How to Ensure You Don‘t Waste Money on Useless Company Swag

Ordering company swag for the first time? It‘s an exciting way to build your brand, boost team morale, and create lasting connections with employees and customers. But it can also be a big investment – one you can‘t afford to waste on low-quality products that no one will use.

In fact, the global promotional products industry was valued at $23.3 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach $36.9 billion by 2027. That‘s a lot of money spent on swag each year. So how can you make sure your company‘s investment pays off?

As the Director of Marketing at HubSpot, I‘ve helped oversee the creation and distribution of thousands of swag items over the years, from the classic t-shirts and water bottles to more unique items like orange socks and dog bandanas. I‘ve seen firsthand what works (and what ends up in the donation bin).

Here are the key questions you need to answer before placing your first swag order to ensure you get the most bang for your branding buck.

1. What are your goals for the swag?

It‘s tempting to just order some t-shirts with your logo and call it a day. But to get the best ROI from your swag, start by defining some clear goals. What do you want the swag to achieve for your business? Common objectives include:

  • Increasing brand awareness and recognition
  • Attracting attention at an event or trade show
  • Welcoming and engaging new employees
  • Thanking key clients or partners
  • Supporting a product launch or campaign

For example, HubSpot‘s bright orange swag helps our employees and booth stand out at busy conferences. We also use thoughtful new hire swag packs to immerse employees in our culture and make them feel welcome from day one.

Having specific goals will guide many of your other swag decisions, from what items to order to how you‘ll distribute them.

2. What‘s your budget?

Before you start shopping, align on a budget for your swag order. Factors to consider include:

  • The cost per item
  • Any setup or design fees
  • Shipping costs
  • Additional costs for packaging or special distribution

Keep in mind that you often get what you pay for with swag. Buying the cheapest t-shirts may seem like a cost-saving move, but lower-quality items are less likely to be worn and can even make your brand look cheap.

That said, there are ways to stretch your swag budget:

  • Focus on a few high-quality items vs. a huge variety
  • Limit the number of ink colors in your design to save on printing
  • Order in bulk to get quantity discounts
  • Partner with a vendor that offers free design, setup, and shipping

3. Who is the swag for?

Create a clear picture of who will be receiving the swag. Is it employees, customers, event attendees, or someone else? What is the general demographic – age range, gender breakdown, job roles, interests?

Understanding your audience will help you choose items they‘ll actually enjoy and use. A tech gadget might excite your sales team, but be seen as wasteful by your eco-conscious volunteers.

Some general crowd-pleasers that tend to have broad appeal include:

  • Comfy t-shirts and hoodies
  • Quality drinkware like mugs and water bottles
  • Useful office supplies like pens and notebooks
  • Tech accessories like phone chargers and headphones
  • Trendy items that align with your brand (for HubSpot, that‘s anything orange!)

4. What‘s the shelf life?

Some swag items are more evergreen than others. A USB drive will probably sit in a drawer unused, while a quality jacket could be worn for years.

Consider the expected useful life of each potential swag item and aim for things that will stick around and keep your brand visible longer. Prioritize classic items over trendy ones.

Also consider the staying power of your branding. Swag featuring your core logo and company name will be relevant longer than items tied to a specific campaign or initiative that may quickly become dated.

5. How will you distribute the swag?

Many swag orders end up gathering dust in a closet because there wasn‘t a clear plan for getting them to the intended recipients. Before placing an order, map out exactly how and when you will distribute the items.

Some common distribution methods:

  • Include in new hire welcome kits
  • Hand out at conferences and events
  • Set up a "swag store" where employees can choose items
  • Mail directly to employees‘ or customers‘ homes
  • Give as gifts to speakers, sponsors, or VIP guests

For example, HubSpot sends all new hires a welcome kit including swag to their home before their first day. Employees also accrue points they can use to "purchase" swag items in our internal company store.

6. What‘s the environmental impact?

More and more, employees and customers are judging companies‘ swag by its impact on the environment. A study by researchers at Arizona State University found that 50.7% of consumers have a more favorable opinion of an advertiser if the promotional product they received was environmentally friendly.

Some ways to make your swag more sustainable:

  • Source items made from recycled or biodegradable materials
  • Choose higher-quality items that will last longer
  • Avoid single-use plastics and disposable items
  • Partner with suppliers that have strong environmental policies
  • Offer a way for people to recycle or donate used items

HubSpot has committed to eliminating plastic from our swag items and shipping and transitioning to 100% recycled or recyclable packaging by 2025.

HubSpot‘s Swag Checklist

To sum it up, here‘s a handy checklist to review before placing your company‘s first swag order:

  • [ ] Define your goals and target audience
  • [ ] Set a clear budget and understand all costs
  • [ ] Choose useful, lasting items with broad appeal
  • [ ] Understand how and when you‘ll distribute the items
  • [ ] Aim to minimize environmental impact
Swag Item Avg. Cost Usefulness Longevity
T-shirt $5-$10 High 1-2 years
Pen $0.50-$2 Medium 6-12 months
Mug $3-$8 High 2-5 years
USB Charger $4-$10 Low 1-2 years
Canvas Tote $5-$10 High 2-5 years

Remember, the most impactful swag aligns with your company‘s larger brand and values and focuses on quality over quantity. By thoughtfully choosing items your people will use and enjoy, you‘ll create a lasting positive impression that strengthens connections to your business.

"Offering sustainable and memorable swag can be a highly effective way to engage employees and customers while boosting the visibility of your brand," says Sarah Franklin, HubSpot‘s VP of Brand & Creative. "The key is to put thought and purpose behind every item, down to the smallest sticker."