I've been around the block when it comes to events. Swag has been both given and received abundantly in my event career. Lately, though, I've found myself in a bit of a "swag funk." So, I decided to take a deep dive into what's fueling this funk.
What's with the funk?
Here's the deal: Junk equals funk. Lately, my gut reaction to swag has been, "it's all junk." Taylor Brands points out that "plastics are a cheaper material and ideal for small businesses who want promotional products on a tight budget. However, these products contribute to America's growing waste problem." Most of the items companies hand out end up in junk drawers or, even worse, the garbage. While there are environmentally friendly and sustainable options, they're not as common. Let's change that and help me get out of my funk. But let's start by asking, why do companies use swag?
What's the Purpose of Swag?
Swag, aka "Stuff We All Get," is a longstanding event tradition. It's a gesture to show you care and value the people you work with or want to work with. It's something you give to be remembered by. Attendees at events these days almost expect it.
So, do I really hate swag? No, of course not. Who doesn't love gifts? I adore items that are useful and meaningful. Plus, there are some fantastic swag companies that practice sustainability and are great to work with. I challenge event producers and corporate planners to consider the intention behind the swag they give and be mindful of its long-term environmental impact.
Socks: I know some folks have a different opinion, but I love a good pair of logo socks.
Giant Highlighter: This one's inexplicable, but I love it. It's my only plastic item on the list, and I think it's because it's useful, memorable, and fun.
Art: If it fits your aesthetic, art makes a fantastic gift. I cherished a California watercolor I received as an event sponsor (Artist: MomentMaps by Amy Logston). I also got a stunning gemstone globe at an event years ago, which I later saw in an antique store for $500. It's made of gemstones native to each country, and it's pretty sweet. Swag that becomes more valuable with time—now there's an idea.
Alcohol: Sorry, but it's true. Who doesn't love being gifted a nice bottle to share with friends and family later?
Food: Just a taste, preferably something local.
Sustainable Items: If it's good for Mother Nature, count me in. I'm loving metal straws and branded Turkish towels these days.
What Makes a Good Swag Company:
Quick turnaround with reliable delivery deadlines
Exceptional customer service (many events require specific shipping times and instructions)
Shout-out to some of my favorite swaggers: Blue Sky Marketing, Goldner Associates, Inc., 4Imprint, and Swag.com.
Keep swag intentional, functional, and environmentally friendly. Happy swag shopping!