I find company branded golf shirts and tshirts so boring.
Yes, the 2 inch x 1 inch logo appearing at the top left of your chest – that’s the one! I have received so many over the years, and almost never wear them. Usually I pass them along to my dad or they end up in the graveyard that’s my bottom drawer. Why companies keep spending money turning out boring swag that very few customers or prospects will ever wear is insanity. If your customers won’t wear it, save your money and spend it on something else. Or, better yet, create fun swag they want to wear.
I think good swag when done right, can be a powerful way to get your customers to connect with your brand. Particularly, if the swag you choose and the designs you create reflect your culture, values, differentiation, and sense of fun. And if customers like it, they’ll wear it as intended, and let everyone around them know who they got it from. Advertising and advocacy.
I work for PEER 1 Hosting and sister company, ServerBeach. We dole out a lot of swag at tradeshows and customer events across North America. I make it a mandate to come up with fun designs that we think our audience would want to wear, not just us. Last year, we introduced a ServerBeach I [heart] Geeks ladies Tee at South By Southwest (SXSW) that paid homage to the iconic I [heart] NY. Our version featured a red motherboard in the shape of a heart. The tshirt was a massive hit. And the fact that we were one of the only exhibitors to have Tees specifically designed for the female population, made us an even bigger draw. Most of our customers are male and wear the geek label proudly. Having a fun swag item they could give their wife or girlfriend, made the Tee a show standout. Plus, there are many self-described lady geeks ready to wear the Tee, loud and proud. A customer sent in the video below of his wife wearing her I [heart] Geeks Tee during a Valentines Fun Run this past week (1:10 mark). We’re told everyone on the run was asking about it.
Back in 2005, we introduced a “Latency Kills” Tshirt as a giveaway to the online gaming crowd. Latency is an issue for online gamers, making the game slow, jittery or crash. One of the core benefits of PEER 1 Hosting is our fast network with very low latency. The tshirt feature a buffed up gaming character being shot from a first-person point-of-view through crosshairs. Violent yes, but the tshirt has found a following that continues to this day.
This past year, we ventured to come up with a more premium giveaway. Being a Canadian company, we decided to show off our heritage through the country’s favorite past-time, hockey. We redesigned our PEER 1 Hosting and ServerBeach logos in a sports-logo style, and had them embroidered onto high quality, NHL replica pro hockey jerseys made by Reebok. Another hit. The jersey, in fact, received an award for “best swag” at the Magento Imagine 2011 conference in Los Angeles.
Swag can be useful if you don’t get stuck in the mindset of turning out the same boring stuff just because everyone else does. If your intention is to have people wear your gear and connect with your brand, then give them a reason to wear it. And if they truly like it, they will tell others all about you.
Rajan is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of BIG Marketing for Small Business. He's an award-winning marketing strategist who is passionate about branding, digital marketing and social media. He spent nearly a decade as the marketing executive at global IT firm Peer 1 Hosting and was instrumental in their explosive growth.