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6 ways to get creative with swag

6 ways to get creative with swag Diana Adair

We're all a bit sick of getting free stuff that just doesn't impress us. The marketing team is often asked for creative ideas for freebies and giveaways that will be memorable. Especially in today's digital world, it's important to take a new approach to branded merchandise. Whether it's an event, a tradeshow, or an important meeting with potential clients, we're often at wit's end trying to come up with swag ideas that are fresh and new. Here are a few tips that will keep your items out of the rubbish bins.

Get personal

It's always a treat to receive a product made just for you. At a recent tradeshow, Zazzle created pocket journals with the full names of the important influencers we were trying to impress. Each person had to come to the Zazzle table to pick theirs up -- and it created a ton of buzz.

Think local

Everyone loves to support local businesses, and local manufacturing is growing exponentially. If you're organizing an event in San Francisco, then by all means look up a local San Francisco maker for your freebies. If you're having an event in Brooklyn, then find a local maker from that region. Food is always a winner, and you know it won't end up in the trash. New York brands such as Chocomize are a top choice for Big Apple foodies. Chocomize will even print and stick a custom label on the back of the package with any message you like, so you can make sure that your brand is visible (and I can tell you that they supply rich and delicious chocolate).


Go digital

The most creative brands are able to combine a digital initiative with their physical swag products. For example, brands might create a mug or mouse pad with a URL on it for the new website, or even a coupon code to use on the site. You can even appeal to the mobile-minded with products featuring a campaign-related QR code. Digital marketing campaigns that utilize a hashtag to get things trending, requests to follow the business on Twitter or to "like" the brand on Facebook, or links to YouTube channels are also popular ways to combine the digital and physical worlds. We've even seen creative efforts not just from brands, but from job applicants -- some eager applicants might create a t-shirt or messenger bag with a link to their LinkedIn profile in order to get noticed.

Be picky

Everyone is a still kid at heart. We all like to pick our favorite colors, flavors, or designs. It's fun to offer a selection of freebies that would allow each person to pick the item that speaks to him or her. You engage your audience, and you know that each person is getting what he or she wants. Something as simple as a vegetarian art design versus a delicious pork graphic will give people something to talk about. It's a conversation starter, as many folks will ask each other, "Which one did you pick?"


Remain humble

It's always a tough decision: should we put the company logo front and center? I'm a huge proponent of subtlety. People want products that they can use that don't advertise a company logo with a shout. Of course the brand ought to have a clear presence, but try out less intrusive placement such as the back of the t-shirts, or the back of the tote bag. Think of the product as a gift; it's more gracious to be humble when you're the giver.

Connect socially

I recently attended the AltSummit Conference for top bloggers and influencers. I was surprised to see how many of these digital superstars were keen on old-school print business cards for sharing their social media handles. Those of us in Silicon Valley might think that the use of business cards is on the decline, but that's actually not the case. The creative professionals at Alt turned their business cards into mini-DIY-projects by decorating with ribbons, tiny photos of their artwork, or even sewing together several cards with different Instagram images on each. If you want to make sure that your business card doesn't end up lost in the pile, take the time to add a little something extra to it. If the usual business card contact information sounds too old school for you, then try something along the lines of thick cards that simply list your social media links on one side, with a compelling image on the other. Even in today's digital era, a creative card can make the connection memorable.

Diana Adair is director of communications at Zazzle.

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Diana Adair is a marketing and communications professional. She currently leads communications at Zazzle with a focus on building integrated marketing campaigns that get results. She’s passionate about the convergence of digital marketing --...

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