Your definitive guide to corporate event gifts

Conference goody bags have the potential to leave a lasting impression on your delegates. Done well, a corporate event swag bag provides lasting memorabilia that's both impactful and useful in a delegate's everyday life.

That said, it's all too easy for conference swag to end up in the back of your delegates' closets or worse, the landfill, when it doesn't hit the mark. This begs the question: How do you stop your corporate event gifts from winding up in the bin? How do you ensure your gifts provide return on objective, rather than just contributing to a multi-billion dollar industry producing low quality landfill?

It's time to stop filling conference swag bags with branded nonsense, and think seriously about how you can get delegates leaving your conference with something truly meaningful to remember it by. Here's our definitive guide to corporate event goody bags.

The purpose of corporate event swag

For many delegates, swag is half the fun of a conference or tradeshow. Upon arrival, delegates are gifted with a range of products that hopefully surprise and delight. Meanwhile, stakeholders and sponsors make use of event swag in the hopes of seeing a return on objective, in the form of increased brand affinity and memorability.

Organisations stand to benefit from conference swag because:

  • Promotional items are immediately appealing to delegates. Guests get to enjoy low risk, low commitment engagement with your brand by way of a free product.
  • Branded items can improve recognition. Delegates may gravitate towards familiar brands when they are eventually ready to make a buying decision.
  • Successful wearable merchandise turns delegates into passive brand advocates. Simply displaying your logo acts as a form of word of mouth marketing, showing a broad audience your brand is trusted.
  • Swag is a relatively low-cost marketing avenue, provided it's done effectively. While display advertising is an ongoing expense in an oversaturated digital market, the lasting effect of a single promotional item can spread to wide audiences and improve brand recognition at a lower cost.
  • There's enormous scope for innovative, creative marketing. Corporate event gifts provide the opportunity to disrupt the endless stream of advertising in the form of digital messaging, business cards and flyers. Designing truly unique, useful gifts helps your business stand out amongst today's white noise.

Corporate event swag can leave a lasting impression, but it needs to be designed carefully to avoid landfill.Corporate event swag can leave a lasting impression, but it needs to be designed carefully to avoid landfill.

The problem with corporate event swag

While corporate event swag provides valuable marketing opportunities, it can risk low returns if not handled with care. Worse, careless gift buying may present your brand in the wrong light in today's ethically conscious world.

The promotional products industry in the United States alone is expected to see revenue to the tune of $18 billion in 2019, according to IBISWorld. A significant portion of this is made up of the sale of low-value branded items, like pens and t-shirts, which are likely to end up in landfill and may not be ethically sourced.

There's a lot to be said about taking the time to ensure your corporate event gifts are valuable to your delegates, avoid landfill and resonate with today's delegates' interest in corporate social responsibility.

As such, it's a good idea to avoid any conference swag that is:

  • Not safe for travel. Delegates may not have checked baggage to carry liquids or fragile items home safely in, so these may end up down the drain or in the bin.
  • Low quality. Gimmicks, tchotchkes, knick-knacks. Whether it's a branded pen, cheap tech, lanyards or paperweights, these products typically don't provide value to your delegate, and will quickly make their way to landfill.
  • Overly branded. Yes, branded items can improve recognition. But they need to still be appealing to your delegates. Most people aren't going to wear a t-shirt with a logo slapped on it unless it's a great quality t-shirt and the logo is attractive and/or minimal.
  • Printed advertising. Your flyers, business cards and coupons can easily go unnoticed. That's not to say there's no value in them, but they're more likely to be on a one-way track to the dump.

Corporate event gifts should be non-fragile, travel safe and made to a high standard.Corporate event gifts should be non-fragile, travel safe and made to a high standard.

Better corporate event gift ideas

Ruling out the above options, what's left to leave a lasting impression on your delegates? Let's take a look at some valuable, memorable corporate event gift ideas.

1. Event survival products

Easy to forget, quick to run out, but a must-have for events. Think of products like deodorant, toothpaste, or sunscreen. When forgotten, these simple goods can turn a possible event experience sour. Take some of the stress of your delegates with event survival products. Make sure they take them home by opting for luxury products and providing them in travel-safe sizes.

2. Aspirational goods

Treat your delegates to something extra special. While you may not be able to offer high-end products to every delegate, you can create exclusivity by offering luxury swag to the first hundred delegates to register. These can be recognisable fragrances, bespoke leather goods, personalised tech or great seats to a show or sports game.

3. Tech accessories

Just about every delegate today will appreciate a useful tech accessory, such as a power bank. Pre-charged, a power bank helps your delegates get through the day with a full battery while making the most of your corporate event app. Meanwhile, low footprint tech accessories like the Google Cardboard offer an affordable avenue for immersive VR experiences both on and off site.

Socially and environmentally responsible swag shows delegates you share their values.Socially and environmentally responsible swag shows delegates you share their values.

5 golden rules for corporate event swag

1. Be responsible.

A global study by the Reputation Institute found over 80 per cent of people exhibit higher trust and purchase intent toward businesses with excellent corporate responsibility. Be sure your corporate event gifts are environmentally sustainable, ethically sourced and culturally responsible.

2. Tailor to your audience.

While tech accessories may appeal to most, older demographics may reject them and delegates in the tech industry may already have better options. Think about who your audience is and what appeals to them. If your delegates are typically mid-30s, many may have kids who would love to have a parent return home with a toy for them.

3. Where possible, personalise.

Where you can, make use of pre-event surveys and registration procedures to personalise event gifts. Just receiving the right size t-shirt can make the gift feel more meaningful.

4. Style over promotion.

Do promote your brand, don't do so to the detriment of taste. Keep branded products visually attractive and high quality, so they have innate appeal.

5. Stand out.

Innovate. Exercise those creative muscles and imagine new corporate event gifts that are fit for your audience and poised to surprise and delight even the most seasoned delegate.

Corporate event swag is all too easily overlooked and padded out with thoughtless messaging and cheap plastic. To make a real impact on your delegates, you conference gifts must be strategically selected and designed as part of a broader event strategy.

cievents is a full-service event management agency, delivering scalable creative services to push your event to the next level. To learn more about our holistic corporate event management services, reach out to the team today.

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