Swagged Out

Courtesy: Cafepress.com

I’ll be honest with you. I wear a lot of hats.


Not in the literal sense (In that instance, I only wear hats when I forget to shave and my bald spot becomes more pronounced), I meant that in the metaphorical “jack of all trades” sense. Today I want to talk to you about something from my Brand Management hat.




Long before it stood for att-it-tude, swag was about the giveaways a company organization gave out at its events. Some swag collections (or swag bags) are legendary. For instance, I heard in the 1990s, celebrities were showered with gifts for attending the Academy Awards. No matter the dollar amount, swag is given out for the same three reasons.

  1. Thanking someone for their time or interest
  2. Raising awareness for a brand or cause
  3. Encouraging the recipient to share their experience with their colleagues.


The third one usually gets tagged as “inciting a conversation” but I have a bit of a pet peeve as to how the word conversation is used these days by marketers. Alas, that is another story for another time.

Courtesy: Swag Blog

Good swag gets people to remember your brand. Bad swag gets people to remember the story of how they got the swag. Mediocre swag usually ends up in the trash. Most companies want to fall in the first category; some companies can build a successful campaign out of falling in the second category, whereas the third is just a bad spot to be in for everyone.

Good Swag.

A couple of years ago, I was in San Diego for Comic-Con. Like most summers in Southern California, the weekend was exceptionally warm with temperatures flirting with ninety degrees. Though the areas inside the convention center were air conditioned, you were pretty much left to your own devices outside. I remember walking the convention floor and coming across a booth that was giving plastic paddle-shaped fans as their giveaway. Sturdy enough to be semi-permanent, I became a walking billboard for the toy reseller vendor that had the wherewithal to put their names on fans. That’s smart thinking.


Bad Swag

That same weekend at Comic-Con, I was out and about in the Gaslamp/Downtown district seeing a couple of offsite events. There was a company that had overrun and converted a local restaurant into their branded headquarters. We were told that if we took a picture of the restaurant, followed the brand on social media, and tagged a friend we would get a “special gift.” When that gift turned out to be a cheap pair of sunglasses, I was a tad miffed. The difference here is that the engagement was required to obtain the gift in such a way that the brand would be on my mind for all the wrong reasons. I can illustrate this with two patches of dialog.


Good Swag:

Friend: Hey, where’d ya get this fan?

Me: Man, I was dying of heat, but this booth was giving them out. Totally saved my skin.

Friend: Which booth?


Bad Swag:

Friend: Where’d you get these shades?

Me: Over at that burger joint downtown. You have to go and talk to an attendant, then take a picture of the venue, then upload it to social media, and then….

Friend: So that’s why you took a random picture of a burger joint?

Me: Yeah I guess. Hmm, this whole thing sounds a bit silly. Let me take it down.


As far as mediocre swag, well I don’t have any stories about them. They’re not really that memorable.


So how do you make good swag? Well, it is definitely something you can throw money at. That is if you gave out Corvettes to everyone that walked by, I’m sure you would win your audience over in a heartbeat. Too bad there are these things called budgets that get in your way of living the dream. For a good swag experience, I say follow these tips:

  1. Keep it Cost Effective: Find out your budget then work backwards to find something that’s doable.
  2. Don’t be boring: A bookmark giveaway works for a bookseller, but unless you’re a bookmark collector that idea is pretty ho-hum.
  3. Don’t be too literal: Just because you sell toys doesn’t mean you have to give toys away. I’ve come across podcasts that gave out bottle openers, television shows that gave out ice cream; sustainable tech-companies that handed out reusable bags and sporting goods companies passed out (inexpensive) cameras to their clients.
  4. Leave breadcrumbs: Each piece of swag should have a website, a QR code, a Twitter handle or something that points to more information about your brand. Failing to do so is a baaaad idea!


With a little research and budget consideration, you could possibly have the swag that ends up being the talk of the town!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: