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We hope the next time a client needs a pen, they reach for the pen we gave them, see our logo and make a mental imprint that our company is there when you need us.

Just like a company’s brand, good swag differentiates the company and sets it aside from the competition. Most companies give away pens, but don’t make pens — perhaps marketing reps from Pilot or Bic can comment.

Poorly designed swag goes in the garbage, while great swag is enthroned on desktops and brought home to children whose parents share bedtime stories with company-branded teddy bears. Visibility and prominence of logo, size, name, color, etc. — all parts of the formula for good swag. Ideally, we want the client to pay attention to the swag for as long as possible.

Connection. Emotion. Imprinting.

Swag allows for out-of-the-box promotions of a brand — t-shirts for non-apparel companies, phone cases despite not being in tech, and pens that don’t really represent our product.

So… How do we make sense of this madness?!?

Here are some criteria/examples for great swag:


“Holy sh*t my hands are too freezing to type this email,” said a colleague during a DC-based conference in mid-December.

With visions of Harry discovering Lloyd’s “extra gloves” on the way to Aspen, I had a great idea for marketing swag…

For the same conference next year, I had a couple hundred pair of smartphone-friendly gloves produced in company colors — the main part of the glove was our brand color (blue), while our accent colors matched with the phone-friendly fingertips on the glove. Our logo was printed across the knuckles of the glove — they looked awesome.

Our company and message was more prominent than any of the Platinum and Diamond sponsorships, just by handing out free gloves when it was cold.


Whenever people visit California, part of their soul becomes a “Cali Surfer”. Flying through blizzards on the way to San Diego makes this transition happen quickly — it’s arguably the best/worst location for anything beyond the beach, food + drinks and “chilling cali-surfer style”. Seriously, the accounting department loves drinking Corona.

After stepping out of the San Diego Convention Center and being blinded by the winter sun, I stumbled onto a great swag idea: sunglasses.

I got Wayfarer (Cali Surfer) sunglasses produced in transparent blue, with the logo printed on the ear piece.

Like the gloves, the sunglasses were a smash hit.

It was a great feeling — sitting in the Gaslamp area of SD — watching people enjoy dinner and drinks in our beautiful blue sunglasses. Marketing win. Visibility win. Swag win!

This reinforced our B2B message of solving problems and allowing people to focus on enjoying drinks and developing their business network, while looking awesome in our sunglasses!


Good swag provides utility or interest that goes beyond having a logo printed on random items. With the gloves and sunglasses in the examples above, I focused on areas like weather and local culture as key ingredients for coming up with clever swag.

Catch-phrases and industry slang can be sources of great ideas — “building blocks” is a term used to describe certain groups of chemical compounds, but is more often associated with wooden building blocks or children’s toys. Building on this concept, I discovered flat-pack building blocks that assembled into a foam cube, which was a pen holder. It’s great because it references the industry term, the associated concept, prominent company logo and receives a lot of visibility sitting on a desk. Plus, building the foam block is pretty fun!


Customer service is always value number one, so finding and solving problems before the customer has to deal with them is critical. Be there with gloves, so their hands don’t freeze; with sunglasses so squinting isn’t required; with solutions so their business problems are solved.

Great swag reflects company values and draws on a mix of seasonal, cultural and creative ideas to support key business messages while also emotionally resonating with clients.

What’s the best swag you’ve seen?