Part of the fun of attending conferences, conventions and trade shows is the swag*. You know, all the supposedly cool stuff crammed into a bag or handed out at booths.
The bulk of it though, goes right in the trash. So, if you’re trying to come up with some neat giveaways, keep in mind that many people fly, and don’t want to pay luggage fees just to take your branded stuff home unless it’s really, really cool.
Here are 10 crappy giveaways that do little to market your business:
- Cheap pens. If you want to give away pens, spend the extra money and go for the nice ones. Anything that resembles dollar bin discount stock is better put to use by utilizing the cap as an ear cleaner. The remaining component is promptly laid to rest.
- Magnets. With so many of us traveling with electronics and gadgets – laptops, portable drives, smartphones – it amazes me how many hefty, fancy magnets are given out. When handed a swag bag, the first thing I do is get rid of these things, no matter how pretty and functional they may be.
- Plastic cups. Seriously, why are you handing out something anyone can get at McDonald’s?
- Calculators. They may serve a purpose for other vendors during the exhibit, but I bring home handfuls of calculators each year. They’re promptly donated. Keep this in mind: Most cell phones have a calculator. All computers have a calculator.
- Cheap flash drives. If you want to make your mark, go for 1GB or larger. Two years ago FedEx offered up drives that stored a scant 128MB, and trashcans were full of them at the end of the day. Sorry, FedEx, it was just an unsuitable giveaway for an ecommerce conference, considering most of the folks there were big on tech and have a need to backup much larger files.
- Coffee Mugs. Unless truly a local event, avoid these heavy, breakable items. They rarely survive the luggage bin, and often wind up becoming a nuisance.
- Cheap tote bags, backpacks and laptop bags. Let’s be honest, no one is expecting you to spend loads of cash, but if you’re entire idea is to constantly remind people who you are, you have to give them something they’ll put to good use. I have a few backpacks and totebags that I use while traveling because they’re sturdy and have great zippers. They’re emblazoned with company logos and I’m reminded of those businesses each time I use them. The flimsy ones I’ve donated or tossed? I couldn’t tell you where I got them nor whose logo was imprinted on the front. Out of sight, out of mind.
- Cheap yo-yos. A hunk of plastic with discount string isn’t fun now, is it?
- Anything that’s just a modified business card. Save your money, just hand out business cards.
- Those nasty chocolate bars. Okay, so they look tempting with your company logo on the wrapper, but guess what goes in the trash first? You got it – the wrapper. And that cheap chocolate? It does nothing to make me want to run back to your booth and say, “Hey, let’s do business!”
The right promo item serves more than one purpose. First and foremost, it should be something that others will use frequently. If your target is other business people, consider something they will carry with them, or use on their desk. If it’s consumers you’re targeting, find something unique that they’ll play with often. Never underestimate simple things, like bottle openers (we have one in our house, and it bears PayPal’s logo) or LED keychains (so I can find the keyhole when I’ve forgotten to set the timer on the porch light).
For more niche businesses, offer up branded items you might otherwise be able to sell. For example, a sports equipment store might give out sweatbands with the store logo, and a coffee shop could gain more attention by handing out samples and branded coffee spoons or scoops.
Whatever you do, think beyond the standard, cheap catalog pages. You don’t have to go for broke, but you do need to invest in something useful and, for best results, totally original.
* also referred to as ‘schwag’ or ‘shwag’