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Is SWAG effective: Overview

SWAG: Scientific Wild Ass Guess

SWAG: Stuff We All Get

SWAG: Stolen While At Gig

SWAG: Sour Water And Gas

SWAG: Souvenirs, Wearables And Gifts

So, apparently SWAG can mean a few things, but we’re only concerned with the last definition (at least, I think that’s what we’re all concerned with) – Souvenirs, Wearables And Gifts.

SWAG, then, is somewhat self-explanatory based on the name, but there are blanket terms to describe SWAG, which are “promotional items,” “promotional products” and “promotional gifts.” These promotional items are often given away on behalf of a particular brand or company, and thus carry images, logo or copy that distinguish it uniquely in the market and from other promo items.

You can use your imagination when it comes to thinking about what form a Souvenir, Wearable or Gift can take on: buttons, shirts, pins, staplers, wallets, iPhone cases, water bottles, whatever. My personal approach to SWAG is that, for it to be effective (and let’s just keep “effective” as somewhat subject, since this is an opinion, anyway), it should either be unique or useful. To the point, would you rather receive a free pin from Staples, or a free pen? If you said the pen, it’s because you believe there is room for utility in the world, I commend you.

So how did we get to SWAG? Who was the first to utilize it?


According to Wikipedia, commemorative buttons that date back to 1789 with the election of George Washington are the first known use of promotional products in the United States.

Since then, an entire industry developed around promotional products. In 1904, 12 promotional products manufacturers came together to form a trade association called the Advertising Manufacturers Association. Today, the name has changed to the Promotional Products Association International (PPIA); the group boasts 8,000 member companies and have been involved in making important decisions around trade practices and using promotional products as an advertising medium.

With a little research on the website, I found that of the $16.5 billion spent in 2010 on promotional products, the most popular category was wearables, second was writing instruments, and third was calendars.

You can find a neat breakdown of the info here.

To cover all of my bases before closing, it would be wise to mention the “Why” behind SWAG. There are many reasons companies will give away promotional items, some of which are “Raise Brand Awareness,” “Generate New Customers,” “Improve Public Relations” and “Generate Strong Traffic at Tradeshows” (according to PPAI). At the most fundamental level, however, most SWAG (assuming the branding on the SWAG is properly placed) will function as a tool to raise or maintain brand awareness, and that’s never a bad thing.

Neither is making Scientific Wild Ass Guesses about Souvenirs, Wearables And Gifts.



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