Having trouble choosing the right swag for an event? It’s not easy, especially when there are so many options and what’s useful, popular, buzzworthy seems to change from one minute to the next. Not sure what to stuff the swag bags with for your next event? We’ve put together this list of swag bag ideas to help you choose items that serve your purpose and get attendees excited.
The Purpose of Swag
Originally, the term “swag” referred to the branded promotional items given out at trade shows, conferences, and other industry events. Some people know it as an acronym standing for “stuff we all get.”
The modern usage of the term is broader now. It usually refers to any item that carries a company logo or message, even if it’s not tied to a specific event. But while the definition of swag is a little different, its purpose hasn’t changed.
Giving out swag is all about marketing. The specific reason for giving away promotional products depends on the situation, but ultimately the purpose of all swag bag items is advertising. Some reasons to give out swag include:
- Raise brand awareness and goodwill – This typically means giving out large numbers of low-cost items, with the brand logo featured prominently.
- Acquire new leads or turn leads into sales – High-value swag items can provide incentive that pushes leads further along in the sales cycle. For instance, at trade shows and conferences, swag is used by exhibitors and sponsors to increase booth traffic.
- Strengthen current client and customer relationships – The value of the items given away is often a reflection of the value of the relationship.
- Promote a corporate identity – In this instance, branded swag is used within a company to strengthen corporate identity and internal morale.
- Fundraising – Schools and charities often use swag items to raise money.
Pro tip: Virtual event attendees still want swag! And it can still serve many of the same purposes, even if it’s not being noticed on the event floor. Send swag bags to attendees ahead of your virtual event to get them excited for what’s to come.
What Makes Good Swag?
Given that the purpose of swag is primarily advertising, what makes any given swag bag idea effective? The best items share two main traits.
Good swag is useful. Giving out swag is pointless (and expensive) if most people throw the item away after a day or two. The best giveaway items are the ones that are kept and used, so good swag ideas are typically items that have a practical use.
Good swag is durable. It’s also pointless to give out low-quality items that don’t last more than a few days before breaking. Swag doesn’t have to be expensive, but it needs to have some longevity to be effective. The longer your promotional message sticks around, the better. And you don’t want your event or brand to be associated with cheap items that fall apart.
Good swag reinforces your brand while relating to your audience. But it’s not just about getting your company’s name out there. Event swag should accomplish the first two points in this list (be useful and durable) while reinforcing what you’re business is all about. For example, a camera company could provide branded lens cloths, or a travel blog could give away a branded dopp kit or carry-on bag.
25 Swag Bag Ideas Your Guests Will Love
Wellness and Lifestyle Swag
- Branded apparel. From socks to sweatshirts, bandanas, and sunglasses, there’s a huge range of branded apparel available. Choosing branded apparel makes it fairly easy to pick items that suit your event and your target demographic. For instance, hiking boots or fleeces for attendees at an outdoor trade show or polo shirts for a corporate team-building event.
- Resistance band. Short bursts of exercise can help improve mood and relieve stress, not to mention boost productivity. A resistance band is a simple tool that anyone can use for a quick seated workout or just to get their circulation going.
- Reusable metal straw. Reusable straws are still new enough that many people don’t yet have their own, so they have the potential to provide a good level of brand exposure. This would be especially appropriate if your event is focused on sustainability.
- Stress reliever. For best results, pick one that has a keychain attachment. If it’s cute or cool enough, many people will just add right to their keychain, even if they don’t particularly need a stress reliever.
- Tote bag. These are especially popular at trade shows because people love to get a tote bag for all the swag they receive from exhibitors throughout the day. And if your tote bag gets used as a swag bag, then the branding is displayed for everyone to see.
- Travel mug. Both useful and practical, a good-quality travel mug will see plenty of use, often on a daily basis.
- Water bottle. Staying well hydrated is one of the easiest things a person can do to help maintain good health, so water bottles are highly popular. Give out a collapsible bottle that event attendees can tuck away when not in use on the conference floor. A good quality water bottle might end up being used for months or years before it’s replaced, so these items have strong branding potential.
- Yoga or exercise mat. Not everyone does yoga, but at a more niche wellness-related event, a yoga mat or a generic exercise mat can be a highly popular piece of swag.
Tech and Work Swag
- Blue light glasses. Blue light—the kind that comes from screens—is known to disrupt circadian rhythms and cause eyestrain. Glasses that filter out blue light helps mitigate these effects, making them a potentially popular item.
- Cable organizer. If it’s well-designed, it will be a piece of swag that will see plenty of use. Even if many recipients already have an organizer for their workspace, they can probably use another for their nightstand or home office.
- Phone charger. A highly popular and ubiquitous gift, partly because many such items are of inferior quality and don’t last. Give away a charger that works and is of good enough quality to last more than a few months, and this can be a big win.
- Popsocket. A popsocket is a small device that sticks on the back of a phone, for use as a handle or a stand. They’re highly useful, but there are still plenty of people who don’t have them and would be happy to try one for free.
- Portable charger. This is even better than a standard phone charger, as it provides a backup option that doesn’t need access to an outlet. Give them out at the start of an event, and it’s a sure thing that you’ll see lots of people using them throughout the venue.
- Power bank. Another item that can have excellent long-term potential if it’s of good quality.
- Screen cleaner. Screen cleaning cloths aren’t high-tech, but they are hugely effective for the purpose. These simple items see plenty of use and have lots of room for branding too.
- Travel organizer. Chargers, cables, and other must-have items are easily lost or damaged, making a simple travel organizer a useful and desirable piece of swag. These are items that many people won’t think to buy for themselves but will get lots of use out of if they’re given one. And an out-of-town event is the perfect proving ground.
- Webcam cover. Digital privacy is something most people are concerned with, making this a swag item with strong potential. The fact that people spend so much work and leisure time looking at their screens makes it even stronger.
- Wireless products. From earbuds to chargers, computer mice and more, wireless products are convenient and practical swag items. Decreased cord clutter and improved flexibility make these popular items to have around.
Expendable Swag Items
While the best giveaways are items that see lots of long-term use, short-term or expendable items can be useful too. For instance, free snacks generate plenty of goodwill, along with branding.
- Candy and snacks. It doesn’t have to be fancy, as long as it tastes good and provides an energy boost. Great as both a standalone gift or in goodie bags.
- Lip balm. If your event is in an air-conditioned venue (or in Las Vegas!), people will definitely appreciate some free lip balm.
- Notebook and pen set. Many people still prefer to take notes by hand. Providing attendees with a branded notebook and pen can generate lots of brand visibility at a trade show or conference.
Swag in the Social-Distancing Era
Not all swag fits into this category (nor should it!), but there are a few items that will be particularly popular as live events return in 2021.
- Face mask. The window on these items is fairly narrow, as many people plan to stop wearing masks as soon as they’re no longer required. But, in the meantime, a well-made mask is an excellent branding opportunity, especially if it’s washable and reusable.
- Face gaiter. A kind of combination scarf and mask, these have better longevity than face masks, as they can still be worn as a scarf even if a mask isn’t needed.
- Hand sanitizer. A travel-size bottle of hand sanitizer can be a great swag item on its own and as part of a larger swag bag or welcome package.
- Touch tool. This small tool helps people avoid contact with surfaces, as they can use it to press buttons and to push, pull, and turn objects without using their hands. The touch tool has the best long-term potential of items in this category, as it will still be useful even after face masks are no longer necessary, and, unlike hand sanitizer, it doesn’t run out.
Try These Swag Bag Ideas for Event Swag That Goes the Distance
To get the best results from your event swag, it has to provide long-lasting, impactful branding. By stuffing your swag bags with giveaways people want to use—and will use for a long time—you maximize the value of your swag when it comes to branding and get the most out of the money you’ve spent on it.