Swag Bag Review: What We Got & What We Suggest Instead!

January 23, 2019

Swag Bag Review: What We Got & What We Suggest Instead!

Upon arriving home one afternoon, we saw that there was a swag bag hanging on our door. It was one of those “Welcome to the Neighborhood!” type bags, chock-full of business cards, pamphlets, coupons, and...you guessed it, a lot of branded swag. The bag contained company swag from banks, funeral homes, designers, schools, and more. It was an opportunity to promote their business and gain new customers, but based on swag alone, most of them fell short - very short.

Little did those unsuspecting businesses realize that the swag bag would land on the doorstep of a promotional products company owner that is 18 years running and going strong. We know a little something about this business and have seen everything from the tried-and-true “this is GREAT swag” to the “I can’t believe they thought this would get customers’ attention (and business).” Unfortunately, this particular swag bag contained a lot more of the latter.  

As we were sifting through the swag, we thought it might be useful to show you what we got and why we think it doesn’t work - in terms of type of company, type of product, etc. - and to offer suggestions on how to choose company swag that is going to stand out and leave potential customers talking about how cool your company is.


5 Swag Bag Giveaways We Got & Suggestions for Better

We Got: A cheap, plastic promotional pen from a local bank.
Not only did a local bank include a cheap pen with their company logo on it, they shoved a sticker and their business card up under the clip of the pen. This is not good swag for a few reasons:

  1. A plastic pen screams “cheap” and let’s customer’s know you put little to no thought into selecting promotional swag for your company. Plus? A bank should be conveying a little more class in their marketing materials.
  2. The sticker. There is no way in heck that we are going to put a boring bank sticker on our car or laptop or anywhere else for that matter. Especially from a bank we don’t even bank with.
  3. Putting a business card (or a sticker) under the clip of a pen that is going to be tossed into a swag bag full of other items ups the chances that that information will get separated (or lost), which defeats the overall purpose and message in the first place.  

We Suggest Instead: The color of the pen is great as it’s their brand color. It’s perfect for a coastal bank and offers a chance to stand out as far as a business logo goes; however, the issue we have is the quality of the pen. If a pen is the route you want to go, then opt for a pen that is is sleeker and has the appearance of being a nice pen. It tells customers and prospects that you value your company and that your services are going to match the image you portray via your company swag: quality. If you’re still in the market for a plastic pen, we suggest these retractable pens. They write like a dream and look! They come in the turquoise color the bank used! They’re also budget friendly.

We Got: A bunch of hard candy and a random plastic heart. 
You’re as confused as we were, right? Now take a guess at the type of company offering that swag. Would you have said an interior designer?! You read that right. An interior designer! We probably don’t need to even say it, but here’s why this is NOT good company swag (for anyone, let alone a designer):

  1. Candy does not make great swag, overall, because there is no chance to keep your company logo front-and-center in front of the client. Once the candy is gone, it’s gone, and so is your brand.  
  2. In this case, there wasn’t anything about the product that had the company logo on it. The candy was in a cellophane bag with a postcard that had some information on it about the designer’s services. You take the candy out, eat it, and throw the rest away.
  3. There was a random, plastic heart included WITH the candy. A. This is a choking hazard for anyone who might confuse the heart for candy, and B. How does a small, plastic heart convey anything about this brand’s services. It doesn’t. At all.  

We Suggest Instead: Don’t puzzle over good design features! Given that this company’s brand was not represented well at all, it’s not hard to offer suggestions that would be better - better than nothing. However, taking this brand’s custom logo and printing it in full color is at the top of our suggestions. These custom fabric coasters are another great option that not only have lasting brand exposure, they would also tie-in really well with the “design” aspect.

We Got: A hard plastic case with five bandaids inside.
This seems like a well-intentioned giveaway from a healthcare company, but here’s why they could have done better:

  1. The first thing we did when we saw it: pulled the bandaids out to put in our medicine cabinet and set the plastic case aside for recycling. Guess where the company logo is? You guessed it. On the plastic part set for recycling. There is nothing lasting about this swag whatsoever.
  2. The plastic holder is not even something we could use to refill with bandaids as when we tried to put the bandaids back into it, they jammed and got bent. It’s not worth the hassle of trying to reuse the small, hard, plastic holder. Plus, it only holds a total of five bandaids.

We Suggest Instead: For lasting brand exposure, you want to offer prospects a useful giveaway that is going to be in their possession longer than it takes to walk something over to the recycling bin. For a healthcare company, we like this all-natural lip balm. It is ordered by several of our hospital clients and does not contain any SPF, so no nasty chemicals. It’s company swag that says “I care about your health and well-being” and has lasting power well beyond the recycling bin.

We Got: A fabric jar opener from a local home organizer.
Our first thought: this gal has never been in the kitchen with us to see what messy cooks we are! It’s a good idea, but here’s why it falls slightly short of being a good company giveaway:

  1. It’s fabric. It’s going to get stained with any use in an actual kitchen, which increases the chances that it will likely end up in the trash.
  2. It’s a thin jar opener, which doesn’t actually prove to be all that grippy. This doesn’t bode well when the point of your company swag is to open jars. If it slips and sends the jar flying onto the floor, you can bet that prospect is going to remember you...just not for the right reasons!  

We Suggest Instead: We aren’t totally opposed to the idea of a jar opener. It’s useful swag that puts your brand directly in front of the customer over and over again. Instead of opting for a fabric jar opener, we would suggest this organizer put her custom logo on a recycled rubber jar opener. Not only is this a nicer product, it also hits the eco-friendly hot button, which is going to score big time points for anyone living on the coast (us!) - or anywhere for that matter.

We Got: Chip clips from a local market.
At least we
think it’s from a local market. Here’s why that doubt is NOT great for your company swag:

  1. The logo is teeny tiny. In fact, we had to get out the magnifying glass, and then use Google to figure out what the actual business was. The company went to the effort and expense of buying giveaways, but it’s a lost opportunity when the logo and message of your brand is completely lost.
  2. The clip included a postcard with the company’s information on it, but it looked like it was printed by them, which resulted in crooked and fuzzy text, image, and logo. Again, this is not how you want to present your business to a potential customer.
  3. The clipped in postcard reminds us of the business card and sticker stuck in the pen (see above). Now, the chip clip has a more solid “bite,” but you still risk separating the postcard and clip when it’s thrown into a swag bag situation.  

We Suggest Instead: While the idea of a chip clip isn’t a bad one, we do stress you take into consideration the size of the product and the size of your logo. Not every product fits every logo and a good promo company is going to tell you this.(In fact, we recently told a customer that their logo needed to go on a diet!) Given the market’s logo type, we suggest a larger giveaway item that will highlight their logo in a more distinct way. A market tote would make the perfect giveaway item for this local market because: 1)  it affords more space for their logo, 2) it’s a reusable promotional product that has more staying power, and 3) what better product says “come shop with us” than a bag to put all the groceries in? It’s a no-brainer as far as we can see! We suggest an eco-friendly option for the additional brownie points it will score with those prospects most likely to use reusable shopping bags.  

A Swag Bag Giveaway Gone Totally Wrong

We couldn’t show you our swag bag loot without highlighting the swag bag item that really made us go “hmmm.” There is still a lot of confusion surrounding this item, and it doesn’t take a marketing guru to know that confusion in marketing is never a good idea. This swag is so bad, we may actually need a drum roll!

We got: A big, chunky, beaded bracelet.
This seems like it might be
the most fun product in all of the swag bag, given that it’s unusual and stands out. However, there are a lot of reasons why this swag is on the list of really bad, do not do list:

  1. It’s a beaded bracelet, which means there is ZERO opportunity for branding, which means that while people may like the bracelet, and even wear it, the opportunity for your brand to stick around is lost because there is nothing on the bracelet to remind them where it came from.
  2. Not only is it not possible to put your custom logo on this bracelet for lasting marketing results, there was nothing attached to the bracelet to even tell us who it came from. Keeping in mind that it was thrown in with other swag items, we sifted through the bag, but there wasn’t a card, pamphlet, brochure, postcard, or any other glaring sign to tell us who, what, where, or why. This is company swag at its worst!
  3. It’s a bracelet, which is usually intended for women. Maybe this company did some market research that would indicate there were a lot of women in the neighborhood, but solely targeting women probably isn’t the smartest idea when it comes a general swag bag left on someone’s front door.  
  4. We wondered later if whoever was assembling the swag bags accidently dropped their own bracelet in the bag we received.

We Suggest Instead: Not having any idea who this company is, we can’t offer a better promotional giveaway that would work better. Our biggest suggestion? Chose a company giveaway that is going to give you maximum brand exposure, including a product where your company logo can be printed or engraved.

Swag Bag Do’s and Don’ts

We saw a lot of company giveaways in this swag bag, and while we know that companies are under restraints such as time and money, knowing your customer is the most important step in buying customized merch for your company. Slapping your company logo on the cheapest giveaway item is going to give you the same, low-quality results.

These general tips about company swag apply to buying swag for swag bags, but as a reminder, here are some general tips:

  1. Don’t get a product that is easily separated from any information about your company, such as a business card or postcard. The bracelet is a good example as there was absolutely no identifier as to which company that came from.
  2. Understand that your swag is going to end up with a lot of other stuff, from a lot of other companies. Figure out what makes your company’s brand stand out while still staying in budget. (Hi! We can help with that!)
  3. If someone has to ask what it is or needs directions to use it, JUST SAY NO! Refer to the random plastic heart that the designer included with the hard candy. You don’t want potential customers asking, “What the heck…?”

In the end, knowing your target audience and selecting company swag that is the highest quality for your budget is going to gain you the best results.

To take a peek at even more of our swag bag loot, follow us on Instagram where we’ll be posting pictures and videos over the next few weeks of the other swag from the swag bag not mentioned in this blog. We saw some doozies, and we want to help you avoid ending up on the swag bag walk of shame.*

If your company will be participating in a swag bag such as this one, give us a call. We can work with your budget to find a product that best represents your business.

*These are our opinions only and are not meant to literally shame anyone. We just want you to have the best, most appropriate swag for your business. It matters.