What branded/logoed swag do you still have around and use?
May 6, 2013 1:25 PM   Subscribe

What free promotional items have you received that you still have around and use many months later? Good examples: I have on my desk a ballpoint pen from my orthodontist about ten years after I last saw her - a small notepad with a calendar on the back of it from 2011 that I was sent with a charity solicitation - an insulated coffee mug from my local shop that I use often. Bad: squeeze balls, anything flimsy or disposable.

I am considering buying/giving away some promotional logo-ed items for my small business and I would like to get an idea of what hangs around for a long time as opposed to sitting in a closet or hitting the trash.
posted by bq to Work & Money (62 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I have an insulated cup from a firm I interviewed with for a summer position years ago that I still use pretty much daily. I didn't even accept that firm's offer. It's just pretty great at keeping my drink cold!

I also have a Lexisnexus tote bag that makes for a perfect beach bag. I use it ever summer.
posted by Arbac at 1:28 PM on May 6, 2013

I have a plastic mirror with a magnetic backing that I've actually brought with me from three different offices. Stick it to the side of a fridge or steel filing cabinet, and you can check your hair, teeth, quietly pop a zit, etc., within the privacy of your own office/cubie...

I think it was a promo giveaway from Paul Mitchell or some other salon/hair care outfit...
posted by stenseng at 1:28 PM on May 6, 2013

Nice blank books/journals, either printed or embossed with your logo and URL. Something like this, maybe?
posted by jbickers at 2:21 PM on May 6, 2013

Insulated stainless steel coffee mugs or water bottles have made it far in my house. One firm I worked for gave away Timbuk2 messenger bags, but I assume they're pretty spendy for most businesses. Spatulas.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:24 PM on May 6, 2013

I have a small folding mirror I got from a vendor almost a decade ago. I keep it in a desk drawer at work. The interior of the lid also holds a small photo.
posted by payoto at 2:24 PM on May 6, 2013

Tote bags from all kinds of entities I keep and re-use (in bag-regulated San Francisco). I got a nice travel cup from Loyola University that I am using and trying not to lose.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 2:24 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a few USB flash drives with someone's logo on them that I use all the time.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 2:24 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've had a black fleece throw blanket from Google for about ten years. It was a good size for the stroller when my kids were small, and now it's in the car for emergency picnics. It seems to have been made out of unusually high quality fleece.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:24 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have a couple of thumb drives I still use. They're little- 2GB maybe- but big enough to transfer one project at a time, which is useful for confidentiality reasons.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:25 PM on May 6, 2013

USB flash drives and microfiber eyeglass cleaner cloths are the two giveaways I will absolutely keep and use no matter how hideous the logo imprint.

A previously from a few years ago.
posted by jamaro at 2:26 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I got the mug in which I hold my pens, etc. from a local police department many years ago. It bears a replica of their officer badges. I also have a wooden coaster that bears the logo of our state department of corrections, which I got on a prison visit a long time ago.

I know, kind of a law enforcement motif here.
posted by bearwife at 2:27 PM on May 6, 2013

Oh, and I also collect sturdy canvas tote bags that are large enough to carry groceries. Pretty pictures on them are a plus.
posted by bearwife at 2:29 PM on May 6, 2013

I have several of the items mentioned above: USB drives, a black fleece blanket, tote bags.

My favorite item is a wind up led flash light key chain. It's not on my keys at the moment but it was for a long time and got a lot if use.
posted by Swisstine at 2:34 PM on May 6, 2013

Really good quality umbrellas. I never carry logo stuff (well, sometimes tote bags), but I had an umbrella from an edit house that lasted almost 10 years and I adored it, despite the logo, since it was so indestructible.
posted by Mchelly at 2:37 PM on May 6, 2013

If anyone has an office that requires wearing a badge all the time, nice looking badge holders (lanyard and/or clip) do stick around for a while.
posted by citron at 2:38 PM on May 6, 2013

The strongest magnet clip I've ever owned is a logo'd swag thing from a financial company. Like a chip clip thing? But it's awesome!
posted by peep at 2:40 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

My father-in-law used to work for a seed company and gave away cheese wands exactly like this with his company's logo on it. We have two of them and use them constantly.
posted by VTX at 2:41 PM on May 6, 2013

USB drives (though I do give them away sometimes), nicer than ordinary coffee mugs, funky USB hub (this one specifically), conference lanyard/badge holder, canvas tote bags (I'll keep the most interesting ones and ditch the others) or even those paper-ish ones in an unusual shape/size, metal water bottles, nicer-than-average ballpoint or felt tip pens, tape measure, rulers.
posted by jessamyn at 2:47 PM on May 6, 2013

My accountant gives out these palm-sized little notebooks with his contact info on them and we use them for everything, including remembering his contact info. He also has branded post-it notes we use everywhere.

The running store I go to for shoes and gear gives away really nice tote bags that I use for the beach and pool and gym.

If your potential customer base is drinkers, I've done branded/logoed flasks that people went crazy over. But obviously that's only certain markets.

Good pens. I've got a really, really nice pen from some hotel I stayed at in Sweden that I stole because it was so nice.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:48 PM on May 6, 2013

Pens and tote bags/reusable grocery bags are useful, but my favorite swag is a perpetual calendar from the pharmaceutical company my mother used to work at.
posted by sperose at 2:49 PM on May 6, 2013

Water bottles: maybe. I definitely use them, though I've seen countless discarded squeeze bottles that fit in bike bottle cages.
Bike bells:
Rear bike lights:
yes. The kind that come with AAA or AA batteries, not specialty batteries.
definitely. Unlike t-shirts, socks determine when it's time to do laundry.
posted by aniola at 2:49 PM on May 6, 2013

Bags and biros and post-its.
posted by sianifach at 2:50 PM on May 6, 2013

pens. tote bags (especially now that many places are instituting plastic bag bans). my dad used to get a lot of this type of swag ages ago and some tomato grower gave him a nice, incredibly sharp pen knife, and i still have it and use it to this day. small flashlights.
posted by koroshiya at 2:52 PM on May 6, 2013

Clever bumper stickers.
posted by aniola at 2:52 PM on May 6, 2013

I got an elastic gadget holder at a conference a few months ago, and it's been incredibly useful. They did have to explain to *everyone* what on earth it was, which also meant that the sponsors got to talk to everyone. I also ended up using their service, which may or may not be related...
posted by third word on a random page at 2:54 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a ballpoint pen from the Super 8 motel where I stayed during a vacation in 2005.
posted by scratch at 3:02 PM on May 6, 2013

I have several of this type of jar openers - a rubber or silicon circlular mat with tiny nubbins on one side. (link is just an example). I was going to recommend them if your product is related to kitchens, but mine are from the Arthritis Foundation and from a technology company, so it probably doesn't matter.
posted by CathyG at 3:02 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Almost all my water bottle were free. Many of my coffee mugs feature the logo of some company.
posted by COD at 3:03 PM on May 6, 2013

I think I have every Logoed Leeds Aluminum Water Bottle I've ever been able to get my dirty mitts on at a conference.
posted by lstanley at 3:07 PM on May 6, 2013

The guy at the bank who arranged our mortgage gave us a return address stamp with our names and new address on it. It's a good one, and I appreciate it. But it's kind of weird because, since he's sort of in real estate, it has a big photo of him on it. Hi, Matt! There you are again, smiling away at me every time I open the desk drawer!
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:08 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Every now and then I score a really incredible ballpoint or gel-style pen from hotels, real estate agencies, and restaurants, and man, am I a happy camper. Pens that write really fluidly are a godsend, and I think very highly of the companies that give those out as branded swag, even if that company is a hellhole and I know it. Good writing instruments are my weakness...
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 3:08 PM on May 6, 2013

best thing was a company I worked at: a grippy plastic jar opener. sort of like this. at first, we, and our customers, were confused. but the first time people tried it, EVERYONE loved it. amazing.

(on preview, I see others mentioned these as well. note: the company was a heating oil company, so, it doesn't need to be kitchen related.)
posted by firei at 3:16 PM on May 6, 2013

I got one of those fake-leather portfolios from a vendor years ago that holds the steno-size notepads, holds a pen, and has a slot to hold business cards. I use it constantly and just keep buying new steno pads to put in it. It goes to most of my meetings and networking events with me because it's a good size, it's sturdy, and I can keep re-using it.
posted by JannaK at 3:17 PM on May 6, 2013

Seconding thumb drives. Also, if you're going to go with pens, go with sturdy pens, not just run of the mill PaperMates printed with your logo. (Or funny ones. There was a Levitra pen that would pop open with the push of a button. Super funny because Levitra is an ED drug. Every other week or so the Levitra rep visited the office I worked at and she would give me a fistful of these pens. We fought over them in the office, snickering the whole time.)

I don't keep water bottles because they make water taste strange. And I say this as someone who proudly drinks the tap water in most places.

If you're going with tote bags, I keep the ones with long(er) straps but get rid of the others.
posted by bilabial at 3:22 PM on May 6, 2013

Nthing thumb drives - I hoard them. A small recycled-fabric tote bag that I've used forever because it is the perfect size for carrying my lunch and has handles long enough to pull up and over my shoulder. A branded rectangle LED key-chain flashlight. Nice looking notepad and pen sets. A pocket-sized solar calculator (fits in a portfolio notebook), and hand sanitizer.

I would keep if I got them: mugs and both the elastic gadget holder and usb hub mentioned above.

Things I don't keep: non-aluminum water bottles (they're a very common giveaway here and I have more than I can use), magnets, car fresheners (they all smell like chemicals to me), cheap pens, lanyards, beach balls, frisbees and other toys, printed calendars and key-chains.
posted by faineant at 4:06 PM on May 6, 2013

I loves me a good canvas tote bag. Preferable with long enough handles that I can sling over my shoulder. And I love note pads or post-it notes. But here's the thing - even if I get a great item, I probably won't use it if it's got a huge, ugly, obtrusive logo or conference name on it. If you ever walk into a thrift store, you'll see a lot of giveaways that look useful and wonderful, but they usually have something stamped on them that no one really wants to wear publicly. For example, would you want to walk around with a messenger bag that says - no, SCREAMS: Kidney Stone Conference. Madrid, Spain. May 2013. Or John James Real Estate. We Do Houses Right. Hence, the swag graveyard at the thrift store. If it was a small logo or phrase that is discreet, then yes, I'll be more likely to use it.
posted by HeyAllie at 4:20 PM on May 6, 2013

I had this mug for years until someone stole it from work. It was a good size, the handle didn't heat up in the microwave, and the product it advertised made it extra amusing.

Lanyards and retractable badge holders are pretty great.

I'm not hugely fond of tote bags. The only swag-type one that I still have is from the California Prison Industry Authority and I only love it because it has hilarious clip art images of food screenprinted on one side.

What about scissors?
posted by elsietheeel at 4:31 PM on May 6, 2013

Nice umbrellas, the long pointy kind with a wooden handle and a button you press to open it. Everyone needs more umbrellas, to keep at the office and at home, and to replace broken ones. I still use one a broker gave me from two Christmases ago.

Fleece vests, for people who work in offices with over aggressive air conditioning. At my last job, everyone wore a vest from one of our software vendors or various brokers.

Added benefit of the above, you get advertising when the person walks around outside the office with your stuff (well maybe not the vest, although I'll wear it if I'm just popping out for a coffee).
posted by pravit at 4:35 PM on May 6, 2013

A couple of t-shirts, a mug or two, many writing utensils. Many of the above more than five years old.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:50 PM on May 6, 2013

There is a specific logo'd acrylic tumbler I really like, but I can't find a picture of it online.

However while searching I found a lot of pictures of this style of tumbler, which I love, and would be excited to get for free.
posted by insectosaurus at 5:04 PM on May 6, 2013

One day I walked out to my car in a parking lot and found a package of ten brightly-colored ballpoint pens, with the logo/info of a local bail bond company on them, stuck under my windshield wiper. Crazy, I thought. What a weird strategy, just putting these on every car, since they must be more expensive than a flier and probably most people don't need bail bond services.

But what the heck, the pens are cheerful and write well, so I stuck one in my glove compartment, and one by the phone , and a few at my desk, etc.

And ever since, I see these pens *everywhere* in our area. Baristas have them as their pen by the register for writing orders, convenience store clerks use them, other local small business clerks, tow truck guy, barbershop, etc. The pens have a distinctive bright color scheme so you can see them from some distance in eg a restaurant. I've had conversations with people in stores thirty miles away - "Wow, so you have the so-and-so bail bond pens too?" "Yeah, don't know where they came from but we always seem to have them and they write pretty well"

This company must have ordered them in some huge volume from China and hired some kids to distribute them over an enormous area - but man, it has worked. If I ever need bail bond service, I will be able to rattle off their name.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:19 PM on May 6, 2013 [6 favorites]

box with ten colors of sticky flags plus four colors of little sticky notes - logo is only on the box, not the notes

sturdy umbrella

zippered change purse with a keychain fob stitched inside - it was my wallet for a while and now holds cards I don't use regularly

red blinky light (from a transit agency)

small, attractive vinyl stickers - paper ones get wet/ruined almost immediately

address labels
posted by momus_window at 5:40 PM on May 6, 2013

Ha, I have the same USB rainbow thing as jessamyn and that tumbler that insectosaurus linked to, so clearly I picked those up and kept them.

Don't bother with t shirts unless they are soft and not white. I will go for a nice green or maroon or blue or gray tee but no boxy white ones.
I have stopped taking totes unless they are the real canvas kind and in a size I don't already har. Totes are everywhere, especially those plasticky mesh one piece lightweight ones. I might have more totes from conferences than shoes at this point.

One thing that stood out in a good way was a USB car adaptor for the cigarette lighter. That was useful and I hadn't seen it everywhere before.

I don't see people giving away mousepads anymore even though those used to be common. If I saw a plain or patterned one with a small logo I would take it. Because who wants to pay for a mouse pad?

If you want to spend a little more, phone stands or mini speakers are awesome.
Same with windbreakers or messenger bags that zip.

The most recent thing I took was a screen cleaner sticker that you stick to the back of your phone and then can take off and wipe the screen with. I got one for SO too.
posted by rmless at 5:55 PM on May 6, 2013

I have this folding phone stand that I prize and keep in my purse at all times. It came from a hotel my boss stayed at, comes in very handy for lunchtime metafiltering.
posted by FormerMermaid at 6:31 PM on May 6, 2013

I have a 40s slide rule in a leather case branded by a company that went out of business in the 1970s but that's probably not something most folks would want. (I mostly use it as a paperweight)

MeFite Mirelle gave a good recommendation for metal usb cards which are so awesome looking.

I have a 40s slide rule in a leather case branded by a company that went out of business in the 1970s but that's probably not something most folks would want.

There's a credit card sized hand sanitizer

Here's a letter opener and sticky flag holder

(I have no knowledge of the company behind the two links above - I've gotten both items but have no idea of the vendor)
posted by jaimystery at 6:32 PM on May 6, 2013

I will keep and use microfiber eyeglass cloths until they fall apart, no matter what they look like.
I will keep certain tshirts if my memories associated with them are meaningful (got on a trip, got at a con, etc).
I have good quality mugs from products I would never use.
I keep and hoard all decent pens with black ink.
Any sort of small notepad, but prefer sticky-backed notepads.
I have branded totebags and messenger bags of varying quality that I have used for years.
posted by Brody's chum at 6:44 PM on May 6, 2013

As mentioned above, drinkware is very popular. I think we all have super old branded/logoed mugs! The insulated cups that look like Starbucks disposable cups (hot or cold versions) are very popular. Depending on where you live, nice water bottles are great. Don't buy cheapie water bottles or travel mugs that are just going to leak thouh.

I have a random pizza cutter like this that we use all the time. Also bag/chip clips.

Tote bags and grocery totes but not the super cheap tiny flimsy "non-woven plastic" ones. If you can afford nicer duffel bags, people keep those.

Pens are hit or miss. There are lots of cheap Bic-type pens that people don't keep because they're not nice to write with. But you can go up a little bit in quality and get some nicer pens that are nice to write with and people will keep.
posted by radioamy at 7:02 PM on May 6, 2013

A metal credit card size and shape bottle opener.
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 7:03 PM on May 6, 2013

I have a free chapstick I got that I use whenever I can't find my usual ones, which is very often since I'm always loosing them. Ditto hand cream. Also, pretty much any sample or travel sized personal care items will get stashed in a purse for unexpectDeodorant especially).

I recently got a free promotional pair of glasses which I use quite often but which is not likely feasible in most circumstances.
posted by windykites at 7:30 PM on May 6, 2013

Oh also I have a logoed cup that I use all the time.
posted by windykites at 7:31 PM on May 6, 2013

Combs and shoe horns from a particular hotel in Vienna that we've been to a couple of times.
posted by Logophiliac at 8:35 PM on May 6, 2013

I have a folding hairbrush from a friend's bridal shop that lives in my suitcase, also a jar opener as mentioned above. My longest still in use swag item is a keychain bottle opener that was thrown to me from a parade (I've carried it for a decade now - but the logo is long gone.)

I ran a conference and we ordered cheap, zippered pouches (just a tad bigger than a credit card). I occasionally see attendees using them, but those of us in the host organization are still coveting the few extras that are left. They are perfect as a smaller on-the-go wallet (when travelling I throw my hotel key in it, and my receipts for expensing later.. Bonus: the hotel the prior year had complained of wet money from people being thrown in the pool. We didn't have that problem when we gave out the pouches.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 9:00 PM on May 6, 2013

I hate logo'd stuff, but I still have a few things from when I was an active farmer. My favorite paring knife came from a seed company, as did this little ratchet thing for removing stubborn jar lids. I've probably had it for twenty years. Also two yard sticks and a tape measure.
posted by Ookseer at 9:35 PM on May 6, 2013

The branded things I use most? Microfiber cleaning cloth and a carabiner badge reel. Also, many many dumb t-shirts that I wear only at home.
posted by bendy at 10:34 PM on May 6, 2013

It'd be easier to answer if we knew whether the swag for your customer will be distributed at work or to their homes.

If the former, all are pretty equal, but logos from vendors on items used every day become kind of invisible over time.

The best thing is a little gadget for the home that most people don't own. This is especially good if it ties obliquely to your service.

For example I use one of these business card labeled razor mail openers every day - and actively search for it daily as I bring the mail in.

It's from a locksmith, it has his logo and it helps me open things - the perfect trigger.
posted by aninom at 11:10 PM on May 6, 2013

I still use a 32MB flash drive with an Adobe logo on it that I've had since the early 2000s I think. High quality (metal, heavy) pens from a co-contractor's firm have found a home in my bag and will stay as long as they work.
posted by russm at 1:30 AM on May 7, 2013

A set of tiny screwdrivers in a little plastic case.
posted by anaelith at 4:41 AM on May 7, 2013

I love tote bags with a gusset - they're so much better for carrying books or sewing stuff in as they tend to be stronger and more durable. I was given a Yelp one once which I used until it finally fell apart as my library bag. The reusable grocery bags that fold into a little pouch are great.

I don't go to many conferences, but out of the free stuff I've got from magazines and such, any retractable tape measure is a winner with me. Neater, and easier to put in a pocket if you're buying furniture or measuring clothing for eBay. I also have a make-up bag I got free with Marie Claire that I've been using for about ten years and has outlasted things I've paid money for - I'd be happy to receive a good strong zippered pouch or case as they're good for just about anything.
posted by mippy at 4:47 AM on May 7, 2013

Tiny screwdrivers.

A remarkably sharp plastic handled serrated knife that we use when we are too lazy to dig through the knife block or want to cut something that might harm the good knives.

A folding wooden handled pocket knife we use for picnics.

I get a yearly calendar printed on a 4 x 8 piece of heavy cardstock. I've kept all of them to use when counting dates forwards and backwards.

Hmmm... we seem to really like our knives.
posted by sarajane at 5:50 AM on May 7, 2013

Bandanas - cheap, light and easy to transport for you and whoever you give them to. Dozens of uses. Don't just print your logo - also include useful or fun information related to your business/industry. For example, if you were a bakery include a cookie recipe or a measurement conversion table.
posted by mikepop at 6:28 AM on May 7, 2013

I have a couple of awesome magnets that act as clips to hold documents -- in my lab, I used them to hold reminder notes or protocols that I was reading off of; at home, they hold the grocery list, etc. Really a good product with a long life of handiness.
posted by acm at 7:44 AM on May 7, 2013

I have tote bags from one particular vendor that are especially high-quality and have lasted for years. Most tote bags are total crap and develop holes within months, but these are made of actual canvas-like fabric. I don't know if this vendor still has them but I need another!
posted by epanalepsis at 8:57 AM on May 7, 2013

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