Promotional Items Should Not be an Afterthought: 5 Tips to Create Effective Swag

Promotional items tend to be an afterthought. They are typically not included in the overall marketing budget or strategically thought out as part of a comprehensive campaign. However, you can’t underestimate the power of an innovative use of a promotional item, affectionately known as swag.

There are few things that come with such a low cost per impression and the opportunity for a considerable campaign lifespan as promotional items. Take the classic case of an imprinted pen. According to the Global Advertising Impressions Study, the average cost per impression for a promotional pen is less than 1/10th of a cent, one of the best values in advertising.     

But, before going crazy and buying a ton of swag, here are five things to consider:

  1. Brand Alignment:

Ensure that your promotional items are aligned with your brand. You should always present value with the premiums in which you choose to invest. Every time someone sees that item they are going to connect it to your brand.  No one wants  their brand to be associated with broken and cheap products so be willing to spend a little more to get a better value. This will surely provide a better impression to clients and prospects.

  1. Usable Products:

A trendy item may be tempting as a promotion, but as clever as an imprinted fidget spinner may appear to be, it is usually best to stick with products that have real function. However, toys certainly have a role in the marketing mix at times. Some of the most popular and cost effective utilitarian products at the moment are cell phone wallets, full-color imprinted microfiber cloths used to clean screens and glasses, and copper insulated tumblers (think Yeti-style drinkware). The first two options are lower cost and provide value, but the tumbler will be a highly desired gift with a pricier investment.

  1. Pairing Items:

One of the most successful and innovative uses for promotional items is pairing a consumable with a more enduring item (i.e. a great coffee mug filled with a local company’s candy). We’ve recently worked with Mouth Party Caramels in Timonium, MD to meet a customer’s request for a food item from a local business. With this type of pairing, you get the connection with the delicious candies that will disappear quickly and the staying power of the mug that will provide a low cost per impression over time. Other popular pairings are embroidered caps wrapped with a t-shirt or polo and, on the higher end, bluetooth earbuds packaged with a power bank will put some “charge” in any marketing campaign. Such items are much more expensive, but may be perfect for just the right occasion to create a real “wow” effect.

  1. Don’t Forget the Packaging:

Especially when pairing items, you want to ensure that you are a providing a classy presentation. Custom packaging goes a long way. A great idea that we’ve seen implemented for the holidays is a gift basket that includes two stainless-steel tumblers, several packets of hot chocolate mixes, tea bags and assorted nuts. This is seasonally appropriate, delicious, and you have the staying power of the stainless-steel tumblers to deliver the value and low cost per impression.  

  1. Budgeting Appropriately:

Think about a per piece budget and how many items are desired as well as the type of campaign for which you’d like to use your logo items. Don’t be fearful of sharing your budget with your vendor so you can carefully consider getting the best value and “bang” for your buck. It is often better not to make a purchase if you cannot afford a quality item. Don’t invest in an item that will break or run out of ink (or dry out quickly). After all, it has your company logo on it. When customers are looking for a cheap offering in a particular product category, perhaps a low-end umbrella, we do our best to direct them to purchasing a higher quality item in an altogether different product category.

This year has been another great year for swag. From full color imprinted coasters and copper vacuum insulated tumblers, to bluetooth speakers, earbuds, decorated apparel and growlers, there have been a lot of very useful items that will deliver on value and have staying power. Just keep your goals in mind, avoid budget and logistical snags and your use of imprinted promotional products will be successful.

Get excited about what you hand out and gift to clients and prospects. In turn, the recipients will LOVE what you give them and they will use what you give.


Crown Trophy is a proud AMA Baltimore sponsor. To learn more about Crown Trophy, visit their website: Photo supplied by Crown Trophy.