Get rid of swag? Say it ain’t so.


“Can we finally kill off cheap, disposable conference swag?” Not really, no. Not without testing first.

I used to go to a lot of trade shows. Folio: the DMA, DM Days in NY, NEDMA etc. I always came home with enough pens, bags, calendars, clocks, and watches to open a North End back alley hustle.

But we weren’t snagging goodies for our own profit, we were evaluating premiums for use in direct response marketing for our clients.

Premiums can work for many clients as incentives to order. Many clients today use premiums to sell their products. So, “can we finally kill off swag”, the answer isn’t always that simple.

I recently got old. Entering the age of Medicare, SSA and AARP. AARP successfully uses premiums in their marketing, and I recently had to decide whether to renew my membership. That set of zippered storage bags pushed me over the edge, I admit it, so does that mean free gifts and incentives just for an older audience?

Maybe not. I was in a Target checkout line recently and there were two young women behind me. One was showing her friend a magazine on the newsstand saying, “These guys sent me an exclusive invitation to try their magazine, and oh yeah, they sent me a free gift as well!!!”

I was about to join their conversation when I stopped myself, thinking how often do you get an impromptu, honest chance to hear how real people process an offer? That and I didn’t want to be the old mansplainer showing off to young women.

As for being ecologically responsible, I’m all for it, but saving the planet isn’t as easy as eliminating premiums, or abandoning direct mail.

I once created a promotion that planted a tree in your name. The message was, we’re by putting back a tree for the paper that which we took. It was unclear whether planted a tree boosted response, but it made for a feelgood, nice message.

As for my contribution to saving the planet, that’s questionable.

I’m not sure how, but I manage to toss a bag of trash into the dumpster almost every single day. What I’m throwing away, I’m not sure quite sure, but I now feel compelled to change my ways.

All I know is, in 25 years, I still have a solar calculator, fake cross pen and pencil set, at least a dozen tote bags, and my latest, a set of zippered storage bags from AARP.

Now THAT’S conservation.

Read for yourself in Fast Company:

Want to win big on your next campaign?
Call today and put a proven creative team to work for you!

Dwight Ingram | Creative Director | IngramCS