(Source: Flickr)

Swag. If you’ve ever been to a trade show, chances are you’re very familiar with the stuff: the promotional pens, keychains, mugs, or other items offered to potential clients in various booths. It’s a pleasant gesture to be offered a trinket, but have you ever paused to wonder about the meaning and benefits of swag, and whether or not it’s worth the investment?

Here, we’ll discover the art of trade show swag, including what it is, why we use it, and how it can be effective in promoting your business.Picture2

(Source: Flickr)

Trade show swag: what it is.

Even if you’ve never heard the term “swag”, chances are you’re familiar with it. Trade show swag describes promotional items offered by companies in their booths to potential customers. It may be displayed in large baskets for people to take, or it may be offered only to customers who have completed a sale.

Usually, the item in question will be branded with the company’s logo. While trade show swag can be virtually any promotional item, it’s typically a small, functional item: some examples include customized pens, flash drives, pins, laser pointers, or small notebooks.

Why do we offer swag?

Swag is an expense for a business that may not have a direct return. So why on earth do we offer swag? Well, there are a few reasons:


Swag can be a fun way to promote your company. By creating a personalized product, you send a message that your company is a legitimate establishment that has a marketing budget and has things together. It projects an air of professionalism, which is great for business.

Brand recognition:

By offering a personalized, branded item, you will help cement your logo and business in people’s minds. Even if they don’t place a sale directly at a trade show, having your personalized item may keep your business in a potential customer’s mind, so if and when they are ready to do business, your company is in the forefront of their mind.

Customer engagement:

Offering swag can be a great way to break the ice with a potential customer. It’s easy to quickly reach sensory and visual overload at a trade show; offering something appealing and interesting with your logo on it can help make your booth and business stand out. It might just be the difference between someone walking by and stopping to check out what you’re offering.

Everyone loves a freebie:

Let’s face it: everyone loves something for free. By offering trade show swag, you create pleasant feelings by giving people something and starting off your relationship on a positive note.Picture3

(Source: Flickr)

What are some of the key types of swag offered?

What are some of the most popular types of swag? While the swag can be literally any branded item, here are some of the most popular items and the advantages of each:

Office items:

Personalized office items such as pens or notepads with a company logo are one of the most popular trade show swag items. There’s good reason: first, they are readily available and relatively cheap to produce, even in small quantities. Second, they are useful: everyone needs a pen or to make a quick note every now and again, and the next time someone reaches for one, they will encounter your logo.


Refrigerator magnets are a very popular type of trade show swag. Like pens, they are easy and relatively cheap to produce, they are a handy, functional item, and they will put your logo right in a potential customer’s space.

Keychains: Keychains are often used for swag, for the same reason as magnets and office items: they are cheap, quick to produce, and can prove handy.

Tote bags:

A well-made tote bag featuring your logo can be a great marketing item. Not only will people at the trade show start taking note of them, especially if they have a great design, but if they carry it around town they are acting as a sort of billboard for your business.


T-shirts are another common swag offering. Everyone can use an extra t-shirt, right? The only complication with offering t-shirts is that you have to make a decision regarding sizing. Do you want to deal with headaches of various sizes?

These are some of the most common types of swag; however, in recent years, companies have gotten creative with swag, offering items such as customized flip-flops, fortune cookies, chocolate candies, umbrellas, or cell phone chargers. Offering something unique and different can be a great way to make an impression, though it can prove more expensive than some of the above options.

Should you offer swag?

Offering swag can be difficult: you’re spending money on something, without any guarantee of return. That can lead to the question: is it worth it?

Ultimately, the answer is up to you, but it’s worth considering the lasting effects of offering swag. It’s easy for people to forget about you in the busyness of a trade show. Having a memento of your business just might be the difference between a sale and no sale.Picture4

(Source: Flickr)

What type of swag is right for your business?

Let’s talk about how to settle on the right type of swag for you. Here are some things to consider:

What image do you want to project?

Do you want your business to come across as innovative and creative? In that case, a boring pen or notepad with your logo probably is not going to send the right message. Look for a unique design or unexpected product to use as swag.

Is the item relevant to your business?

For an island adventure company, giving away branded flip-flops as swag is relevant and playful. However, if an investment firm offered branded flip-flops, it might miss the mark. While the item in question doesn’t always have to relate directly to your business, it should be a consideration.

How long does it take to produce?

Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to produce the items before your trade show. When researching different swag options, take careful note of the time required to produce each one. If custom t-shirts take three weeks to make and your trade show is in exactly three weeks, the timing is too tight; explore other, quicker-to-produce, options.

What is your budget?

Swag could cost anywhere from around $100 for a very small order to thousands of dollars. Carefully decide on your budget, and how many units you will require for the event, and take it from there.

Conclusion: On one level, offering swag might seem frivolous. However, offering a small branded trinket with your business logo can serve as a reminder of your business and what you do, keeping yourself in their thoughts long after the trade show is over. Swag can be a powerful marketing tool, and may well prove a worthy investment.

Have you ever offered swag at a trade show?

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