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Boost Your Event Swag Game: 5 New Tactics to Try

By / Sep 24, 2018 The PopSocket has become a pop-culture phenomenon, along with a popular piece of swag. (Handout photo)

From minimizing your logo to going old-school, there are a lot of ways to do swag that don’t necessarily feel like the same-old-same-old. For one thing: socks.

Are you handing out the same pens, bags, and T-shirts that you always do at events? Swag is a fact of conference life, but when you do the same thing year in and year out, it can start to feel stale.

If you’re in the mood for a swag refresh, there are plenty of ideas out there for doing it right. Here are just a few:

Go subtle. One of the biggest problems people might have with swag is that it draws too much attention to itself. Some folks just don’t like feeling like a walking advertisement for a brand, even one they like (say, yours). Consider the approach of Map’t Gear, which creates designs that show a brand’s reach while not screaming out a logo. In a world where loudness often reigns, going subtle is one way to recalibrate.

Shirts are old hat. Socks are awesome. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is many things, including, apparently, an expert at picking out a good pair of socks. Last year, Trudeau wore Star Wars-themed socks on multiple occasions and made news with a pair that managed to send two messages at once: The rainbow stripes promoted Toronto’s gay pride parade, and lettering that read “Eid Mubarak” honored the Muslim religious holiday at the end of Ramadan. You probably don’t need to go that far with your socks, but branded foot coverings are currently hip and would make a unique piece of swag at your next event.

Outfit your attendees’ gadgets. Here’s how popular phone gear is. In 2014, a product called the PopSocket made its debut. The device is a simple grip that attaches to the back of a smartphone, making it easier to hold and working in a pinch as a simple stand. According to Forbes, the company sold 30,000 units in its first year—and 35 million units last year. It’s inexpensive, and any gear that makes a mobile phone or tablet easier to use (including battery chargers and Bluetooth headsets) is going to be pretty hot right now.

Play into nostalgia. Earlier this year, McDonald’s drew a ton of press with an event called McDelivery Day, which promoted the fast-food chain’s delivery agreement with UberEats. The differentiator? Swag, specifically ’90s-themed giveaways. While the company tapped more recent trends too—PopSockets and socks each made an appearance—the overall feeling was old-school. Consider how you could take advantage of the lure of nostalgia.

Swag doesn’t have to be physical. What if, instead of giving out a piece of gear that attendees may or may not like or use, you offer access to a free trial of some kind, or a gift card to pay for a month of a service that might help attendees do their jobs better? In an era when so much of the stuff we use is inside a computer anyway, there are lots of possibilities for digital swag. A bonus: It won’t weigh down your attendees’ luggage.

What kinds of freebies are you giving out at your events these days? Share your ideas for new and creative swag in the comments.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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