trade show

By Connor Chan

Promotional items, free swag, product giveaways—let’s be honest, these are some of the things that make events like trade shows and conventions worth attending. Who doesn’t love getting a free t-shirt or pen? Or be amazed by some of the amazing trade show exhibits that just WOW their audience? Still, let’s not forget that companies give trade show swag away for a reason: to advertise their names and spread the word about how awesome they are. There’s no hard science as to why certain trade show giveaways work better than others. Maybe it has something to do with logo placement, maybe it’s the product itself, or maybe it’s the crowd that typically attends certain events. There are, however, some things you can keep in mind when choosing a promotional item for your brand. Consider these five tips and you may find yourself impressing people at the next convention you attend.

1. Pick Something with Universal Appeal

This may not require a whole lot of brain power, but try to think of something people use everyday, like pens, pencils, coffee mugs, etc. These are items that, more often than not, are better to have more of than less. If you put your brand’s name on something that people will be using most days, if not every day, chances are that it’s going to stick in the head of the person using it. It’s a win-win-win situation: these items don’t cost much to distribute, they’re going to be put to practical use, and they’ll help to build recognition for your brand.

2. Pick Something thats Cheap to Distribute

Obviously, price is an important factor in giveaway situations. It isn’t wise to invest tons of cash into manufacturing items that are just going to be given away.  Often times with promotional items, less is more. Going back to the idea of choosing an item that has universal appeal, small objects like notepads and simple office supplies aren’t horribly expensive to buy, and they can provide a lot of return in terms of  potential brand recognition. There’s no reason to break the bank on promotional items and giveaways. Think practically, both in terms of price and whether or not the giveaway will actually be used by anybody. The decision should come pretty easily.

3. Cater Your Giveaway to Your Audience

Before you show up, and certainly before you start picking promotional items, it’s a good idea to figure out, roughly, who is going to be attending the trade show you’re planning to exhibit at. Odds are, leather-bound notebooks won’t fare well at conventions for eco-friendly causes, and travel pillows won’t get much use among attendees of local events. This can be easy to overlook, but it’s important to do a little research before spending money on anything. A small gadget may appeal to a tech crowd, and aprons may appeal to food industry employees. Make an effort to understand your audience, and you’ll likely achieve more success with your giveaways.

4. Try a Novelty Item

It can be a bit risky to forsake utility for the sake of novelty, but sometimes a quirky knick-knack with your brand name on it can serve two functions: an interesting desk decoration, and a constant reminder to people of where the item came from. Bobbleheads featuring your mascot, glass bottles with your company name on them—let your creativity fly. Try not to create anything offensive, and again, don’t break the bank. A little outside-the-box thinking can have a big payoff, so don’t be afraid to try something that’s totally unconventional.

5. Dont Think Too Big

The people who will be receiving your promotional item are likely to be traveling with it once they leave the trade show you’re attending. If they’re flying, the item will need to fit into luggage that is probably already packed pretty tightly, and even if they’re driving or taking another form of public transportation, it will still need to be easy to carry and store. There are some simple workarounds for choosing products of an appealing size: instead of sweatpants or hoodies, go with a t-shirt. Rather than giving away a bulky bath towel, consider a smaller washcloth with your brand name embroidered on it. Don’t let your giveaway be left behind simply because it is too inconvenient to carry around.

Trade shows can be a lot of fun to attend, and getting/handing out free promotional items should be enjoyable, not a burden. Though there may be a lot of ideas to keep in mind when choosing a giveaway item, but making a decision shouldn’t be terribly complicated. Don’t let giveaways be the most stressful part of planning your exhibit. Take some liberties, have fun, and just be smart about your choices.

Connor is a student, aspiring writer and intern at the Marketing Zen Group. He loves to blog about a variety of topics, including trade show marketing, technology & social news roundups. When he isn’t honing his skills as a writer, he enjoys listening to music, cooking and learning web development skills. To connect with Connor and learn more about him and his thoughts you can follow him on Twitter @ConnorJChan.