In a business context, swag (sometimes spelled “schwag”) refers to branded merchandise.
The non-business-related meanings may refer to one’s innate confidence, or swagger, or even stolen goods. But we’re tackling the corporate context in this case.
Think of any trade show or event you’ve been to where companies give away t-shirts, water bottles, power banks, you-name-it — all branded with their logo. That’s company swag.
Literally any item you can think of becomes swag (aka promotional merchandise) when branded with a logo.
So what is swag again? Mouse pads, pens, yoga mats, hammocks, speakers, headphones, even retail items like Patagonia jackets — if they’re adorned with a company’s logo, that’s swag baby!
Why do companies create branded swag? What good is it?
I’m in a somewhat unique position in that I work for Printfection, a swag management platform. Our sole purpose is to help companies create, manage, and distribute their branded merch.
There’s a need for this because businesses use branded items to build brand awareness amongst their prospects and customers — and it’s time consuming to manage it all manually.
Trade shows, as mentioned before, are a great use case. One of the great perks attendees look forward to is scouring booths for free loot.
Companies give away items to attract attendees to their booth, and branded items make sense because you never know where the person will use the item that might be seen by their peers.
Example: you give away a rad backpack, or maybe a really high-end mug, and then the recipient wears it to work the next day.
Perhaps their co-workers see the item and ask from where they got it. Or they notice the logo and inquire about what the business does.
That’s eyeballs for your brand, also known as impressions in the advertising world.
Savvy companies will use higher-end swag to entice event attendees to have a real conversation or watch a demo. You do X and we reward you with Y.
Swag use cases beyond events
Besides conferences, promotional products can be used for lead gen and customer rewards programs.
Marketing and demand gen professionals use swag to incentivize a CTA (call to action). Examples:
- Signup for a free trial or demo and get a t-shirt
- Refer a customer and get an awesome pair of branded headphones
Customer marketing and customer success pros might use it for advocacy programs, up-selling, or simply as a way of saying thanks to an awesome client.
- Send a customer a legit swag kit (aka bundle of items) if they do a case study for you, or participate on a webinar
- Send a client a hoodie and water bottle as part of an onboarding gift
- Ship a customer a high-end gift when they renew or upgrade their services with your business
Sales departments can use swag to start conversations with leads who simply won’t answer emails.
Companies also use it internally to engage and reward employees. Have you ever joined a company and got a t-shirt with its logo across the chest, back, or sleeve?
Congrats! You’ve been the recipient of employee swag. Feels great, doesn’t it?
Why swag can be better than other types of gifting
The possibilities are endless — if you want to send a gift to a business contact, you can use swag.
Which often times is far better than sending non-branded items like food and alcohol.
For once your delicious snacks are eaten (or thrown away because your recipient has a nut or gluten allergy), the advertising value of your gift likewise dies.
But if you send them a branded diffuser, a really cool camper mug, or some other item they use every day at work or home, now you can get impressions for the lifetime of the item.
And you just never know who might see it and come inquiring about your company!
We actually interviewed a developer who received a gift from one of our customers and traced it back to our platform. That’s pretty sweet.
So the next time you’re wandering a trade show or get a gift offer from a business with their logo, you might say “Right on. Nice swag.”
Or promotional product, merchandise — OK you got it.
If you’d like to make creating, ordering, and shipping swag much easier….
Thanks for reading — I can tell you’ve got swag (in the non-business sense). 😉
This post was originally an answer to a question on Quora.