Swag is a key element of any marketing strategy, often embedded with direct mail. It’s how businesses elevate their message, reinforce their identity, and convert leads into customers. Swag is a multi-faceted brand experience and marketing approach that many businesses struggle to execute well.
The success of direct mail and swag come with many intricacies — customer relationships and conversions must be taken into account along with buyer behaviors, goals, and needs. With the rising era of sustainability touching all aspects of personal and work life, corporations, consumers, and B2B buyers alike are actively looking for ways to become more environmentally responsible. According to Nielsen, two-thirds of Americans are sustainably-minded consumers committed to buying specific sustainable products.
This buying and lifestyle habit trickles down to receiving direct mail and swag. If direct mail and swag do not serve a long-term purpose, audiences often associate it with ‘junk’ that negatively impacts the environment through wasteful packaging and manufacturing. Humans want to work and partner with brands that care about sustainability. Though there are countless ways to be eco-conscious, Swagger offers sustainable gifting options that help build a big impact for brands and their customers and prospects.
UDG: Stacy, swag is a big part of marketing, but as we’ve learned, not all organizations do it well. Why is sustainable swag something you feel strongly about?
Stacy: Throughout my career, I’ve specialized in helping employers build their brands — helping businesses market themselves, their principles, and their services to acquire talent. Here’s where Swag quickly became a main focal point. Of course, there’s a right way to do it… and a wrong way. I learned that firsthand.
In a previous role, I had a client turn down the swag I offered them…. like actually refused to accept the swag. It made me rethink what swag should look like, and determine what place swag had in a business relationship. Essentially, I was rethinking the “why” behind the gift. It was a pivotal moment and resulted in a year-long journey of how I could challenge the traditional thinking around swag and make swag cool again.
Bottom line, I decided that I didn’t want to be associated with junk. I care deeply about the environment, and those two beliefs don’t necessarily line up with the traditional definition of swag. Think about free swag you’ve gotten — if it didn’t provide any long-term use, it probably went straight into the trash.
The ‘“trash and trinkets” reputation of swag made me wonder. Why can’t businesses care about their sustainability initiatives AND the gifts they’re giving to customers, prospects, and employees? Could these two things jointly contribute to the larger brand and marketing strategy? It doesn’t have to be one without the other. We owe it to ourselves and the future of the environment we live in to evolve this space.
UDG: That makes sense. I’ve definitely been the recipient of a few too many, rather useless swag gifts. I can get behind this mission, but how do you make businesses care?
Stacy: People care about quality over quantity. They want nice things. And, when you give them junk, they associate junk with your brand. What is the point of investing in something that’s supposedly helping to build your brand and reputation if it’s just going to end up in the trash?
As a brand, you need to care about the image you’re portraying, and most importantly, it needs to connect the dots with your mission, too. How disjointed is it to say you care about sustainability initiatives, yet your swag says otherwise? What is the swag saying about your brand? Is that the message you want to put into the world?
Those are the kinds of questions we ask businesses to get them to care and to start thinking out of the box.
UDG: It sounds like an amazing strategy. Do you have an example of a brand that has done this exceptionally well?
Stacy: A great example is Go1, one of the world’s largest corporate education content hubs for on-demand training and resources designed to help workforce’s thrive. They reached out to ask what sustainable gifting they could do that’s not only connected to their brand but is useful and eco-friendly, and since, we’ve worked with them on numerous projects.
Because they are a learning solution, we came up with the idea of sending Sprout pencils, which if you aren’t familiar, it’s a regular pencil to start, but when you’re done with it, you can plant it in the ground to grow herbs like cilantro or parsley. It’s learning-related and sustainable, yet incredibly fun for the user.
Recycled blue light glasses are another gift, and we included them with an eco-friendly screen cleaner and a reusable cloth, leaning into the user’s priority to use a laptop on a regular basis but keeping its maintenance environmentally friendly. There was also a full marketing message embedded on the product tied to a Go1 event.
These are the types of campaigns that check so many boxes of creative messages that connect the gifting experience to the mission, vision, and goals of the company while embracing sustainability. It’s swag with a purpose for the company AND the environment.
UDG: Tell me more about Swagger. What do you offer to businesses?
Stacy: As a sustainable gifting platform, Swagger is an end-to-end solution, whatever that end is for the company. It’s everything from curating to identifying items for an event, whether it’s a one-time gift or an ongoing campaign. We try to make it as easy as possible for our customers; we’ll take care of swag shops, warehousing, shipping to office buildings or individual homes, and even customer portals to assist internal marketing teams. We truly meet the client wherever they are.
The reason we offer a true end-to-end solution is that I’ve seen firsthand the mess and confusion that is traditional swag. It’s all over the place. It’s frustrating. There’s no real way to track inventory. Shipping costs are high. It’s not consistent. It’s just hard. What we found after a year of customer research is that people just didn’t know what to do, and a lot of people needed help consolidating their efforts in a way that also creates an easy, hands-off solution. We take the pain out of it. Whatever the client needs, we can do it.
UDG: How do you encourage businesses to embrace sustainability in swag and direct mail campaigns?
Stacy: The theme that runs throughout the company is sustainability. I feel very passionate about it and our team feels very passionate about it. Even before the company launched, we became 1% For the Planet members to start making an impact on the planet. Sure, not every company can choose a perfectly sustainable product for their swag, and we recognize that. It’s okay. It’s not always perfect. But, what we can do is provide a well-designed, well-thought-out, and high-quality item that lends itself to being sustainable by nature.
Plus, every choice of swag gives back.
When you think about your swag or gifting programs, whether it’s for customers, prospects, partners, or employees, it’s important to consider the message you’re delivering. Sure, you can absolutely order 10,000, inexpensive, plastic water bottles that don’t convey your brand or its principles appropriately OR you can partner with a company like ours that cares about your brand and will challenge you to think differently.
That’s what makes our company different from all of the others. We help raise the bar for our clients. We aren’t just order takers; we’re a collaborative partner. That’s what I love about what we do. Swag is an important piece of any marketing strategy, and we give businesses the tools they need to think creatively and thoughtfully, collaborate, and convey the right message while promoting brand awareness.