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The Future of Swag: Corporate Gifting in 2022 & Beyond

We really dislike the word ‘swag’. 

The word ‘swag’ describes the broad swath of promotional items given away at events or for promotions and marketing purposes. However, ‘swag’ has become synonymous with ‘cheap,’ ‘tchotchke,’ ‘free,’ and ‘junk.’ That is why we don’t like the word - it is not a good representation of the kind of corporate gifts we have to offer. 

Trendy swag items have been a staple of trade shows, conferences, and other corporate events since the 1960s. Since then, promotional swag items have been used as a marketing and sales component in getting the attention of event attendees and staying in their minds well after the event has ended. 

The world has changed a lot since the ’60s. Branded swag is now mass-produced and shipped from China or other countries where the cost is low so that demand can stay high. Companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on promotional swag items each year, many of which are developed in low-wage factories overseas, then shipped and distributed only to ultimately end up in a landfill

The world of corporate swag is beginning to change to a more sustainable model. 

The choice to shift away from cheap swag and opt for more eco-friendly corporate gifts says a lot about a company. A 2019 study revealed that 46% of people have a more favorable opinion of a company if the branded corporate gift they receive is environmentally friendly

You probably wouldn’t want to spend $50 apiece on items that you plan to simply hand out for free at a tradeshow. (You’d be very popular at that event, but you’d spend a lot of money with little return.) The smart move is to give high-quality gifts more intentionally rather than giving out a high quantity of gifts to everyone. 

The future of swag will be more focused on giving better gifts in a way that will make the most impact possible, rather than throwing branded promotional items out willy-nilly at every event you attend. 

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Swag, in the future, will become less about cheap hand-outs and instead be replaced by quality corporate gifts that are intentional and thoughtful. 

According to Shep Hyken, a national keynote speaker discussing the relevance of corporate gifting in the book GIFT-OLOGY by John Ruhlin: “It is rare in our very fast-paced and digital world to see people pay attention to details, such as by sending a handwritten note or a personalized gift; instead, many things are taken for granted.” 

Handing out thousands of cheap swag items at an event is not a marketing strategy. Those types of gifts aren’t appreciated; they’re taken because they’re free. Low-cost logo swag items cast a wide net and set the hope that maybe the stuff you give out will get a good return. 

A good strategy is to select thoughtful items that will be valuable to the recipient. Corporate gifts go so much farther if they reflect your values and reinforce a solid connection with your brand - as well as the relationship you hope to build. 

The future of corporate gifting will be about creating a memorable experience and focusing on individuals rather than applying a one-size-fits-all approach. 

According to Fast Company, many well-reported studies have been released showing that millennials prefer an experience over stuff. Forward-thinking businesses are shifting away from trendy swag to more creative solutions, like onsite gifting, which allows attendees to have the freedom to choose what branded promotional item they want (including what size, color, or gift type they desire). This is one way to create a lasting memory from a unique and enjoyable experience, rather than assuming every attendee wants the same branded plastic pen. 

We want to reclaim the word ‘swag’ for a better future of corporate gifting. 

What if ‘swag’ were synonymous with ‘sustainability’? 
What if ‘swag’ was something not seen as a junk gift but rather a treasured, memorable item?
What if ‘swag’ is reinvented as an item that helps build value and connection? 

That’s a future we want to be a part of. This is our vision for corporate gifts at Clove & Twine. Begin your journey in finding gifts for a better planet.

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