Like peanut butter and jelly, trade shows and swag just go together. Swag, commonly regarded as an acronym for “stuff we always get,” is the moniker for all of the promotional goodies given away at trade shows, conferences and other professional gatherings.
For maximum effectiveness, swag should be regarded as more than something thrown on the table for conference ‘trick-or-treaters’ to gobble up. Your promotional giveaway should be a reflection of your brand, a conversation piece to engage potential leads, and a memorable extension of your messaging.
When it comes to trade shows, there is definitely an art to selection of the item.
There are many elements to balance:
- The very best swag will hang around a while, leaving your message in front of the audience long after the exhibit has been packed up and shipped away.
- The ideal giveaway should be something unique and eye-catching, related to your brand, product or campaign in some way.
- Items that are too common can get lost in the shuffle, especially if the recipient already has one or more.
- Size/packability can be a factor, especially in a national convention scenario where a large portion of the audience is flying after the show.
- There are likely some budget constraints involved, so cost must be a consideration.
- Your giveaway shouldn’t completely eclipse the value proposition of the brand/product being presented in the exhibit
Striking the balance between all of these can be difficult. With thousands of products out there, there is no one product that will fit every organization. However, here are a few that really worked, with some of the best attributes about them.
Helping College-Bound Students Clean Up
College Avenue Student Loans hit a home run with their laundry bags, which shows that this lender knows and understands their target audience. College Avenue gets an early in with potential borrowers, marketing via college fairs to juniors and seniors in high school. For this segment, this particular giveaway is likely one of the first items these students receive which makes going away to college start to feel real. It’s something they will use but aren’t really excited to buy; a perfect giveaway. College Avenue also uses this giveaway for current college students at fairs and campus events, targeting them when they are likely to need replacement. The usefulness of this item speaks for itself, while the bright coloring and prominent logo keep the lender front of mind to students who may need to borrow now or in the future. Another plus is that this doesn’t necessarily compete with show-sponsored bags, which are occasionally restricted as giveaways in individual exhibits.
Scent as Reminder
Normally, pens would not be on our list of suggestions for trade show swag. They are among the lowest cost, most common tradeshow swag, but they are often lost, ignored and replaced. These particular pens make our list because they have a secret. From Hershey Resorts in the Pennsylvania hometown of Hershey chocolate bars, these pens smell like chocolate. Boy, oh boy, do they smell like chocolate! Scent is a powerful tool to play on emotions and memories. However, it is one not often used with exhibits and promotions because it is easy to over-do and can quickly cross into offensive territory. This is genius because it is subtle… and when one smells chocolate, one wants chocolate. These chocolate-scented pens are directly responsible for the lack of chocolate bars in a certain vending machine in a certain exhibit house, and have spurred the sale of a large number of Hershey bars.
Targeting Web Traffic
The great minds over at GeniusMonkey came up with an absolutely genius campaign for the recent Digital Summit conference, targeting digital marketers. Marketing to marketers can be tricky, because you have to beat them at their own game. Digital monkey did everything right with this exhibit, which all followed a “target” theme. The tabletop display consisted of several wooden contraptions, which were in direct contrast to the high-tech, digital theme of the event and naturally drew curiosity. The centerpiece was a large catapult with which could launch plush bananas at targets like a starved monkey would. Attendees were drawn to play the game and talk with brand ambassadors. After having their badges scanned, attendees were given a miniature catapult to assemble at home for continued brand interaction. The branded catapult provides instant recall, and will likely stay on desks for some time after the show. However, the real win here is that assembly instructions are provided via a QR code; this giveaway is guaranteed to drive traffic to the GeniusMonkey website. The flat-packed, unassembled catapult doesn’t take up much more room than a postcard so it is transportable in even the most overflowing suitcase. GeniusMonkey can also use this as a direct mailer if needed, and get even more bang for their buck. There is nothing but win in this ‘genius’ campaign.
Untangling Scientific Problems
Agilent Technologies used this Tangle Toy as giveaway to launch a new product to analytical lab chemists. The chemists use Agilent products to discover compounds; they are essentially solving chemical puzzles. With imprinted messaging about how Agilent products can help scientists untangle their analysis problems, this ingenious giveaway directly related to the launch campaign. Sadly, after over ten years, some of the printing has come off of this tangle toy so the specific messaging is lost. But, yes, this toy has been in hand for over ten years…. Which is some serious staying power for a piece of trade show swag. The bright colors show stark contrast to the sterile colors traditionally associated with laboratory environments, while the playful element runs counter to the normally practical giveaways in this vertical. A tad risky, but a definite win.
These four examples show that thought, creativity, consistency and focus on the target market can inspire relevant and effective promotional campaigns in any trade show. Do not select solely from the items shown on a company’s website. There are thousands of advertising specialty items available from hundreds of vendors, so usually only the most popular or representative examples are shown on the website. While you may do some preliminary shopping on a website, ask for a consultation with a sales consultant as you get closer to a decision. These experts are familiar with the trends in promotional items and familiar with the offerings of their providers. This is the best way to ensure that your item is unique and will truly help you stand out. Usually, they offer samples of various products so you can test a few out with key audience members before committing to buy.