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Not just another Blog

Rethinking Trade Show Swag

I ran into a guy at an airport recently who was hauling two large company-branded shopping bags. It was clear that he was on his way home from a trade show.

Well … it was made even clearer by the fact that he was still wearing his Attendee badge.

“Pretty good score, huh?”

“Yeah, lotta crap. Not even sure why I’m bringing it home. But hey, it was free, y’know? ”Kids’ll like it. And the rest I’ll probably just dump.”

I found myself wondering about the hours of discussion, the meetings, the phone calls, the RFPs … the debate by the marketing team over what the “perfect” giveaway for this show would be. And here was a bag full of the stuff on a fast track to the trash heap.

I think many of us agree that promotional giveaway items are an essential part of trade shows. And I know from many years of experience, that people will queue up for a branded t-shirt or a thumb drive or a flying-screaming aadvark as if their very lives depended on it.

I’m also willing to bet that many of these people get home, dump their suitcases on their beds and wonder,


Now, I don’t want to suggest that we do away with the swag. But I think it IS worth considering the amount of trash we are creating in this industry. AND the amount of work that is being outsourced to countries so that we can get that 8 gig flash drive in the shape of a nose for a unit price of fifty cents.

I don’t have an easy answer here, but I would like to open a dialogue on the subject. Do we need this stuff? Or are there alternative forms of messaging and branding that have a reasonable lifespan (And not just a half life in a recycling center.)

Would love to hear your thoughts.


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