Odds are there’s no Director of Swag at your company. No one there with the type of experience to understand what promotional products work and how others can turn into a waste of time and money. There’s much more to ordering swag than just clicking a few options on a website. It takes some prior knowledge, as well as someone with a specialized background who can guide you through the process.
If you have any interest in the reputation of your brand, or getting real results from your next SWAG promotion, this is the guide for you.
The Difference Between a Giveaway and a Promotional Product
The first thing you need to understand is there are two different categories of swag which involve entirely different thought processes:
- Stuff you give to employees - (Team Swag)
- Stuff you give to potential customers - (Promotional Swag)
Take care of your own
All types of companies, from small businesses to large corporations, want to build up employee pride. There is an unspoken anticipation from your employees that they’ll be provided with some (hopefully cool) company swag throughout their time there. When we think about tech companies and startups this kind of exchange tends to be especially important stuff.
There are some key things you can accomplish with employee swag:
- Generating company pride
- Celebrating milestones
- Improving overall morale
- Establishing your company culture
- Brand Awareness
A great example is at Apple, where employees are given t-shirts that usually relate to different sales initiatives. When Apple had their 30 year anniversary, employees received a special anniversary shirt which wasn’t available to the general public. The shirts were exclusive to employees only, increasing its value and importantly, a greater number of employees wore them regularly.
When spending on swag for your employees there are some cost benefits associated, but the the primary return has to do with the emotional connection to the company. What you spend here should be greater per-item than what you’ll spend on promotional swag.
Who will remember you
Your promotional swag is like a business card, it’s something you provide to be remembered. Business cards cards aren’t enough though as you need to find ways to have increased headspace with your potential customers. A great promotional product is an opportunity to add value to a meeting or experience.
When you invest in promotional products that are given away to customers, you have to think about the return of investment. So if you’re spending x what are you getting as a result of it? It can be easy to justify keeping the cost of giveaways down, but also remember that the value of that giveaway has great sales potential, so it’s important that you are not giving away junk.
Promotional products work especially well today in this day and age of digital marketing where we generally have no physical contact with a consumer. With a promotional item, there is a tangible product you are handing to a person that is way more valuable than an email sent.
Just because you have a cool pen doesn’t mean they’re going to buy from you, but having a cool pen means they’re going to keep it, and one day when they’re thinking about something that you offer, it’ll hopefully cause a chain reaction that leads them back to you.
There’s a general outline of how a purchase occurs:
- The customer first begins to think about making a change.
- They notice advertising for the product.
- They start to ask around, to find what their options and costs.
- They start to look in earnest.
- They become emotionally involved with the desired purchase.
- They make a purchase.
If you’ve provided swag with value to it so that they have kept your item, the opportunity for them to remember your product is increased and can lead them to making a purchase. The mindset that you should always have with your branded merchandise is what is going to connect the receiver back to the meeting they had with me.
Those who fail to plan, plan to fail
Where people tend to go wrong in life is usually the byproduct of poor planning. This is exactly what leads to swag failures. With little foresight or perhaps by not respecting the value of what comes from swag, buyers generally pick the easiest option that might not be the best connect.
Don’t wait until the last second
It takes time to have things made, so order your swag as soon as possible so you know you’ll have it on time. Keep in mind, you can’t just think about the production time, you have to think about the shipping and delivery time. So it’s important when you’re communicating with your swag provider to let them know what the in-hand date is so it can arrive well ahead of time. It’s always a good idea to factor in some extra days to ensure that with all the problems that could potentially exist in the world, you will have the products by the time you need them.
Purchasing in bulk is the best method. Let’s say you have a staff of twenty. So a good idea is to order fifty of something, so as new staff comes on you can give it to them immediately. Plus when it comes to events, the cardinal rule is - never run out of swag! It’s better to have leftover swag which you’ll eventually use, than to run out before the end of the event.
People are often under the wrong impression that they have to order swag themselves. Working with a professional swag consultant can save you money, because they are often able to take the aggregate of all their sales orders and use that as a way to leverage better rates with manufacturers. They can give advice on the right products to go for, as well as providing you the ability to order samples prior to ordering your stuff, that way you get to see mockups prior to approving a purchase. You have somebody with experience, who can give you direction on where to go so that your time and money is well spent.
Keep your designs simple
Taste is subjective - what one person might find appealing in design may vary from person to person. Some people want huge logos on their products, some want super-small ones. When thinking about employee or staff giveaways, it’s a great idea to let them suggest some opinions so you can get a general consensus on the style that they like. It also shows that you listen to your employees and are engaged in a conversation with them about something that is cool and fun for the company.
For promotional swag, here are some generals tips regarding design:
- When printing on small things, a clear logo in a single color looks best.
- The more locations and the more colors that you add to an apparel item, hat, sweatshirt, hoodie, the more its going to cost.
- Quality always wins over design. If someone get a hoodie and the cotton feels scratchy no one wants to wear it.
This bears repeating - if you’re trying to be budget conscious, spend more on the quality of the item than on the quantity of locations and colors of print. You don’t want your employees picking up a t-shirt and saying this feels like crap. If you don’t want to spend that money then don’t. Don’t buy a bad product that people don’t want. Going a little less on quality can work on a mass giveaway but again you have to think what is the value of that, who is getting it, and are they going to just let it sit in their drawer. The quality of your product is a direct reflection of the image of the company. This is not the place for shortcuts.
The art of putting swag into people’s hands
People love swag because receiving a gift always generates excitement, and as a result they’re more likely to reciprocate their time to look into your company. So now comes the fun part - the actual swag exchange. This also needs to be well thought out. How you deliver swag into the hands of the receiver is just as important as anything else.
Don’t get egged
Companies need to plan ahead about how they distribute swag. Think of what happens at Halloween. People who leave candy out front with a ‘please take one’ sign really haven’t put any thought into this method of delivery. The first person who gets there dumps everything they can their bag, and everybody after them is screwed. You may think you left candy out, but in reality there’s no value in what you’ve done and some disgruntled kids may conclude the night by launching eggs at your house.
To keep the illustration going, some companies do use food or candy as a promotional item with their logo branded on the wrapper. That is a very immediate sort of swag. No one is going to hold a piece of candy in their pocket for a week or hold the wrapper in their pocket after they throw it out. Simply letting somebody else take all the swag who man not even want anything to do with your business is a waste of money. Therefore, it’s important to think through not only what the product is, but when do you give it to somebody. Instead of just giving away your candy to anyone who walks by, it would be better if you gave it to people after they speak with you, as an appreciative reward.
Keep in mind the all-important practical way to use swag. It’s a way to segway into a conversation with someone you really want to talk to. Swag is a foot in the door. When you’re at an event or trade show, put yourself in the position of the conference attendee. Would you pick up that item if you walked by your booth? Swag is payment for their time, so make the encounter worth it, then no one will be disgruntled enough to want to throw eggs at your booth.
Merge your product delivery ideas with who you are as a company
What you do as a company should have a great influence on the types of products you end up purchasing. If you’re a technology company then tech products such as mobile accessories, battery chargers, and laptop cases make a lot of sense. But also, maybe a part of your company is having a fun personality. So this is another opportunity to show something creative to display that.
It’s good to remember though, if you go too far, too kitschy, and your products and delivery are more comical and less utilitarian, then you’re taking a risk with your money. Trying to be funny might have some sort of value in that moment but it doesn’t have a long shelf life. Give people what they need. A bouncy glowy ball provides no value. But pens, journals, mobile accessories, bottle openers, koozies all have value, because they’re usable. Think of the items that people at the conference will need but might have forgotten to bring, and give them that. Give away products that people will be upset about if they lost it. And always make sure to have swag for your team to wear at your booth - it helps people know who to talk to.
If you think of swag as just a throwaway, it will be exactly what you think it’s going to be, and will just wind up in the trash. It doesn’t have to be that way. If you look at new companies or tech companies with young ownership and young employees, they don’t look at swag as something insignificant. They put ingenuity into their campaigns and find a way to tie their products into the core value of their business.
You are not alone
Again, don’t think you have to plan all of this yourself. Contact us for a free consultation with a professional print broker. We help the smaller companies get the benefits that the bigger companies get when they order swag. Plus, by the time you’re done with us, you’ll be a bona fide swag expert yourself.
We hope you enjoyed these tips. Comment below and let us know if we left anything out, and if you have a specific question or thought to share.