Nice swag: 6 tips for creating successful corporate giveaways

6-Pack Giveaway

Somewhere in the back of your closet, you’ve probably got an assortment of stress balls, tote bags, and pens that you received at an industry conference or in a meeting with a vendor. Do you remember anything about the people, events, or companies associated with this stuff? Probably not. Corporate gifts and conference giveaways are a commonly overlooked opportunity to tell a brand story. That’s why when a client asks us to create a giveaway for them, we don’t just slap a logo on a generic item and call it a day. Instead, we use a custom approach: distill the message that needs to be communicated; find innovative, on-brand items that connect to the message and are within our client’s budget; and design bespoke packaging. We’ve turned some of these best practices into tips to help make your company’s giveaways work as hard as they can for your brand.

1. Get your priorities straight. Clients often say, “We want to do a giveaway that our clients are going to keep on their desk so that we are top of their mind.” A noble goal for sure, but your giveaway must be the be-all-and-end-all of giveaways to secure a permanent position on the desktop. Rather, we consider a corporate gift a success if it has initial impact and makes a lasting impression. Yes, a customer might toss whatever you give them a week after they receive it, but if the item caught their attention and really made them think about your brand/product/event, you’ve succeeded.

Paper fortune teller

When budget is tight but you need to make a big impression, use messaging to make a memorable impression. We designed this paper fortune teller as a recruiting giveaway for a national law firm. The format made a nostalgic connection with law students who played with these in their childhood; presented the firm as creative and “hip”; and gave the firm a vehicle for promoting its editorial messages.

2. Follow the message. At Thinkso, we start every project by understanding the client’s business goals. Then we develop the message(s) that need to be communicated in order to help meet those goals. Giveaways are no exception. For example, are you launching a new product? If so, the giveaway should say something about the product’s inherent customer benefits. Is your goal increasing brand awareness? In these cases, the giveaway should echo your brand values in a unique way. Once we develop the giveaway’s strategic purpose, we start looking for physical items that embody the message and make it stick. Then we develop clever editorial copy that draws a clear link between the object and the conference theme.

3. Prioritize quality over quantity. Poorly made items that easily break reflect very poorly on your brand. We stay away from inexpensive, generic technology items, because they often don’t work well or for a decent amount of time. Some (like travel power converters) can even be harmful. Much to our favorite corporate gift vendor’s irritation, we almost always specify name-brand items for our clients’ giveaways. It’s beneficial to associate your brand with a high-quality product brand, putting you “in good company.” And using a trusted brand with name recognition increases the likelihood that your item will be kept and used. We realize that budgetary constraints often make it hard to go for a luxury item. But even in these cases, it’s better to choose a smaller item made by a hip or quality brand than a “bigger” generic item. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather get a simple Muji ballpoint pen than a big, seemingly “high-end” generic pen that stops writing after a week.

brand-name giveaways

For our client’s private conference in D.C., we created a custom cover wrap for a Wallpaper City Guide and branded an off-the-shelf Tumi laptop backpack. The brand names bolstered our client’s brand equity by association, while the customization made these items their own.

4. Make sure it’s safe and portable. If you’re giving out an item at an event or trade show, it should be easy to transport and carry — no matter where your attendees are going afterward. The item should be sturdy enough to survive the trip in checked baggage and safe enough to pass airport security in carry-ons. We also recommend avoiding objects with tiny pieces that can get lodged in a child’s throat (imagine the brand message that would send!).

5. Consider the kids. Some of our most successful giveaways have been items that mom or dad can take home to their kids. A game or toy usually stands out at a trade show and is often as much fun for grownups as for children. We’ve also found that these get used more than standard giveaways — whether it ends up in an office or playroom.

Toys as giveaways

Sometimes giveaways that mom or dad can bring home from a business trip (after playing with on the plane) are a win-win. Layering on messaging to create that initial impact makes kid-oriented giveaways do double duty.

6. Go green. When you are in charge of giving out hundreds or thousands of giveaway items, it’s good to choose biodegradable or earth-friendly items whenever possible. For the lowest carbon footprint, electronic giveaways like gift cards and ebooks are great options, and the “packaging” provides a nice opportunity to tell your story. The best way to make sure your giveaway avoids the trash bin? Follow our tips and make sure it’s something people will actually use.