From our earliest days, we open little packages and squeal with delight. Whether it’s a toddler yanking the ribbons off a present or a kindergartner tucking into a Happy Meal, there’s nothing like opening up a package meant to please us.
Always keep that in mind when putting together a “swag bag” (a bag of takeaways) for any corporate event you throw.
It’s not only about promotion and it’s not only about fulfilling an obligation. The swag bag should not look like something you felt you had to put together, like “here, we’re giving you free stuff, are you satisfied?” But it should come across as what it absolutely should be, a genuine attempt to make your guests feel honored.
Witness the infamous 2015 Emmy Award swag bags, handed out to losing nominees and host Neil Patrick Harris. So, here’s the thing.
Since these bags are handed to losing nominees, they can’t hold only a can of Pringles and an Oscar t-shirt and a bumper sticker.
That would be a slap in the face. Hard as it may be, the Oscar folks seemed to work hard to make the losers feel genuine sympathy.
So, the bags contained nearly $200,000 worth of goodies, including a travel pillow for their flight home; gourmet mustards and salad dressings; expensive bracelets, $900 worth of personal training; whatever a wearable liposuction device is; a lifestyle makeover, and a “glamping” package that include a hot air balloon ride.
What can be your little Emmy? What are the best kinds of swag to hand out?
While the Oscar swag came out to more than $150K, it holds that value only if the recipient uses all of it. However, we can probably agree that much of the Oscar bag was made up of certificates for services that many of the recipients won’t use. That might be unavoidable up to a point, but try to hand out useful items as much as possible.
These can include office supplies with or without your company logos, thumb drives, phone chargers, bottle openers or corkscrews, etc. The more related to your industry (and likely to be used by all attendees), the better.
Which is better, lotion or chips? Only one of these really feeds a primal need, and one doesn’t have to be a psychologist to appreciate how that gives chips the edge. Food items can be great because your attendees can munch them on the way back to their hotel, on their drive home, etc. They don’t become storage problems (try not to hand out umbrellas or anything huge).
Unusual food items, such as chutneys or cuisines from other lands, can justify a bit of space in an overnight bag and can score points.
If you’re looking for edible swag with your company’s name attached, a company called iCustomLabel prints off peel-and-stick, waterproof labels for your company that you smack onto bottles of water.
If you hand out items that your attendees may not have heard of, they’ll be impressed. If you’ve impressed your guests, you’re onto something good. The Ragnar Trail Relay course has as a reward for finishing, a medal that doubles a tool, sort of like a Swiss Army Knife.
Coffee cereal packs a wow factor; a work of art—small painting, etc.—will score serious uniqueness points; stuff like an mp3 player made out of legumes will make an amazing impression.
What to Avoid
Golf balls and golf tees. It’s the cliché swag item. Unless you’re in the golf industry.
Pens. It’s not really a gift. It’s “here, a crappy pen that will go dry in nine minutes with our name on it.”
Frisbees. People do not use Frisbees. A Frisbee with your company’s name on it signifies that your company is obsolete.
Coffee Mugs. You don’t want your company to be signified by something that seems useful at first but ends up holding other things the person never really wanted.
Baseball hats. Unless your clientele is made up of hipsters who are into foam trucker caps with mesh in the back, and you can those at a reasonable rate, you just don’t know how much use these will get. People who wear baseball caps frankly prefer to advertise their favorite sports team, etc., and it will be hard for your swag hat to make the cut.
Should you swag unto others as you’d have swagged unto you? That’s not such a bad idea. From that strategy one gets very thoughtful and nuanced ideas like those above. Doing this will cover a lot of things: it will cover usability, convenience, appropriateness, etc. Remember, the way to make the best impression is to make the person feel taken care of, appreciated, and thought about fondly.