How to Avoid Swag Bag Burnout

I was shuffling through my top desk drawer the other day, searching for Post-it® Notes, when it struck me just how much swag ends up in the black holes of our collective offices and cubicles. In just one desk drawer alone, I have managed to collect two branded stress balls, a variety of branded pens, a red branded stretchy wristband, a branded computer monitor cleaning cloth, and a funky little branded container of hand sanitizer that sort of looks like a credit card holder. Frankly, I didn’t even remember exactly what that last item was until I pushed the button and it squirted me on my, ahem, upper blouse area. (A very special thank-you to the nice folks at Triple-A for that one.)

While all of these items are useful in one way or another — at least useful enough to warrant space in my overflowing top desk drawer — they don’t really touch me enough to make me want to interact further with the companies that handed them out.

The Top-Drawer Test

Branded pens and paperclip holders are nice, but not anything that I’d want to take home and show my family. These items will likely be relegated to the ol’ top desk drawer, where they will serve out the rest of their natural lives.

So, what kinds of promotional items can pass the top-drawer test? Items that your customers would never dream of hiding away in a drawer because they’re just so darned delightful, practical, funny, or yummy?

Here are a few unique approaches to selecting swag that can make your company more memorable in the minds of your prospective customers:

Help Prospects Remember Where You Come From

If you’re attending a trade show on the other side of the country, consider giving away promotional products that remind prospects where your business is located. Here in New Mexico, for example, we’re proud to be known as the green chile capital of North America, so if we were exhibiting on the East Coast, we might consider adding a branded box of tasty green chile chocolates to our swag bags.


Give Prospects Something They Can Use Right Away

National conferences, seminars, and membership conventions draw thousands of attendees and the activities can go on for 4 or 5 days. These events are generally hosted at plush, resort-type locations, where attendees enjoy the added benefit of a mini golf, spa or beachside vacation. Attendees at these types of gatherings will often take lots of pics on their iPhones — photos of competitors’ trade show booths, of the sales people working their own booth, or just of the team itself having fun. If you’re attending or exhibiting at one of these gatherings, consider giving away something your prospects will appreciate and use TODAY, like branded, wallet-sized USB flash drives that double as business cards for your sales staff.


Treat Prospects to a Good Laugh … on the House

In an article on corporate holiday gift-giving, Margaret Littman of shared several ideas that could easily be used as inspiration for swag targeted to your more serious business prospects — i.e., the ones who spend more than 20 minutes at your booth and/or take the time to sit down with one of your salespeople in a portable conference room, etc. These types of prospects will generally respond well to tasteful humor, especially if presented in the form of a funny branded wine or beer bottle. These items also make excellent follow-up/reminder gifts when mailed to the prospect a few days after the show.


The bottom line? Even if your budget only allows you to customize ONE item to use as swag for your next event, offering just ONE memorable item is a much better strategy than passing out a forgettable collection of pens, paper clip holders and hand sanitizer. Above all, make sure your swag passes the top-drawer test!


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