved from Italy. Julia Corcoran loves the Heineken key chain she got in Amsterdam.  I went dumpster-diving to save my Roxy key chain, and Katie Anderson still carries her Camp Kandalore keychain long after leaving camp.

Bottom line: Keychains resonate with recipients when chosen well and distributed appropriately.

Rule #1 for trade show promo: make sure the product matches the needs of the audience. -Mark Graham in 7 Ways Social Media can Transform Your Next Swag Campaign

Bottomer line: All swag resonates when chosen well and distributed properly.

HubSpot and I could argue back and forth all day on what specific pieces of swag we like the best, and that's okay...we do that exact thing in the RIGHTSLEEVE office too. What HubSpot thinks is cool swag isn't going to be what the next company thinks is cool...the commenters on HubSpot's original post prove that point. That's why we emphasize the importance of matching your swag to your audience.

So, next time you're planning for a tradeshow or a giveaway or an award or any other piece of branded merchandise you're giving out, think about your recipients first and the items second.