Why we hate “Swag”


It’s time we stop calling promotional items “swag!”

Remember attending in-person tradeshows and coming home with a bag of brochures and “swag” that you never used or looked at again?

Why waste your marketing budget on items destined for the landfill? Instead, we help our clients create what we call “merch,” “custom-branded merch,” or “promo products” that are actually useful and considerate of the environment.

At Fairware, we love our branded merchandise, and we also love our corporate and social responsibility. According to stats on corporate social responsibility, your customers, clients, and staff may too. If you haven’t thought strategically about sustainable merchandise, we suggest a little forethought when selecting products for your next merch drop. Without it, you could create more harm than intended. Let’s end swag waste!

Why “Swag” is uncool

When we hear the word “swag” or even “sustainable swag”  our minds immediately think of worthless junk that we collect from events and businesses. While we might use it occasionally as shorthand – the word has a negative connotation for the Fairware team. It reminds us of other words like:

The purpose of creating custom promotional products is to promote your brand. However, they’re not doing your business any good if they end up in the garbage.

“Merch” is the new more meaningful way to look at “sustainable swag” & promotional items

Whether more economically produced or high-end, promotional items will never be effective for your business if they’re viewed as “sustainable swag”.

Focus on creating promotional items that support your brand and values – excite people with better products; you’ll likely see a positive ROI from your investment.

Take Ben and Jerry’s, for example. We helped them create custom promotional merchandise kits for a large influencer campaign. We filled the boxes with custom-branded merchandise in alignment with their theme of “Work your Core,” like branded sweatbands and gym towels. This campaign to 60 influencers generated over 234,000 organic impressions of their content and had an average engagement rate of 4.01%.

a photo of two promotional pins

How to pick the right promotional items

There are many items you can brand for your organization. From travel mugs and refillable water bottles, pens and recycled notebooks, to organic cotton shirts and recycled socks. But, how do you sift through your options, utilize your product effectively and land on the type of positive ROI that Ben and Jerry’s received

To help you shortlist a possible promotional item, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Does it match our company brand and values?
  2. How will it be used?
  3. What is it made from?
  4. Where was it made?

How will it be used?

Gifting reusable products does not mean they will always get reused, but we know by tailoring your merch to your audience, you can ensure they’ll be happy to sport your brand repeatedly.
Choose products that promote environmentally friendly lifestyles (reusable products which replace disposable products), and quality apparel people value. Consider purchasing products with a ‘give-back’ component. Many of our suppliers have initiatives that support social and environmental programs. For example, planting trees for every product sold (tentree) or helping communities get drinking water and healthy foods (Fill it Forward). Give-back merchandise spreads the feel-good vibes of supporting an amazing cause.

What is it made from?

We’re here to guide you in purchasing truly sustainable products and materials. As a B Corp we do our homework on the suppliers and the materials so you can be assured you’re creating the impact you want.

Where is it made?

People are essential and we partner with manufacturers who respect worker rights. As a B Corp company, we aim to drive change in global supply chains to reward manufacturers committed to worker rights, product safety, diversity and inclusion, as well as sustainable materials.

Once you pick your products from our curated list, you must ensure it matches your intended purpose or use. Here are some great examples of great ways to use your promotional items:

We’re experts in helping you use merch through a strategic lens that highlights sustainability, ethical sourcing, and diverse suppliers. As a result, we’ve helped companies around North America pick the right items, branding, and strategy to see a positive ROI on their investment.

If you’re done giving away “junk” swag items, let’s talk about how we can elevate your brand, drive measurable results, and showcase your values. Contact us today to talk about your mech needs.