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Does Swag Really Work for Promoting Your Startup?

Companies all over the world use swag products, or giveaways that are imprinted with their brand name and logo. These products are designed to help customers remember what your brand looks like and the services offered. But do they really work?


Yes! In fact, some companies would say they’re the most effective form of physical advertising.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

According to a study from the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI), swag products are actually very effective in creating brand permanence. In fact, it’s more effective than TV, radio, or print advertisements.

The study featured 600 participants and 84 percent of consumers said they remembered an advertiser based on swag products. Nearly half reported a more favorable impression of a company after receiving a swag product.

So, not only do swag products get the word out about your business better than half the advertising mediums out there, but they also help to improve the impression of your brand.

Why Swag Is Effective 

There’s a science behind the effectiveness of swag products. Consumers will rarely remember an initial encounter with a brand. According to research, the average consumer has seven encounters with a brand before it’s permanently in their brains.

When consumers have swag products lying around their homes, such as a coffee mug with a logo, it’s almost impossible to forget the brand. Every time they use the coffee cup, clean it, and put it away, they see the brand one more time.

More importantly, consumers tend to buy products from brands they recognize. In fact, according to research from Nielsen, 75 percent of customers say they prefer to buy from familiar brands. If swag products have the ability to make consumers remember you, your company’s sales will increase as a direct result.

What’s more, the collection of swag triggers the “reciprocity effect.” This is a term that researchers use to explain the emotional response that consumers often have to return a service when they receive a gift. Oftentimes, they’ll make purchases, sign up for newsletters, refer you to others, or participate in other acts that help your business. Receipt Bank is one business that knows swag increases engagement; its Orange Select community for accountants and bookkeepers keeps community members talking and participating in challenges by awarding points. Those points can then be exchanged for swag ranging from fidget spinners to Apple Watches, nudging the group to help Receipt Bank test new features and provide feedback on accounting technology.

Why Startups Should Use Swag

Many startups believe they should wait until they’re a little more established before producing swag products. However, for most businesses, swag advertising can be better than other forms of print advertising.

In times of economic hardship, like the beginning of a company, entrepreneurs can’t afford expensive TV or radio spots. Print advertising only goes so far. However, swag products are generally affordable, can be passed out, and tend to stick around longer than print advertising.

It’s an effective, lasting, affordable method of delivering a message.

Swag That Works

Now that you know swag really does work, particularly in the startup realm, it’s important to note that not all swag products are created equally. In fact, some swag products are so overdone that they’ll do your brand very little good.

For example, pens are a common swag product that can be effective for marketing, but if customers collect 10 pens at a trade show, they’re not likely to keep them all.

According to the Advertising Specialty Institute study mentioned above, writing instruments are the most common form of swag products, followed by shirts, caps, and bags. That’s not to say these products aren’t useful, but if you’re going to produce these products, produce other swag products that stand out a little more.

Think about creating a useful product. About 81 percent of the ASI survey participants reported keeping their swag because they found it useful. Producing swag that’s both unique and useful is a slam dunk.

Additionally, it’s important to keep the price at a reasonable level. Ordering 500 leather journals to pass out at a tradeshow at $10 apiece isn’t likely to have a high return on investment, and the cost would be difficult to handle.

It’s better to start out small, using products that are affordable, but useful. You can make a huge impact with the right swag product without spending a lot of money.

If you’re in the market for good swag, here are some creative, useful ideas:

  • Fancy pens
  • Reusable water bottles
  • Fidget spinners
  • Lip gloss
  • Mini ice scraper that fits in your wallet

The goal here is to offer products that have an element of longevity to them. Consumers might not have a need for your business right now, but they might in six months, and your swag products that are still being used around the house can point them in your direction.

Author : Holly Hutton

Born in the Big Easy and raised in the Sunshine State, Holly has spent the last five years brunching in the Big Apple and bantering with Big Ben. As a wandering writer, techy-in-training, and avid alliterator, Holly has written everything from educational policy and political news briefs to web content and travel blogs. She is thrilled to be a part of the KS team and working with a community of smart, savvy, entrepreneurs on all things startup!

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