Look on your desk right now. How much shwag do you have hanging around? (Shwag is a slang term for free promotional items.) Right now, as I glance around my desk I count 5 items that have been sent to me by vendors that serve no useful purpose other than to take up space. I have a stuffed animal, a stress ball, a slinky, a cow keychain and a rubber ducky. Out of the hundred or so items I’ve received over the course of the year, these items were lucky enough to make the cut. They have the rare privilege of getting to sit on my desk.

While I may be a bit indifferent to these freebies, I know this is not the case for everyone. For example, this weekend I passed by several street marketers at my local farmer’s market. They all seemed to work for beverage companies (fruit juice, energy drink, flavored water), and they were all handing out shwag. I was amazed at how many people were lined up to get their free keychains and band aids and fly swatters. Sometimes I forget how much people love free stuff.

As a marketer and orderer of shwag, I often find myself trying to find the most useful and reasonably priced items to give away. In the past I’ve ordered jar openers (very helpful in the kitchen), magnetic clips (to keep those important documents on the fridge because where else are you gonna put them?), and water bottles (hydration is important), to name a few. I struggle with deciding what to order because of my own feelings toward shwag. I don’t want to give out a bunch of junk that’s just going to collect dust, but I also don’t want to be completely boring.

Wandering through many festivals and events this summer has helped me to realize that people don’t really care how useful something is as long as it’s free. As long as people are willing to wait in a line 25 people deep to get a free stress ball toy, then I have no need to worry. The real question is, does this free stuff help spread the Verity name? Do people notice or pay attention to the logos scattered about their desk or in their home? What connection do they make from the shwag to the company and is it one of value?

There I go again, overanalyzing. If you have any comments on this particular quandary of mine, I’d love to here them. Oh, and if you’ve ever received a promotional item that knocked your socks off, let me know!


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2 Responses

  1. Andy says:

    I remember quite a few years back, Sony gave away squishy cube things (I guess you could call it a stress cube) with the PS2 logo on it at E3. People went crazy for them. The funny thing is that Nintendo was giving away tape dispensers, something you would think people would like as a useful item…and it bombed. Its hard to tell what people will cling to and what they won’t when it comes to shwag.

    We gave away flashlight key chains here at MSCU awhile back and I keep seeing them pop up around town. Lots of people mention that it is from MSCU. Of course they all know I work here, so I guess they might be doing it for my benefit. Still, I think a free keychain here and a free pen there definitely help get the name out there at least a little bit.

  2. Nala says:

    You nailed it. The time that I see our credit union clients put into finding the perfect schwag item is rarely paid back equally in brand awareness. I have about 5 different golf towels. Enough that I can colour-coordinate my towel to what I’m wearing for that round. Other than the dark green one from Mt. Lehman Credit Union, I couldn’t tell you the logos on the other 4.

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