Tradeshow Swag: How Cutting the Waste Can Improve Your Brand

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By Andrew Witkin, CEO, StickerYou

It’s hard to say anything good about the last year and a half. The human toll of COVID-19, as well as crushing economic consequences that will be felt for generations, is difficult to calculate. But if we are in the mood to look for silver linings, there’s one thing that we can point to as a net positive: humans polluted a lot less in 2020 and 2021 than we have for decades. In just about every city in the world, air quality was better than it has been in two generations, and we used far fewer fossil fuels than even the most optimistic environmentalist could have hoped for. The big question as the world bounces back from the pandemic is whether or not this green trend will continue, or whether it was a fluke. This is an especially meaningful question for the tradeshow industry, where waste and pollution are the norm, rather than the exception.

There are literally tens of thousands of conferences and events held every year, and even though they cover an almost limitless number of topics – from comic books to lung surgery to enterprise software – there is one thing they all have in common: exhibitors literally distribute tons of giveaways, and the majority of these items end up in the trash. Back, more than 70% of free swag distributed at conferences doesn’t even make it onto the plane. That’s not really bad for the environment, but it’s bad for business. After all, what’s the point in giving away branded items that literally get thrown in the trash within minutes?

It doesn’t need to be this way. That’s because savvy companies can pick items that are far less polluting than the industry standard, and they can also select swag (an acronym for “stuff we all get”) that people will actually like and use rather than throw away in their hotel rooms every evening. So while things like miniature Rubiks cubes and plastic bottle openers may seem cool, the sad reality is that most of them end up in landfills. Many companies have gone the opposite direction by giving away “green” items such as water bottles and reusable straws. While these can be great items, they are far more expensive than the average, which is not ideal for a new company that doesn’t have a massive marketing budget. So what are some items that are likely to be kept and used, are inexpensive to produce, and will help build your brand?

One of the best options is the temporary tattoo. These are fun to wear, and people often take them home and give them to their family members or friends. This is a great way to extend the value of your tradeshow long after the conference is over. Putting the logo of your company on is the most obvious tactic, but it’s important to make sure that the logo looks good, too. If you have an attractive, fun logo, this might be the right approach to take.

Another popular product is stickers. For starters, they are inexpensive to produce, and they can be visually stunning. In addition, most sticker companies offer die-cuts, meaning that companies can not only select the design, but also the exact shape, of their tradeshow gifts. It’s a great way to stand out from the crowd. But more importantly, people love stickers. They put them on their computers, on their phones, and their notebooks, and, well, just about anywhere else. The next time you are in a meeting, look around at everyone’s computers – it’s a pretty good bet that some of them will have stickers. If you think about it, that is a wonderful way to build brand awareness among people who weren’t even at the tradeshow where the stickers were given out!

Stickers aren’t just for start-ups. In fact, many major companies, ranging from Apple to Fender, regularly include stickers in their product boxes. That’s because they know that people are proud to own their products and they want to let the world know about it. And if it’s good enough for some of the biggest brands on earth, it should be good enough for businesses of any size.

Andrew Witkin

Andrew Witkin is CEO of StickerYou, a Canada-based company that manufactures branded items ranging from stickers to signs to magnets for businesses around the world.



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