Tuesday, August 15, 2006

marketing musings: shwag

Look on your desk right now. How much shwag do you have hanging around? (Shwag is a slang term for free promotional items.) Right now, as I glance around my desk I count 5 items that have been sent to me by vendors that serve no useful purpose other than to take up space. I have a stuffed animal, a stress ball, a slinky, a cow keychain and a rubber ducky. Out of the hundred or so items I’ve received over the course of the year, these items were lucky enough to make the cut. They have the rare privilege of getting to sit on my desk.

While I may be a bit indifferent to these freebies, I know this is not the case for everyone. For example, this weekend I passed by several street marketers at my local farmer’s market. They all seemed to work for beverage companies (fruit juice, energy drink, flavored water), and they were all handing out shwag. I was amazed at how many people were lined up to get their free keychains and band aids and fly swatters. Sometimes I forget how much people love free stuff.

As a marketer and orderer of shwag, I often find myself trying to find the most useful and reasonably priced items to give away. In the past I’ve ordered jar openers (very helpful in the kitchen), magnetic clips (to keep those important documents on the fridge because where else are you gonna put them?), and water bottles (hydration is important), to name a few. I struggle with deciding what to order because of my own feelings toward shwag. I don’t want to give out a bunch of junk that’s just going to collect dust, but I also don’t want to be completely boring.

Wandering through many festivals and events this summer has helped me to realize that people don’t really care how useful something is as long as it’s free. As long as people are willing to wait in a line 25 people deep to get a free stress ball toy, then I have no need to worry. The real question is, does this free stuff help spread the Verity name? Do people notice or pay attention to the logos scattered about their desk or in their home? What connection do they make from the shwag to the company and is it one of value?

There I go again, overanalyzing. If you have any comments on this particular quandary of mine, I’d love to here them. Oh, and if you've ever received a promotional item that knocked your socks off, let me know!

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