Saturday, May 21, 2016

They hear we got swag

I work on a college campus and I go to a lot of conferences, so getting free stuff is a regular part of my life.

I am not sure how free gifts with corporate logos on them became known as "swag," but I do know that I've received quite a lot of them over the years, and I consider myself quite the authority on what makes them good or not. I'm here to share my opinions on some of the promotional gifts I've received over the years. I intended to include photographs with this post, since a picture is worth a thousand cheap pens, but since I am in Hawaii and have neither my collection of conference goodies with me nor a speedy internet connection, you will just have to settle for this large amount of text.

My least favorite conference swag includes stickers and temporary tattoos. These items are a cheap and easy way to promote your company, except no one wants them. I struggle to find places to stick my stickers. Usually I feel that they make any surface uglier, though I tend to use them to decorate the covers of my work-related notebooks. Temporary tattoos, though, are almost a complete waste. No one wants to walk around with someone else's logo affixed to their skin. The day I wear a corporate temporary tattoo is the day someone pays me to do so.

Pens are also a total let-down as far as free gifts go. When I used to work in retail, pens were always disappearing, and I would have been glad for a free conference pen or a dozen...but now that I work at a job where I actually get free pens on the regular, well, I've been using the same 2 pens since I started 4.5 years ago.

T-shirts are one of those gifts that you get really excited about until you actually own them...and then they sit in your closet taking up space for months while you reject them in favor of clothes that actually fit and are fun to wear. Finally you donate them, unused, hoping some poverty-stricken recipient will just be glad to have a shirt at all.

Somewhere in the middle ground are things like sunglasses. They were a cool novelty when I first started getting them for free, but now they are ubiquitous, and my Cheap Sunglasses collection is getting a little unmanageable! At least, though, when you go to a conference, you can usually count on getting some free eye protection if you ever need to step outside into the glaring light of day.

Gifts that I usually find useful are quality reusable water bottles. I'm not talking the cheap squeezable bottles with sport tops that always seem to leak, but good, durable bottles that go the extra mile. Somehow my water bottles are always going MIA, so it's nice to have a constant stream of replacements. My current favorite is a lightweight clear plastic, reasonably sized bottle with a wide opening and leak-proof screw-off lid. Steel bottles are another favorite, though they are not often dishwasher-safe.

Once upon a time, my life was so devoid of lip balm that when my lips got dry, I would put hand lotion on them (rather than buying a tube of balm, naturally!) Nowadays, I have so many promotional lip balms, I keep one in my purse, and one at my desk at work, and another next to the bed at home, and I still feel I will never run out! However, despite my excessive supply, lip balms are one of those conference gifts that I continue to appreciate. I think businesses could be on the right track if they just expanded their reach with other types of small personal care items that people constantly need to replace—things like sunscreen tubes, nail clippers and files, dental floss and toothbrushes. I'd add shampoo and lotion to this list as well, but people who go to a lot of conferences probably also go to a lot of hotels, which means a free neverending supply of those items!

Currently topping my list are the large spring-action clips. These usually have magnets on the back, so they are probably intended to hold reams of paper to your refrigerator or antiquated steel filing cabinets, but for me, they make perfect food-storage clips. Although I have a sizeable collection already, one can always use another clip to hold a bag shut! 

The winner for the best corporate swag ever is one that I haven't found yet: pocket knives! Perhaps we don't see these because they could be deemed dangerous, but a little one-inch pocket knife isn't going to kill anyone, and they're about as handy as tools come. You can get these for like a dollar (I know because I'm constantly having to replace the ones I lose or abandon at airport security!), and if you stuck a logo on one and gave it to me for free, I can guarantee it would rarely be out of my sight.


Swagman said...

Don't forget napping pods! I wish a company would have a pod at their booth that would allow visitors to take a 20-30 min break. Although it's not technically swag, unless you pair it with sleep mask, I'm sure most conference goers would appreciate it.