We all know the saying “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” but when people accept a free gift from your company, that’s exactly what happens.
Your would-be customers critique it and base their impression of your company on the gift. They analyze it; they wonder, “Why would XYZ Company give me this?”
Handing out logoed gift items at a conference or other event is a priceless opportunity to define your brand’s image while reaching new clients. However, choosing the right branded item to give away is essential.
Good swag should emphasize the image you wish your brand to have, be useful to the recipient and be memorable. Many companies, strapped for time, just order the first swag items the boss can think of, but this can lead to mixed messages to your potential clients. Your swag should reflect your company and your brand, not only in quality but in theme.
Read on for five tips to help you choose the types of swag that will get your name — and your image — out there.
- Focus on product- or service-related giveaways. This may seem obvious, but many companies neglect to consider tie-ins between their gift items and their actual services. Now, if you own a restaurant this doesn’t mean that you have to give away hamburgers, but it does mean anything you give away should get potential customers thinking about your product — food. Recipes, cooking or barbecue tools, logo pens shaped like utensils — all of these are going to get the recipients thinking about food, and from there they’ll remember your restaurant.
- Underline your company’s and your customers’ values. This is a general branding issue and one you need to think about carefully before you start designing giveaway items that will represent you to a larger audience. It may be fine for a bar or catering service to give away branded shot glasses, but if your company has a reputation for being conservative, you’ll want to stay clear of anything that may insult your demographic or cheapen your image. If your company prides itself on quick project turnarounds, get customers thinking about schedules by giving a small calendar or a timer as a gift. If your company is ace at customer service, and you can get the names of conference attendees ahead of time, personalize the gifts, or compose a note to go along with your handout.
- Put on your lateral thinking cap. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Hold a raffle at your conference booth for one larger, more expensive prize to be given out after the event instead of spending your entire budget on many cheaper items. Think hard about the things your customers will use, and also what their families or coworkers might use. What will the people attending the conference do when it’s over? What’s the weather like? Think about these questions and then choose swag that will give your company a reputation for problem solving. Giving out maps of the city (also marked with your company’s location, of course) could be a thoughtful gift for out-of-town conference attendees.
- Aim to inspire or help, not to sell. Pushing too hard to sell your company’s services can actually hurt your brand’s image. Let the giveaway items you choose to hand out inspire your customers. For example, emailing short, inspirational or how-to e-books to new mailing list subscribers is an easy and eco-friendly gift idea conference participants may appreciate, as digital swag won’t have to fit in a suitcase and fly home at the end of the event.
- Give away quality products or nothing at all. If a potential customer’s first contact with your company is being handed a sticker with fuzzy outlines on your logo and a hard-to-read phone number at the bottom, he or she will get the impression that your company cuts corners. Your swag absolutely defines the value your company places on its brand. This is even more important if your company demands a premium for its products or services. If your marketing budget doesn’t stretch to give the best of the best to all conference attendees, teach your sales staff to recognize leads and discreetly give the good swag only to people they feel have the most potential of becoming customers.
About the Author: Carola Pointe is an award-winning photographer and graphic designer who began looking at the importance company logos play in society. She often writes and speaks about brand image.