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Good, Better, Best: Company Swag to Knock Their Socks Off

Promotional products have been proven to be an effective marketing tool for your company, and trade shows provide you with the perfect opportunity to convey your brand’s message to a large crowd, utilizing customized swag. In addition to identifying your target audience and choosing products that are relevant to the market and the industry, you also need to stay within a defined budget. And that’s where things get tricky.  

In the promotional products industry, it’s not uncommon to get a phone call from clients who want something “fast and cheap” for their next trade show event. And, we get it. We really do. We’re all busy and usually limited by that awful, terrible b-word (budget), so “fast and cheap” makes sense on the surface level. It doesn’t, however, make sense for the longevity of your brand.


In the past, we’ve discussed how buying promo items with value reduce the chances that the product (and your branding message) will end up in the landfill. We’ve also discussed how important it is to identify your target audience and buy client gifts with intention for lasting marketing effects all year long. And, today, we’re going to discuss how comparison shopping for promotional products for your next trade show will not only reduce waste, impress prospects and clients, and give you incredible street cred (okay, incredible trade show cred), it will also give you the best return on your marketing dollars. That’s worth the effort of comparison shopping right there.


Comparison Shopping Comes Naturally

When shopping for a new washer and dryer, do you go out and buy the first thing you see at Lowe’s because it’s cheap and easy? Our guess is the answer to that is “no” and you do one of two things: 1) quick research to figure out which brands offer the most bang for the buck, and 2) additional research to see which stores are offering washer and dryers on sale. Your final selection will be a result of which products meets quality standards while still remaining an affordable option. You may be willing to expand your budget for a washer and dryer that is going to last longer, because let’s be honest, no one wants to go to the laundromat when they break down. In any event, you’re going to buy what’s best for you and your needs. Why would shopping for promotional swag be any different?


On the surface, comparison shopping is completely normal. The invention of smartphones allows us to instantly compare products online at other stores while testing the product in person at a brick-and-mortar store. We also have the ability to read reviews and scan sale ads weeks in advance (think about how early Black Friday sales were being advertised!). There is access to more information than ever on products that in the “old days” we had no choice but to choose from what was first available.

This has made comparison shopping easy from the consumer standpoint, BUT in the promo industry, this looks a little different. So many items look the same, but are completely different when you “look under the hood,” so-to-speak. You might see a pen that is actually plastic, but made to look like aluminum or brass. You’re never going to know this at first glance, and since almost all shopping for company swag is done from a distance, you’re most likely not going to see or feel the product in person.


Another great example of this is the MFi certified lightning cables. Sitting side-by-side, you would never be able to tell the difference between a non-certified cable, and one that is. They look the same, but as you might imagine, the MFi certified cable is pricier. You have to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples, which if you’re not reading the details or researching the products, that’s difficult to do. You have to understand the differences in order to make sound comparisons when buying for your business, across all platforms and events, even trade shows.


Comparison Shopping Makes You Smart

Payless shoe store recently did an undercover experiment where they offered their cheap, bargain shoes under the guise of being a designer shoe store. The results are probably obvious, but fascinating nonetheless. Of course, customers saw only what was sold to them, which was that these shoes were high-quality, high-fashion, and totally on trend with what other designers are doing. Never mind that they were the same shoes normally sold at Payless for twenty bucks. These social media influencers saw that the store was “luxury” and even went so far to comment on the quality and make of the shoe. (It’s safe to say that within the power of marketing, it’s possible that you can sell anyone just about anything.)

This experiment demonstrates that there is no accounting for taste and quality...or lack thereof. Consumer shopping is all about your baseline knowledge, and the amount of homework you’re willing to put into something before making purchases. Taking something at face value works in some situations, but as the Payless experiment demonstrates, people are willing to buy cheaply made shoes marketed as designer simply because they’re “designer.” Never mind that they paid a mark-up price of 1,800 percent! That’s insanity, and it’s guises like these that we warn our customers about. Are you following the crowd and giving away certain trade show products because that’s what everyone else is doing? OR are you taking the necessary measures to stay “on brand” and within your designated budget? Have you researched enough to know that the lowest price isn’t always the best price when it comes to products that are going to carry your brand’s message?


The point being that by doing a little comparison shopping, you may find hidden gems, from both ends of the spectrum. Investing time in doing research of a product will help you find the right product for your trade show and it may give you some idea of just how little more (or less) you have to invest to get a really cool promo product. You may not be pushing the limits of the budget as much as you think.


Comparison Shopping with PROMOrx

You know that using promotional items at a trade show is a good idea, but how does comparison shopping work within the promotional products space. There is so much to choose from. And, we agree! Not only do we offer a lot of really cool promotional products, specifically designed for trade shows, we are also here to guide you through the process, with suggestions that only 19 years of experience can provide!


BUT, it’s not just about picking up the phone and calling us. We want you to understand the thought process behind our selections, and therefore, we’re going to give two distinct examples below, laid out as good, better, best.

Scenario #1: You’re in need of a small trade show giveaway that includes your custom logo and doesn’t cost a lot.

  • Good: This Screen Cleaner in Case is an affordable option that a lot of customers think is great. This goes back to the idea of “cheap and easy.” The branded case might be the draw, but there’s a problem. Only the case is printed with your company logo. The actual screen cleaning cloth does not get printed. Going through the motions, how many of you actually put the cleaning cloth back in the case it comes in? Very few, I’m sure! And, what happens to that case? It gets thrown in the trash, along with your logo. That means your brand will not stick around and that’s a marketing opportunity lost.
  • Better: This Sueded Microfiber Screen Cleaner offers a little more brand visibility for your company, with the custom logo being printed directly on the cloth (vs. the case). And while this promotional product is a longer lasting option than the one above, we still find the jagged edges are less ‘professional.’ If you’re a B2B business, tech, or start-up, these are not your best choice for trade show swag.  
  • Best: Our personal favorite (as you can see from the images - we really use this one!) is this Screen Cleaning Cloth with Full Color Logo. Not only is your brand’s logo front and center (it takes up the entire cloth - not just a corner of it!), it has smooth edges that communicate to customers that you’re professional and invested in a quality product. Another option is this Debossed Screen Cleaning Cloth in Pouch. The tone-on-tone effect works nicely for most logos and adds an understated twist to your marketing.

    Bonus for both these products: They come in a plastic pouch sized perfectly to add your business card. Talk about standing out from the crowd!

Scenario #2: You would like a larger giveaway item for clients that shows you care about the environment, but also need one that doesn’t break the bank.

  • Good: Hey, what about this Aluminum Sports Bottle? It looks like some of the cool ones on the market and it fits the budget. Well, you’re right in that it may appease your boss when it comes to dollar amount; however, aluminum doesn’t keep your drinks hot or cold. In fact, it sweats more than a blankety-blank (Fill in the blank!!) in church. But if you’re only concerned with a metal bottle and not interested in thermal properties or the lack of - order away.
  • Better: This Insulated Stainless Steel Bottle  is perhaps a better option. Constructed of double insulated stainless steel, it will keep your drinks hot and cool. 
  • Best: If you’re looking for a thermal insulated bottle that’s been put to the test for ultimate company swag this Stainless Steel Water Bottle is the way to go. A HydroFlask look-alike, these bottles keep drinks colder (or hotter) longer because of the double wall insulation combined with the copper lining. It’s the trifecta when it comes to thermal insulating properties.   

There are a lot of dos and don'ts when it comes to trade show giveaways, but choosing the right product for your target audience is at the top of the list. Many people think there is a big difference in price, but this is not always the case. Even a slight upgrade to the next best product can result in business-changing results, and this is why we encourage you to comparison shop before blindly choosing a product based on “cheap and easy.”

We are always here to help and can guide you to the best option for your business and your budget. Give us a call!


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