What's the coolest ($3 or less) swag you've received recently?
November 23, 2016 2:35 PM   Subscribe

Helping organize a 450+ attendee conference, with a focus on I.T. in education for next year at my home institution; among other things I'm looking into various swag ideas for those who come. What's the coolest conference swag you've seen recently that has a pretty low price point?
posted by Shepherd to Work & Money (33 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
These stylus pens and phone wallets. I've ordered these exact products from the vendor in the links and people love them.
posted by beyond_pink at 2:38 PM on November 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

At a conference near Paris one August when it was 95 degrees: a paper and wood fan with the organisation's logo :-) YMMV depending on the weather where you are!
posted by altolinguistic at 2:39 PM on November 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also: little stands for cel phones and tablets.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 2:48 PM on November 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

These were popular at a conference I went to last month.
posted by gnomeloaf at 2:51 PM on November 23, 2016 [7 favorites]

memory sticks
posted by PinkMoose at 2:57 PM on November 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have a couple pieces of non-recent swag that I'm really attached to and have gotten tons of use out of, partly because they're just basic tools and not something device dependent.

These little gooseneck LED flashlights with a magnet base are very useful. You can attach it to the side of a computer or something and shine the light onto whatever you're working on. This would be my first choice.

And I still have a small, pen-style screwdriver with the logo of a long defunct company on it that I use all the time for quick little things where even a multitool would be overkill.
posted by ernielundquist at 3:00 PM on November 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

The swag flashlights I've gotten in that price range have been terrible - one literally broke as I was taking it out of the bag it shipped in. Probably not the impression the vendor wanted to associate with their name.

Wallet multitools were popular at a recent conference I went to.

If you have enough lead time and a nifty logo, you could get custom bananas printed using your logo as the pattern.

I might be an outlier here, but I'm generally happier if a vendor/conference offers me snack bars or trail mix than cheap gizmos. I've just got too much as it is.

Oh, and again, others might disagree with me here, but please don't give out cheap quality laptop bags as part of the conference package unless a vendor supplies them and demands that you give them out. I've thrown out at least 10 of those in the past three years. They're not even good enough quality to be worth giving to a thrift store. Just put the conference package in a plastic bag.
posted by Candleman at 3:14 PM on November 23, 2016 [7 favorites]

If you could somehow get a tiny succulent plant in a branded pot, those would be great- people could keep them on their desks. If you order in bulk you can get the plants for about $1.60 each, and you can figure out some kind of cute pot and branding. People would go nuts for them.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:20 PM on November 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

My company has (secret) slap bracelets with our logo on them only for college career fairs. I swiped one from a box I was shipping out to one of our recruiters and keep it on my desk. Everyone who sees it says "omg is that a slap bracelet?!" and grabs it and plays with it for a bit. Even if you're not wearing it as jewelry (who does??), it's a fun thing to keep on your desk to play with and make clicky noises and entertain your coworkers.

People love slap bracelets. For people who spent kid time in the 80s/90s it taps into a good bit of nostalgia. Useful? No. Fun? Yes.
posted by phunniemee at 3:26 PM on November 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

This carabiner flashlight.

I also appreciated the small water bottles and snacks we were given.
posted by gudrun at 3:28 PM on November 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

I have some Slinky Post-It Notes I quite like.
posted by yarntheory at 3:51 PM on November 23, 2016

The one that I use ALL the time is Amplify's bottle opener. It has made me really popular because I have it on my keychain and inevitably, someone needs a bottle opener and no one thought to bring one.

I also use notepads, sticky notes, and I'd love a popsocket or sticker for my laptop.

I attend a dozen edtech conferences a year, so I've gotten (and thrown away) a LOT of free swag. I've also made puppets out of conference swag. At the conference in the hallway.
posted by guster4lovers at 4:03 PM on November 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Reusable cloth bag that stuffs into a corner of itself and zips into a little triangle. Holds conference stuff while you're there but unlike most conference bags is actually useful afterwards!
posted by SinAesthetic at 4:23 PM on November 23, 2016 [13 favorites]

So the conferences i go to don't actually give swag. But if they did, a blinky led safety light would be cool, that you can put on your backpack and be seen at night. And the nylon grocery tote that stuffs into its own small sack.
posted by leahwrenn at 4:43 PM on November 23, 2016

I really like those little notebooks with the pens attached, because who doesn't need a little notebook and pen sometimes? This picture shows a style I got once that I really liked. It was in our school's colors and had the logo printed on it.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:08 PM on November 23, 2016

you could get custom bananas printed using your logo as the pattern

Ahem. Bandannas.

Though custom fruit would be somewhat impressive, but likely out of your price range.
posted by Candleman at 5:36 PM on November 23, 2016 [12 favorites]

I have a goosenecked fan that plugs into the USB port on the side of my monitor. One of my favorite low-cost IT related items.
posted by dgeiser13 at 6:06 PM on November 23, 2016

Plastic banana harmonicas!

I received a plastic egg rattle recently.
posted by brujita at 6:08 PM on November 23, 2016

Firefox gave out these nice moleskine-knockoff pocket notebooks. Mine got tons of use.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 6:15 PM on November 23, 2016

They're out of your price range, but I got a phone battery bank once in a gift bag. *However* don't get this one which has a button that easily turns it on in your bag and drains the power!

As mentioned above, cell phone stands were popular at a show I was recently at. And slap bracelets. I also love the idea of reusable nylon bags--I use them all the time. They can be kinda pricey in the store but they're like $1 when you buy in bulk. The term you're looking for is "foldable," "packable," or "folding" tote.

In some places, koozies (the soft kind, not the hard foam kind) are very popular. When I lived in New Orleans, they were a hot Mardi Gras throw for sure. People in San Francisco don't appreciate them.
posted by radioamy at 6:37 PM on November 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Reusable bags. The first time I went to a conference that gave those out was about 15-17 years ago. Canvas bags. Big national conference. I STILL see people using them at conferences all over the country! It's kinda of a cool, I was here when... kind of thing. Also they had a sweet design on them and were a nice navy blue color.

And that phone wallet is awesome and I need one immediately.
posted by fshgrl at 7:22 PM on November 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I use my bottle opener all the time.
posted by Jubey at 7:24 PM on November 23, 2016

One of those foam stress toys shaped like whatever makes sense. I have one that looks like a little cow, one that is a boombox and one that is a lump of coal. They are great desk toys. I don't know about conference swag, but I've gotten these as promotional swag.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:45 PM on November 23, 2016

I'm a sucker for nice pens. One of my suppliers used to shell out for these awesome metal bodied clicky numbers with non-leaky ink and I tell you, any time I had a chance to rescue one from being forgotten at a seminar I was all over it. I'm also still using post-its from the last conference I went to, which was years ago. Super useful and means I see the associated brand all the time, and so does anyone who sees my work. Memory sticks were useful too but the cheaper ones I found had like, no lifespan.
posted by Jilder at 12:56 AM on November 24, 2016

I can't remember where now, but I read somewhere recently that webcam covers for laptops went down really well at a conference. Especially what with that photo of Mark Zuckerberg with tape over his webcam.

This place makes custom ones, so you could even put your organisation's logo on them. $2.69 each if you order 500+
posted by derbs at 2:39 AM on November 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Small retractable tape measure designed to go in a hand bag or pocket. Soft and flexible like a sewing one not DIY type one that just measures straight lines
posted by wwax at 6:59 AM on November 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

I generally avoid using/carrying things with corporate logos on them, but I'm a sucker for keychain bottle openers and will add them to my keychain despite logos.
posted by rhiannonstone at 4:54 PM on November 24, 2016

Seconding radioamy's do-not-buy for that particular battery bank. That dumb button is soooo annoying.

I am a firm non-swag-acquirer -- about the only thing I will take is a notebook, and only if it's decent and I actually need a notebook -- but I will say a year ago, I got a nifty little credit-card sized folder that had a pad of sticky notes on one side and colored post-in note flags on the other side. That was nice, useful swag!
posted by sldownard at 10:46 PM on November 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

The scientists I work with went nuts over laser pointers, like they were secretly cats.
posted by theredpen at 8:07 AM on November 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Stuff I've gotten that I use:
Post-it note cubes
Reusable bag (I've gotten 3-4 of these & use them often.)
Wall charger
Power bank (no button)
Popsocket phone stand
Multi Purpose Cleaning Cloth - I throw the little plastic case away, because I am not re-folding it & stuffing it back in a case.
I've noticed that plastic bracelet with flash drive is popular lately at conference.

Here's stuff we have given out at ed tech/library tech events:
Three-in-one pens
Eco notebook (very popular--people ask for the extras)
Bright Flag set
Tech Tattoos
Full color cleaning cloth
Also various other notebooks, bags, & flash drives.

Not to shill, but I noticed that a lot of the links above are for 4Imprint. I have ordered from them a lot and they are easy to work with & fast. Easy-to-use pricing tool. They will match prices, too. We ordered a lousy stylus that didn't work well--when I complained, they refunded the money immediately since we had already sent them out.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 9:38 PM on November 25, 2016

I'm in higher ed and both give and receive swag. By far our most popular swag item is the post-it notebook mentioned above. It's made by a number of vendors and unit price is only around $1.20, so it's pretty economical for nice swag.

Also recommended: lanyards, mobile phone sticky card holders, mobile phone stands of all types, beach balls or frisbees or foam rockets or other fun and cheap toys, nice pens, stress toys.

Not recommended: crappy reusable bags (especially the canvas, recycled, or non-foldable ones), crappy pens (namely, the cheap ones), crappy chargers (especially those ones that plug into a car cigarette lighter), crappy notebooks (also usually the cheap ones). You may be sensing a theme here!
posted by librarylis at 9:46 PM on November 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

This also probably goes without saying, but avoid cheap USB storage devices, especially low-capacity cheap storage devices. If it's not reliable and you can't hold much, it'll get tossed pretty fast. Also, cheap headphones are similarly awful - they'll get picked up fast, but tossed just as fast when someone realizes they sound terrible.

The good goods:
- For colder weather locations, promotional ice scrapers are handy, and they're cheap (half-decent little ones for under a dollar, cheaper ones for a $0.25 some places, fancier ones with mitts close to your $3 price point)
- "gadget grips" sticky pads seem like a keen thing I've never actually seen as a give-away
- Laser pointers in pens! I actually have a great pen with a laser pointer and a flashlight, and my only complaint is that the pen is really short, so I've blinded myself and others while trying to write with it.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:08 AM on February 13, 2017

Just closing the loop on this -- thanks for all the great suggestions! What ultimately wound up happening is we got a sponsor who really wanted to be an upper-tier sponsor, but all those tiers were full, so they sprung to underwrite co-branded Google Cardboard for all our attendees.
posted by Shepherd at 6:27 AM on May 1, 2017

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