3 Swag Predictions for 2014

It's that time.

The time when we look back on what happened this year and guess what will happen next year.  In the promotional products world in 2013, we saw requests for tech items like custom powerbanks and branded styluses explode.

Rather than trying to predict one or two specific products that will be hits next year, we sat down and focused on categories that we think will dominate custom orders and branded products in 2014.

Healthy Living

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Even after the post-holiday crush of workout intentions, we look for healthy living initiatives to be a strong force in 2014.  We see wearable and integrated tech as a major force in this space.  The popularity of devices like Nike's Fuelband and the Fitbit line of wearable activity trackers will cross-over from the consumer space into the business space.

Look for corporate wellness events and initiatives to start sourcing this next generation of tech health products.  They'll pair these pieces with staples like waterbottles to promote whole health initiatives.  We expect the early adopters to even go so far as trying to integrate their branded health initiatives with reward programs tracked through smartphone technology.

Social Sourcing

Social buying suggestions have been a game-changer in the business to consumer space for several years now.  We look for that trend to jump into business-to-business buying decisions more deeply this year.  Moving beyond a Google search, business buyers will start putting more emphasis on sourcing from other social sites in the coming year.

With it's unique presentation of products, Pinterest will be the main driver of socially sourced requests for promotional products requests in 2014.  More business buyers will look to social curation to source ideas for their own promotions.  Look for retail and DIY inspiration to drive a lot of the requests and ideas that originate from these sites.

We see forward thinking event mangers in this area taking a cue from crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter.  Look for these businesses to offer early-bird registrants the option to suggest or vote on the SWAG offered at the event as extra incentive to book early.

Value Based Purchasing

Several years ago, eco and green products were all the rage, then the economic downturn hit in 2008.  Companies tightened their belts and relaxed their value-oriented requirements.

This year, the factory collapse in Bangladesh has created another turn in values-based purchasing.  The collapse earlier this year brought working conditions to the front of consumer minds.  Another recent fire, reportedly started by employees, has revived stories of workers' rights in the low-cost low-wage country.  Add to that, a well-publicized campaign from NPR on the life of a t-shirt and a return to profitability for businesses overall and we see values-based buying coming back.

In 2014, however, companies will move from single-issue buying to a broader picture.  It will no longer be a matter of eco or sweatshop free or locally made.  Instead, companies will have a purchasing charter, so-to-speak, that will list a group of requirements of their vendors. Workers' rights, or course, will move higher up the list of requirements.

2014 will be another busy year as everyone along the business spectrum tries to find new ways to connect with their audiences in an increasingly crowded, over-communicated world.  As we watch these trends unfold next year, we will once again see how the consumer retail world pushes further into the promotional products world - demanding retail-style branded items quicker than ever before.

See you next year.