The SWAG and Trade Show Premium Conundrum
Doesn’t everyone love a free bit of SWAG at trade shows or events? You’ve probably heard the term SWAG but do you know what it stands for? It’s short for “Stuff We All Get”. SWAG has a lot of other meanings as well, but for this blog post, think of those free gifts, giveaways and premiums you’re offered at an event or a trade show.
For trade show exhibitors, SWAG is a double-edged sword. At trade events they can be an effective give away to bring traffic into your booth, and leave behind a product of value with the visitor; a way to remember your company or offering. And that’s the point.
The question is, are SWAG seekers the people that you want to attract? I think the answer is yes. The trade show premium industry is a multi-billion dollar market. Companies and brands want you to wear their stuff and use products that have their logo and their mark on them. They want you to remember them and remember them in a positive way.
The Value Exchange
One important thing to remember about giving away trade show gifts or premiums is that there should be a value exchange of some kind. A business card, a short conversation or a scan of an exhibitor badge. This is what makes it a value exchange, otherwise you might as well just hand out dollar bills at the corner of your booth.
I remember many moons ago, my wife and I attended SemiCon show in San Francisco. It is a show about the Semiconductor industry; wafers for miniature electronics and solar cells. She attended the show for the morning to look around and happened onto a trade show booth that was giving away a scooter. Remember the onslaught of scooters in the 90’s? This was THE brand named scooter of the time called a Razor. It collapsed down to almost nothing and fit into our luggage perfectly. Our kids were thrilled. They used it for years. It was the hit of the neighborhood.
Doesn’t this seem like the perfect give-away? But that was the problem. No value exchange. Oh I am sure that they got our email address but my wife was never going to purchase a high precision ultra-clean, semiconductor pump or whatever it was the company was offering. It was a waste of effort to even scan her attendee card.
My Trade Show Premium Journey
I have purchased a lot of trade show premiums over the years for use at trade shows, trade events, job fairs and conferences. I have purchased logo emblazoned chocolate, pens, date wheel calculators, more pens, reusable bags, lens cleaning cloths and many USB memory sticks.
I have ordered thousands of shirts and used them as gifts, for favors, on models for photo shoots and thanking suppliers for great service. I have even shipped them to associations where we were members for their staff to wear and promote our brand.
My all-time favorite give away however was a book; a blue, perfect-bound executive daybook called BlueLine executive notebook with a custom logo foil printed on the front and a custom front and back page. I ordered them by the skid. They were not dated so they lasted a long time. Clients, suppliers, customers, prospects carried them around with them for years. They would bring the notebook to all their meetings. They saw our logo every time they picked up the book, so did our competitors. You know you hit the bullseye give away when customers and your own salespeople call you to ask for them, or they come to your booth the next time that you see them to pick up another one.
Immediate Usage Giveaways
Some opportune show premiums are things that can be used or consumed right then and there at the trade show floor. I am a bit mixed on this idea. Small bottles of water, popcorn, breath mints, lip protector, chocolate. Although people will pick it up and carry it around during the show, the use is mostly immediate so there’s not much future value to the premium for either the exhibitor or the attendee. So I will say, I prefer premiums that people will reuse, will put on their desk or into their briefcase.
Currently Popular Premiums
What is popular for your industry is probably regional and might be personal. Wearables (items to wear) and drinkables, (products to hold drinks) are very popular, but I see a lot of different premium items especially in B2B marketing, and thought a list could be helpful:
Smart phone USB phone charging batteries
Smart phone multi charger devices and cords
Lens cleaning cloths
Aluminum and plastic water bottles and containers
Golf balls and Tees
Writing books and notepads
Here is some of my best advice to those people looking to purchase SWAG or booth premiums for your next trade show or event:
• Your giveaway should do its job: attract people to come into your booth and have utility for the user.
• Look for high-perceived value and medium to low-cost items
• Color is important; be consistent with your branding
• Think small and light; products that are easily transportable
• The premium should have a tie in to your brand. If you are a Swiss company, consider Swiss chocolate.
• Be first or be unique; everyone gives away pens. Ask:“Would I take this?”
• Premiums reflect your brand and your company, so don’t purchase something very cheap that might break.
• If quality is suspect, the logo mark is not correct, return it to your supplier. It won’t happen again.
• Trade Show Rule: Bigger fabric bags swallow smaller fabric bags
• Keep in mind that your item may be re-gifted: kids, spouse, employees; this is not a bad thing!
• Packaging is critically important; optimize and reduce waste where you can
Pro Tip 1: Keep a number of VIP SWAG pieces that you can give away and pre-package them in a cloth bag, so that you can be discreet with the gift. Keep them out of sight.
Pro Tip 2: Don’t give away products that people cannot take on airplanes. Swiss Army Knives, scissors and laser pens are all things that are “suspect” when flying.
Pro Tip 3: Be aware of the “country of origin” as some countries have import quotas and you don’t want your goods held up at the border because of this important detail. Ship your trade show giveaways separate from your booth if you suspect that they may be held up in transit. Yes, this can happen. I know.
Remember to have fun with premiums. Let them do their job and keep an ample supply and use them for trade shows, factory tours, and job fairs.
Have we remembered everything? If you have any other suggestions, please send me an email.
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