Three Reasons why Swag is Not a Four-Letter Word

I’m always fascinated to hear about the “swag bags”  given out to attendees of Hollywood award shows – the mix of high-end items and brands is always fascinating (and typically aspirational). Most of us in real-world corporate America don’t have the luxury of a big budget or connections with major brands and influencers to pull something like this off. Many of us are satisfied if we can get some pens, stress balls, and water bottles to give out at our next event.  

According to Merriam-Webster, the term “swag” or “schwag” came about in the 1960s to describe the free stuff companies would give out at events as a promotional stunt. Digging deeper (like 17th-century deep), swag was also a reference to stolen loot.

It’s no wonder that many marketers (myself included) don’t hold a high opinion of swag (or tchotchkes, as one of my bosses liked to call promotional products). We’ve often relegated this marketing and sales tool as a non-strategic afterthought.

Now that I’ve worked in the promotional products industry for a couple of years, I’ve seen firsthand the positive impact that swag plays in meeting our clients’ business goals. Here are the top three reasons why swag is not a dirty word.

Reason 1:  Swag captures attention

Okay, you might not be disputing this point. After all, marketers have used freebies to attract conference visitors to their booths for decades. I’m suggesting that the strategic use of promotional products can break through much of the existing marketing noise to capture a recipient’s attention and make a lasting connection.


Reason 2: Swag is cost-effective

Marketers know that email is a cost-effective marketing strategy. According to Litmus, email generates $42 for every $1 spent. Digital ads are also a popular strategy for promoting your brand, with most businesses earning an average of $2 in revenue for every $1 they spend on AdWords (Google Ads).

You may be surprised to learn that most promotional products have a Cost per Impression (CPI) of less than ½ cent, making them an excellent value.

Other stats supporting the use of promotional products:

Reason 3: Swag is fun

This may seem obvious, but just because something is fun doesn’t mean it can’t also be strategic. One of the many benefits of promotional items is that people enjoy receiving free stuff and associate positive feelings with the giver of the swag.

Ways to inject the fun power of swag:

This is far from an exhaustive list. The real fun comes from selecting promotional products that align with your brand, meet your objectives, and delight the recipient. With the help of a partner like Foxtrot, strategically using promotional products won’t have you using any of the “real” four-letter words, we promise!