Originally published by 4imprint, 5 February 2018

No matter what your industry, chances are good that events are an essential part of your marketing strategy. And swag bags for events can help carry your marketing message in style. Attendees clamor for great event giveaways, so swag bags help you show attendees the love while making a branding impression that lasts. Who knew a simple bag packed with thoughtful gifts could do so much?

In this 4imprint Blue Paper, we look at how you can leverage event giveaways to create meaningful connections with clients and prospects, and how swag bags encourage attendees to reach for your brand again and again.

Events offer the chance for meaningful connection with attendees

Relationships are key in business, and marketers are tuned in to the role events play in forming those relationships. Marketers already know that events create a meaningful environment in which to connect with key audiences. In fact, a whopping 80 percent of marketers surveyed by Bizzabo report that events are a critical part of their company’s success. What’s more, the study found 28 percent of organizations use more than 20 percent of their marketing budget for organizing events. That’s a good chunk of capital, which makes it even more important to ensure you’re getting a good return on your branding buck (hint: keep reading to learn our six tips for building the best swag bags for events).

From trade shows to conferences and meetings: the widespread popularity of events

But just how prevalent are events? The numbers tell a fascinating story: 1.83 million meetings and events take place in the nation every year, resulting in about $66.8 billion in labor income, according to the Events Industry Council’s 2016 Economic Significance Study. By taking a closer look, we can see how those numbers break down:

  • In North America and Europe, conferences and trade shows account for one-fifth of planned meetings.
  • The resulting impact of all meetings on the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is staggering. Research shows these events contribute more than $115 billion to the GDP, according to Planning Pod, a builder of event management software.

With so many meetings, trade shows, conferences and other events happening, you can bet attendees have a lot of knowledge to unpack afterward. And there’s a surprisingly simple way to make sure they carry your message home: by showing attendees the love with a swag bag.

1.83 million meetings and events take place in the U.S. annually

The impact of swag bags

Why use swag bags? They’re a deceptively simple custom-printed giveaway, but also an effective tool to deliver your brand’s message. That’s especially true when those bags are packed with goodies that matter to your audience. A thoughtful swag bag can create a powerful, lasting impression on event attendees, speakers and VIPs. More than just a “wow” moment, when attendees receive a swag bag loaded with event giveaways, your efforts can yield lasting results.

Let’s see how one event planner used a swag bag to achieve results.

Swag for STEM

When she was planning her company’s inaugural event, Krystal D. Carter, President and Chief Cloud Enthusiast for Danny Kay Cloud, a Houston-based company, wanted to introduce the public to her cloud applications consulting firm. But more than that, she wanted to make a difference in her community in the spirit of her father, for whom the company is named. So, she decided to focus on the future of the tech industry while forging connections to increase diversity in the field. She also needed a swag bag that would speak volumes to the next generation of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.

In the end, the pink-carpet event she planned was not only a huge success, it was unique, memorable and inspirational to the young women who attended. And memorable event gifts played a substantial role.

The theme, “Tech Me to the Movies,” encapsulated the event’s focus on STEM careers with a private screening of an inspirational movie: Hidden Figures. With the help of event sponsors, Carter purchased a number of event giveaways to stuff in the Bungalow Foldaway Tote. Custom glasses filled with a tasty mocktail were topped off with dry ice to represent science careers. Every attendee got a custom-printed T-shirt. In addition to NASA swag, the goody bags included a branded Value Fleece Blanket to help keep viewers toasty during the movie, while 1950s-style cat-eye glasses frames underscored a famous line from the script, “So yes, they let women do some things at NASA, Mr. Johnson. And it’s not because we wear skirts. It’s because we wear glasses.” But that was just the beginning.

The event was held in a premier Houston movie theatre, an upscale venue where the young women dined on a three-course meal. When the show concluded, attendees heard insights from a panel consisting of women in tech roles, including two from NASA.

The 35 or so teenage girls were, understandably, blown away by the glam and gifts. But the upscale approach to the event was purposeful. “We wanted to show these girls you don’t have to be a doctor or a lawyer to be successful,” Carter said.

To further emphasize this point, Carter included college brochures about STEM programs in the bags. And each custom event T-shirt was tied with a bow and a tag that read “You can be whatever you want to be.”

The most valuable gift those teens took home wouldn’t fit in the swag bag: a belief in themselves and their futures. The swag bags stood as a reminder of their potential, inspiring them to work toward their goals.

Reaching multiple generations with custom swag bags

While the Danny Kay Cloud event was aimed at inspiring the next generation, a welcome reception event at Ripon College in Ripon, Wis., was aimed at appealing to several generations at once: freshmen students, parents, siblings and even grandparents.

Finding a swag bag with multi-generational appeal posed a challenge, but one that Yvonne Nicklaus, Constituent Engagement and Outreach Coordinator was up for. She selected the USA Made Bottom Gusset Tote to do the job. Stuffed with a variety of goodies that appeal to all generations—from sunglasses to flying discs—attendees could then choose swag that was appropriate to them, such as pins specific to Ripon College moms or Ripon College grandparents. Nicklaus also made reading materials available, including the campus newspaper and magazine, as well as information about the college’s parent network. The result? Parents stayed at the table longer, giving members of the parent board the chance to connect and form a relationship.

The bags were a hit. “The parents loved them. They made sure they were in a lot of their pictures,” Nicklaus said. “Some even wanted to take another for a grandparent who couldn’t be there that day.”

For both Carter and Nicklaus, swag bags were a winning strategy. And they can be for your event, too, whether you are looking to give back to the community, engage new audiences or win leads.


Strategic swag for lead generation

As the saying goes: the love you give is the love you get. When it comes to the world of business, that swag bag can come back to you in the form of lead generation.

95% of marketers say events help form in-person connections.

For many organizations, lead generation is a fundamental reason behind taking part in or hosting events. In fact, 95 percent of marketers say that events allow their organizations to form in-person connections with attendees, an invaluable outcome in an increasingly digital world. Simply put, marketers see results from events, and half of those surveyed say lead generation, sales and community building are primary reasons for leveraging events.

The bottom line: It’s proven that events are likely an important part of your annual marketing plan. And the marketing impact of an event—along with the choice of giveaways—can last long after the event is over. The key, of course, is choosing the right event giveaways. But how? Here are six top tips for building the best swag bag.

Six tips for building swag bag they won’t forget

Now that we’ve looked at the real impact event giveaways can have on your event and for your brand, let’s take a closer look at how you can fill up your swag bag with a winning combination of event giveaways.

Get noticed. Custom bags average 5,700 impressions.

1. Start with a great bag

The wow factor of your swag bag starts with the custom logo bag, backpack or tote. Consider choosing a swag bag that reflects your cause or event theme, and make sure it’s one your audience will love. The best bags may be an investment, but if it pays off in terms of re-use or social media posts, it’s worth the investment. The good news is that bags garner the most impressions for your investment, with an average of 5,700 impressions. Think about it: After your attendees take their loot home, they will likely use that bag again and again—in public—for all to see. Now that’s exposure worth exploring!

2. Match your gifts with your crowd

Choose gifts that fit your target audience. For the Danny Kay Cloud inaugural event, Carter knew she was drawing a techy crowd, so you might think she’d opt for tech gifts. “But these are also teenagers,” she said. So, she selected gifts that were unexpected and fun. And her audience was thrilled. Rest assured, the ladies who attended her event think of that amazing night every time they wrap themselves in their branded swag blanket and don those stylish glasses.

3. Put your event theme to work for you

“Know your audience, and if your event is cool or at a thematic location, look at that,” Carter suggests. Select swag that complements and builds upon your event theme. For example, a beach bag stuffed with sunscreen, sunglasses and a beach towel really drives home a summer event theme.

4. Consider the gift of technology

Tech is a big winner for most event attendees. At conferences, attendees rely on their smartphone to stay connected to the office while on the go. These tech lovers value power banks, cell phone accessories and other items they can use at the event, during travel and long after they get home.

5. Choose keepsakes they’ll treasure in the long run, if your budget allows

Carter suggests choosing a large event giveaway over smaller, lower-priced custom event gifts. A less expensive item may not have as much staying power, whereas a prized gift is more likely to be around long after the event.

6. Stuff the bags, but let guests choose additional swag

Fill your swag bags with tempting goodies, but be sure there are even more personalized items on the table, particularly if your event draws in multiple age groups. While attendees are selecting the event giveaways they love, you can use that time to build the relationship, as Nicklaus and the Ripon College parent board can attest.

Swag bags carry your branding efforts beyond the event

When you’re planning your next event, conference, meeting or trade show opportunity, consider event giveaways that will pay dividends. Swag bags for events will solidify your message in attendees’ minds every time they reach for your thoughtful gifts. Just as important, the tote will free up their hands for the all-important handshake. And that lasting influence will help carry your brand toward future success.


Posted by Elizabeth McQuade

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