Better Swag!

Ever gotten some swag that really made you go wow! And that you actually use? What was it? Who gave it to you? So many good replies already! Leave a comment below?

Let’s make better swag!

20 Comments leave a comment below

  1. I received a Hoefler & Frere Jones tote bag at a HOW Design conference. Out of all the swag I got at that conference, that bag has been the most useful. I use it every day for groceries, carrying my lunch, library books and anything else that doesn’t fit in my shoulder bag. It’s awesome!

  2. Seconding the tote bags. I was at a YAPC (tech) conference in Houston, and the swag bags were canvas totes… not those “nonwoven” things, but heavy canvas (poly/cotton, I’m guessing). The horizontal, shallow-but-wide kind, with straps that are exactly long enough to go over my shoulder but not so long the bag drags on the ground (well, it does a little but I have short legs and gorilla arms) when I’m carrying it in my hand. I liked ’em so much I bought another five of them off the conference organizer afterward, and they’re my go-to grocery bag every single time. That was 2007, and they’ve been washed often enough that the waterproof(ish) plastic liner is deteriorating, but the canvas is still holding up. One year I picked up a turkey and ham for a family event, seventeen pounds each, and put one in each tote bag and slung ’em over my shoulder, no problem.

  3. Hey Tina, Webstock in Wellington always does an awesome job with the swag (a bunch of your Studiomates have been so you may have seen some of it). They usually give a Freitag-style shoulder bag, a t-shirt and other bits and pieces. And always great designs.

  4. My favorite upgrade to the ugly tech conference T-shirt is Monitorama’s argyle socks. Examples:


  5. We’re exhibiting at a show in Vegas soon. We are planning on handing out external mobile phone battery packs.

    Everyone is concerned about battery life when walking around a convention. Give them a battery!

  6. ACLU whistles, so we can all be whistle blowers.

  7. I worked for a small product design team back in the 90s. One of our clients was developing an online calendar platform. At Christmas I received a package from their marketing guy. In the box was a really nice stainless steel colander and a note saying something like, “there was a little mixup in the fulfillment department.” That calendar platform never hit the big time but I think of the people we worked with every time I cook pasta.

  8. I got a thermos from my company which gets lots of use. I live in a country famous for its love of hiking tours though. Maybe more urban folk wouldn’t have so much use for it.

  9. When Google Places debuted in Austin, TX, they gave out super-lightweight stainless steel water bottles. They are branded with their logo, of course, and it fits nicely inside my purse, so is less clunky than your typical stainless steel water bottle. I carry it everywhere!

  10. I hate swag, it always ends up in the garbage or I give it away, it would be better if that money went to something worthwhile like a charity or a non-profit project or the event could sponsor a charity instead of swag!

  11. Good question! I’m a hippie about our earth and a minimalist design snob in theory about possessions, but I’m a sucker for free stuff. An utter sucker. Here’s my synthesis of what I think works for cool swag.

    The only swag I’ve ever enjoyed is stuff that’s well made and useful even if you wouldn’t think to buy it. I’ve seen several customized Field Notes notebooks; those are amazing. Expos like Penny Arcade often have people giving away enormous sturdy reusable bags for people to cart around their swag in—I like that model of being helpful and solving a problem. I’ve also received custom etched pint glasses that bore the logo of a fictional pub in the game I was working on; that was cool. I much prefer a glass I can pour beer into over a poster or a stuffed animal.

    Oh, and pharmaceutical companies make the BEST free pens, with gimmicky weird tricks when you click them or twist them, etc. They always have playful design even if the playful element is pointless—and they’re usually well-made pens, sometimes in metal and usually refillable. Legal services/conferences follow closely behind in Pen Swag Awards—my favorite pens to this date are ones from ten years ago when my law student roommate snagged me Lexis Nexus pens with integrated tape flags, and even this one pen that has a light in the nib for taking notes in a darkened room during a presentation. (Annoying to your neighbors, perhaps, but I’m still a sucker for a gimmicky pen.) They’re again well crafted, ergonomic, and they usually pack some kind of extra-useful feature beyond that of a standard pen. Can’t lose being useful.

    I also love swag made from lovely materials—a Korean video game conference yielded a pen made of bent wood veneer. So cool. I’ve gotten swag made of glass or wood or even concrete once or twice; interesting high-quality materials set you apart.

    I also think it’s thoughtful and respectful when your swag’s branding is minimal. I tend to think more kindly of a company if they just made me something cool but didn’t force their company name down my throat in the process, you know? Like a business card holder is nice conference swag, but it’s more likely to be used at OTHER conferences if it doesn’t say ADOBE in huge letters on the back. A small mark in the corner is more in keeping with the theoretically generous gesture of giving someone a free little gift, if you ask me.

    Stuff like buttons, patches, glasses, keychains, and cheap plastic cups or tchotchkes are what I think it’s best to avoid. Those are all ugly and disposable feeling; they just seem like an utter waste.

    Any paper products (fliers, brochures etc.) are an even graver utter no-no. It’s like you missed the memo about what swag is supposed to be, and it’s purely harmful to the environment without the redeeming “fun” factor of swag as a gift-like object.

    There you have my copious opinions! :)

  12. free pens…free pens…free pens …gimme , gimme gimme

  13. At the NAPE petroleum conference one of the frac companies (Haliburton i think?) gave out Titelist Pro V1 golf balls! very nice!

  14. That chapstick that Shutterstock gives out is like drugs.

  15. An old-fashioned style metal lunchbox from Teknion. I’ve had it for almost fifteen years and has been used for many purposes. It currently houses my daughter’s markers.

  16. I did some brand training with Booty Parlor a number of years ago, and some of the swag we received included their plumping lip glosses. Not only is that amazing swag, but I became totally addicted! Giving away something that is not only a reflection of your brand, but something that the person will use, is the best way to create brand loyalty through swag, and possibly create sales, too!

  17. While in late-production on the Tim Burton film ‘Big Fish’, our producer presented us with fishing tackle bags embroidered with the movie’s logo. Very sweet bag, I still use it for my laptop sometimes.

    Japanese companies seem to do the alcohol swag well, I have Japan Air Lines wooden and ceramic sake cup swag, and Sony Imageworks shot glasses.

  18. While in late-production on the Tim Burton film ‘Big Fish’, our producer presented us with fishing tackle bags embroidered with the movie’s logo. Very sweet bag, I still use it for my laptop sometimes.
    Japanese companies seem to do the alcohol swag well, I have Japan Air Lines wooden and ceramic sake cup swag, and Sony Imageworks shot glasses.

  19. At a craft-industry trade show years ago, I was given a tiny Leatherman tool with a now-defunct magazine’s logo on it. It’s just so useful! It’s lived in my wee craft kit for years and gets frequent use. Imagine that! Swag that’s well made and useful!

  20. I got a cactus from American Spirit……who sends cactus’s to people?

    No one…and even though I’m a smoker and it’s very bad for me……I still have that cactus and I still water it once a month in an inch of water for 10 minutes……I’ve had the cactus for 1 year now….I may have it forever.