As the trade show and exhibition organizer at VerticalResponse, I plan at least 30 trade shows a year and attend even more, so I’ve seen my fair share of company swag – You know, those (typically) free promotional goodies. There are a couple swag staples at every show (pens, and the likes), and then there are items that really stand out – Something you certainly want to do in a sea of trade show booths. If you’re in need of some eye-catching goodies to give away, there are a couple things to consider before picking your company’s swag: Will people actually use this item? Will this stand out? Does this item and the quality represent my company well? How much do I want to spend per item? Once you’ve answered these questions, it’s time to get shopping! Having a mixture of sturdy staples and seasonal or trendy standout items are sure to please.

Here are a couple of giveaways that always seem to be in style:

  • Pens – Granted, pens may not seem like the most exciting of swag giveaways, but have them anyway! People still like/need to collect them at shows and one always need to jot down notes, people’s names, etc. Higher the quality, the better
  • Notepads, Notebooks or Moleskines (with your Logo) – Similarly to pens, people always need to write something down. (These are my personal favorite since I use them at work.)
  • Apparel – T-shirts are always popular, as are hats – Though just about every company at an event seems to be slinging free tees anymore. Make sure your shirts are nice quality, stylish, and comfortable – Shirts with funny slogans, quotes or compelling images also seem to be picked up the most. Consider the following: Would you wear this shirt? If not, neither will your booth visitors! And after the show, if people wear your apparel around, they’re extending the reach of your company name and branding – Win, win.
  • Drink Containers – Acrylic tumblers (some now have water filters), coffee/travel mugs (if they’re light – People don’t like to carry heavy, bulky items around), reusable water bottles
  • Breath Mints or Gum – Who doesn’t need/appreciate these at trade shows, or any time for that matter?
  • Stress Balls
  • Hand Sanitizer and/or Sunscreen
  • Umbrellas (depending on the weather)
  • Reusable totes (to put all your swag in, of course)
  • Drink Koozies
  • Drink Coasters – These come in a variety of different shapes and materials (i.e., leather, paper, and cork.)
  • Bottle Openers – Now in all shapes and sizes!

Here are a few excellent examples from companies who not only don stellar swag, but use it to represent what they do. These are all products that I’ve received from various trade shows (click the thumbnails to see more details).

Pet Camp – Mini Frisbee and tennis balls for dogs and cats they hope to have as future clients.

OrangeSoda – Stunner shades (sunglasses) and a folding Frisbee make online marketing fun.

Peninsula Beauty – Samples of beauty products they sell in the stores plus a 20% off in-store coupon.

Cloud Extend for SalesForce – A flying monkey with branded cape. One word: Memorable.

The Future of Swag
Staples are great, but what do people really want, and what can we expect to see in the foreseeable future of swag? I asked several brand and promotion marketing experts for swag trends and here are some of the items they suggest. Many of the newest items have to do with mobile devices or technology, but keep in mind, they tend to be on the pricier side:

  • Earbuds or Headphones
  • Eco Friendly Items – These say “I like the environment and you”
  • Computer Mouse – Now in a mini travel version!
  • Screen Cleaners (for a laptop, iPod, mobile phone etc.)
  • Laptop Bags, cases or Backpacks
  • Snack Bars – Like these custom Element Bars we bought for South by Southwest
  • AC Mobile Chargers
  • Photo Booth Photos – These are trending quickly! Companies set up photo booths (with their logo as the backdrop) and provide funny props for passerbys and booth visitors to get dressed up & take instant pics – A big hit.
  • Portable speakers

What are the coolest (or worst!) swag you’ve gotten for your company or from another? Share away in the comments.

© 2013 – 2018, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

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