Our name is on a lot of stuff: stickers, hats, shirts, lanyards and, of course, pens. It’s also on some pretty niche stuff: Klement’s beef snack sticks (“Nice to Meat You”), VIN decoding mouse pads, beer mugs, bobble heads – and we come up with new, interesting stuff to brand all the time, partly because our favorite customers, vendors, and even our own employees really like cool, new stuff. Who doesn’t?

Sometimes I send my weight in swag equaling hundreds of pieces and thousands of dollars to shows and customers. As our trade show crew is out exhibiting the rest of this month, I consider the items we give away to attendees and customers: is it worth it?

Is it useful? (No, really.) USB drives, laser pointers, stress balls, grocery bags – you have them, I have them, and like me, you’ve probably thrown most of them away. While categorically useful in nature, not all promotional items end up being actually used – ever.

Is it relevant? USB drives, laser pointers, stress balls, grocery bags: all these things have something in common: they have absolutely no relevance to any industry. Sure, you can look at and store data and files on a USB, you can point your laser, and we all experience stress in remembering to bring our branded grocery bags to the store, but they are in their very nature generic and meant to be easy items that “everyone will like.” That’s not likely and, unfortunately, categorizes stuff as junk.

Is it a keeper? Do I keep it, wash it, and use it again? Do I go looking for it at the next event? Do I ask the vendor to send me another? Do I refer to that thing, not as the object but as the BRAND NAME HERE item? That’s how you know something is special. While, yes, these items are sometimes the pricier of promotional options, they are legitimately worth their weight.

Promotional branding is an adaptive industry – the classics remain while new items, new technologies, and new trends allow for fresh stuff to arrive on the trade show floor, in your mail, or in your shop every day. To decide what to brand, I make sure it addresses two main concerns: Would I, or my customer, use it every day? Is it special?

What are some of my go-tos?

Pens: our shipment of pens was once about 12 hours late to a trade show event. We thought, it’ll be OK, everyone has pens, we have other stuff. Faulty logic. Everyone has pens because everyone should – pens are taken in our booth to be used. I bet you used a branded pen this week. Not only do they linger in pen cups across the country, they are quite simply used and are therefore effective.

Beverage Containers:
cups, mugs, travel cups and mugs, even shot glasses – the worst possible versions of these items still get used. I’ve probably lost a dozen to-go mugs in my life and that pain is a little less if it’s branded, because, we had a good run, me and that Brandmakers water bottle, and I got good use out of it. I’ll get another someday… The ones I really love that are good looking and functional? I’ll fight you for them.

Weird stuff: socks, tools, and really good clothing items. People who don’t even really know what REMAN U is find us at trade shows for one of our super soft REMAN U shirts. They ask for other sizes for their husbands and wives. They’ll say to their colleagues, “I sleep in this all the time!” Can they have one, too? Of course. High quality and novelty value set this stuff and your brand apart. You can’t realistically give a branded pair of socks to everyone you meet, but for customers who need a boost, a new friend, or an employee who deserves recognition? Make their day.

As I go forward into a new year of events and customer needs, I think, yes some of our stuff is cool, some of it is used and some of it, admittedly, is filler. What will our shop owners, technicians, vendors use every day to remind them not only how cool we are, but how useful we are to their business, too?

What are some of your favorite promotional giveaways?