Ultimate Schwag
November 17, 2012 12:04 AM   Subscribe

A client has asked me, of all people, to suggest some awesome schwag ideas for a major international advertising event next year. At this event, every booth has schwag, and we want the schwag that will outschwag all other schwag. The booth will be handling 800+ people a day, and focused on "interactivity", so the schwag in question should be customizable on the spot. We have 6+ months to get whatever it is ready. Essentially, the sky's the limit. Name your ideal schwag.

This is actually for a magazine about advertising, at an advertising conference. So there's nothing thematically binding either. They're open to any crazy stunts that get attention, so long as they're not cheap and gimmicky, or unoriginal. So basically, anything. Take your wildest shot.
posted by saysthis to Media & Arts (30 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
It would be helpful to know firstly how may units you're going to need (800+ per day for how many days?) and what sort of budget you're looking at.
posted by ninazer0 at 12:38 AM on November 17, 2012

A free iPad with an augmented reality game running on it that asks the user to go around the event space looking for specific architectural/environmental elements on which your booth's logo will be superimposed via the phone. Like an egg hunt. The first 10 people to match up say all 6 examples wins a prize.
posted by phaedon at 12:49 AM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Create an interactive conference-wide game. For example you could play Assassins with barcode stickers & scanners (but the game should be original).

Or kidnap Marina Abramovic and recreate "The Artist Is Present".
posted by acidic at 12:55 AM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

The ideal schwag results in permanent eyeballs, right? Maybe you could rent or buy a 3d printing machine, have some customizable designs, and send folks home with some memorable items that they "helped design" (but also have your logo on them). Shapeways is one company doing 3d printing; they have many example designs:

I'd really go for this iPhone macro lens ($11 for one):


those aren't really as customizable as you might like (only text/logo really), how about letting them make models of themselves and/or their families:
posted by at at 1:41 AM on November 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

"Creative to Go", a little bag with three airplane bottles of whiskey, one ice-cold can of one of several non-alcoholic beverages kept on-site, that on the bottom says "Just inspiration." and website. To get the bag, they have to do something that leaves a lot of information at the table. Good luck!

For the n-a beverages, I suggest: Coke, Diet Coke, Pepsi, Lilt, Barq's, Schweppe's Club Soda, Schweppe's Ginger Ale.
posted by parmanparman at 2:53 AM on November 17, 2012

NB, the tumbler should have the call to action lettering, not the can.
posted by parmanparman at 2:53 AM on November 17, 2012

Have many caricature artists on hand to draw the subject wearing your logo in some unique way.
posted by myselfasme at 2:56 AM on November 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Claw game. As many tries as they like in exchange for their info.
posted by skittlekicks at 4:42 AM on November 17, 2012

Best schwag I ever got was an iPhone case. I still see it multiple times a day, every day.
posted by lyssabee at 5:42 AM on November 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Something very useful and very high quality.

Schwag which isn't both is schwag that will be lucky to get back to the hotel room and certainly won't get room made for it in the suitcase for the trip home.

I know it's not interactive, but whoever thought of giving out super quality backpack / messenger bag size umbrellas with logos on them should get the Nobel Prize of schwag. That needs to be your model for things people will keep, see repeatedly, use in a way that advertise you to the world, and will actually miss when it's gone.

(Everyone needs umbrellas, everyone is always happy for one more umbrella, and high quality umbrellas are surprisingly hard to find. I have a dozen great schwag umbrellas, but whenever I am caught without one and it looks to rain, I end up buying some $7 POC not because I'm cheap but because the people who sell umbrellas seem to feel that is the market.) (Maybe there are umbrella boutiques I don't know about, of course...)
posted by MattD at 6:11 AM on November 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

Wildest shot? Why not get a laser engraving machine so you feed in regular schwag (glasses, torches, pens, travel mugs, ipads, whatever) and get out the same product, engraved with the person's name, or a copy of the photo of their kids they keep in their wallet, or something.
posted by Mike1024 at 6:13 AM on November 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Branded silly putty. I'd play with that.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:59 AM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

At one national conference I boothed, the marketing director I worked for put out these little stuffed animal ponies to represent the conference state. The CEO thought she was nuts until we were swarmed with people who wanted them souvenirs to take back to their kids/grandkids, which is just what the director intended. Grown men, in hallways, asking each other where they got the little stuffed ponies, and doubly relieved that they now didn't have to shop at the airport gift shop. We had to hide them around noon on Day 1 so we'd have some for the rest of the week. They ignored the pens and keychains and notebooks.

So maybe get them something they will give away, especially to a child but maybe a friend or a relative. They'll spend more time engaging with the item and thinking about the interaction if they have a plan to give it away. And if it's cool and relevant, they will come find YOU. Also, warm fuzzy.
posted by mochapickle at 7:30 AM on November 17, 2012 [8 favorites]

Me and my convention-going buddies always differentiate between "swag" (good free stuff) and "schwag" (lousy free stuff) at these events.

Swag is stuff like an 8-gig USB thumb drive, an aluminum keychain bottle opener or a nice insulated coffee mug. Schwag is a pre-printed microfiber cloth, a teensy bottle of hand lotion or a ballpoint pen.

Personally, I wouldn't refer to your awesome freebies as schwag. It makes them sound cheap and crappy. You want to give people swag.
posted by Aquaman at 7:33 AM on November 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

The piece of swag that I kept longest and used most was a small swiss army knife branded with a company name. Of course I had it in the pre-9/11 era when traveling with knives wasn't as complicated.
posted by sciencegeek at 8:08 AM on November 17, 2012

Flash drives are great. Pre-load them (most promo companies will do this for a fee) with relevant information. Commercials, a catalog, whatever. Just, no autoplay. *shudder*

The swag I've kept he longest is a pen. Not a cheesy ballpoint, a very nice, high-quality rollerball with the company's logo on it. The kind of pen that you'd pay at quite a bit for, retail. Solid, heavy construction, good balance and feel. I've had that pen for probably 10 years, and I use it every day.
posted by xedrik at 8:21 AM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

n-th the umbrella suggestion. out of all the swag i've picked up at conferences, umbrellas are what i've kept longest and made an effort not to lose, even the not high quality ones. at one conference one company got a lot of eyeballs with their logo umbrellas because it happened to rain during the conference. so anywhere near the conference venue you'd see these umbrellas, and people would be asking each other where they got them.
posted by needled at 8:30 AM on November 17, 2012

I had a similar experience as mochapickle - at one convention we had a few different giveaways, one of which was a limited number of little stuffed teddy bears with our logo on the bear's T-shirt. The first day of the event was "family day" so we'd brought the bears with the idea to give them to any kids that happened by (we didn't expect many). As it turned out, grown-ups - men and women alike - snatched up the available bears within the first hour we were open. I made the mistake of telling the first few women "I hope you child enjoys him!" when they asked for a bear and they all told me that the bears were for themselves - they were going to keep them on their desks. (It's not interactive, but it's something that folks look at daily, which is what you're after with swag.)
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:35 AM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

A video game whose protagonist can be customized on the spot using the name and image of someone whose photograph the conference-goer keeps in their wallet or on their phone.
posted by feral_goldfish at 9:42 AM on November 17, 2012

I like getting reusable shopping bags. It's not flashy, but very practical and now I see the Valic logo everytime I go shopping. I have some that fold up into themselves that I carry around with me and feel like a magician when I pull them out in the store.

I guess that's not on-the-spot customizable, and probably not the uber swag.

Maybe you could on-the-spot print it with something of their choosing?
posted by jeoc at 10:27 AM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Since your attendees are going to spend time talking to one another... mints. I suggest Hint Mint, which are in the schwag bags at the Oscars and other events.
posted by dobbs at 10:38 AM on November 17, 2012

Riffing off of sciencegeek's knife story: a small multitool* with your logo...and free shipping to their home or office, since they can't fly with it (and may not have a checked bag to put it in). Of course you'll need their name, address, etc to send them this nice freebie! And this gets them a great tool that will see daily use for many people, and makes it hassle-free for them to get it home. It also will show up a few days after they're back to the grind, when all the other swag has lost its shiny, so it will stand out. They probably have even forgotten it's coming, so a cool surprise in the mail makes you look that much better.

*Make sure it's quality - probably Gerber or Leatherman - or you'll end up losing points, having your name associated with poor quality, hard to use, even dangerous. Some of the small multitools now come in different colors, too, which adds a bit of customization.
posted by attercoppe at 10:40 AM on November 17, 2012

USB charging cables for iPads/phones, and other phone-size micro & mini USB tips. A spare charging cable is always handy.

A credit card multitool that won't get taken by TSA.

A custom USB drive - a humping animal, customized steampunk drive, USB drive/chargeable flashlight. Cig. lighter USB converter. Something that looks cool, is useful, and not available anywhere else.

Advertizing suggest that there will be lots of people from New York & New Jersey. A solar USB charger might be valued.
posted by theora55 at 1:36 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

A usb microscope with your brand name displayed in some newfangled crazy nanotech carbon on a slide.

Or a snap-together analog synth that when arranged at first plays a sample of your brand's jingle, but re-arranged completely distorts and re-arranges the jungle. Allow for users to sample their own. Run a contest where the best song wins a teenage engineering OP-1.
posted by roboton666 at 6:12 PM on November 17, 2012

Socks. Everybody needs socks.

Whatever you do, please, not a t-shirt.
posted by bfields at 7:07 PM on November 17, 2012

Last year I worked on a project that used Livescribe pens and interactive booklets to play games and poll conference attendees about themselves or things they saw. The results were displayed on a big leader board and updated regularly. The pens themselves were quite expensive so they were not really the swag except to certain power users. Instead, the booklets were what was the real souvenir. They were quite artistic and fun to look at and served as a nice art piece to take home. They were designed with a lot of love, but they were not expensive to produce. At the end of the conference the most active participants and high scorers won prizes.
posted by Alison at 7:21 PM on November 17, 2012

A cool-looking shoulder bag/messenger bag. Everyone is giving out stuff, but not everyone remembers to bring their own bag...I still use reusable shopping bags I get from whatever event and I make a point of never using things with a visible logo.

I always thought it would be cool to make a phone app or small device that lights up brighter when you get closer to a target, like playing hotter/colder. Perhaps they could be little keychains that light up brighter when they're near another one...gives people something to talk about with each other, which is helpful at conventions when you don't know anybody. Of course I have no idea how to accomplish this. :)
posted by blnkfrnk at 9:47 PM on November 17, 2012

Best swag ever is a Leatherman Micra. Of course, the one I have (which says "Autotrain" on the side) got seized by TSA and resold in a bulk lot on EBay!

So if you want to give away one of these, or a close Chinese knock-off, just offer to send it directly to the user's office -- and collect their address in order to label the little mailer you happen to have at the booth. :7)

(...which, on Preview, shows up just a few posts above mine. Dag! Well, consider this a second to that motion.)
posted by wenestvedt at 7:33 AM on November 19, 2012

What magazine recently had a cheap embedded cell phone on the cover that was pulling in a Twitter stream? Can you take that one step further?
posted by wenestvedt at 7:36 AM on November 19, 2012

Response by poster: Awesome! I'll relay these to the boss and see what comes of it.

I really like the idea of umbrellas. Or maybe an umbrella that you can store stuff in!
posted by saysthis at 5:24 PM on November 20, 2012

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