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5 Ways to Make Swag Giveaways Count

5 Ways to Make Swag Giveaways Count
Image credit: tdeckard2000 | Flickr
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Swag bags were a major trend in the early 2000s, but are they still relevant today? They can be, if done right.

For those of you who were born after 1990, swag bags are packets of free, promotional goodies, usually given at parties or events by sponsors.

The contents of the 2015 Oscars swag bag totaled $168,000, with celebrity horoscopes, personal training, liposuction wearables and “glamping” products. For those of us with smaller budgets, how do we provide bags for our event attendees and journalists that make the products we're trying to promote stand out?

Here are five tips that will help your brand stand apart from the rest through swag promotions:

1. Create a digital swag bag. 

In 2011, SXSW attendees raved about the digital swag bag they received. The most popular item: business cards from 

If your product or service is not digital, don't fear. Make products digital through giveaways. For instance, a product called the C² Insert helps turn traditional marketing into digital marketing with rewards programs, QR codes and barcodes. 

“Think Starbucks, which now has its own ecosystem which starts with a plastic card. Same thing here,” says Amy Silvers, online marketing Web development coordinator at My1Stop.Com. Giving your attendees digital exclusives will drive them visit your website and landing page, and even cash in on your offer.

2. Make your swag bag newsworthy. 

It’s always important to mitigate crises as a PR pro, but walk the line of controversy by including a unique item in the bag. A great example is including an item that will spark interest in a product launch. 

Be mindful of being too controversial, however. A brand called Bright Stars distributed “giggle pills” at a 2014 BlogHer conference. Conference attendees were not amused. They thought the swag was insensitive and over the top.

3. Avoid junk. 

Don’t waste your budget on items such as koozies, pens, tote bags and t-shirts. Offer products that are meaningful, functional and relevant. To avoid meaningless goodies, set a goal that you want the swag item or bag to achieve, and ensure everything in the bag helps achieve that goal. Giving people random goods is a wasted opportunity, according to the Event Manager Blog

4. Keep the desk in mind. 

What better way to hold the attention reporters than to offer swag for their workspace? 

Connect the brand you represent with an item that can be used for work, and brand it accordingly with your logo. It could be something as unconventional as a trash can. Business card carriers, screen protectors, and mobile phone covers are all functional items that people will use.

5. Make it personal. 

The key to improving your bags is to make them an integral part of the overall event strategy. Have a communication plan for the conference bag and solid reasons for its contents.

Above else, ask yourself this question: “Will people bring home the items in my swag bag?” If not, think twice. Quality control is important, even though swag is a fun aspect of your promotional plan.

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