How to create great swag.

I just bought (!) a tote bag from ¿Por Que No?, which means I conducted a self-experiment on why people want or don’t want your swag. The result of this (very enjoyable) experiment are three rules for creating promo items that send the right message:

1. Make it look bomb.

My rad new tote bag is bright red with a sketch of a parakeet on it. Perfect for the target audience: Portland can always use one more splash of color, and we’re into art that sometimes borders the amateurish but never holds back with creativity and outlandishness. Two bonus points here! (The rumor is that people around here also just like to put birds on things.)

On the other end of the spectrum, have you ever flipped through one of those catalogs that show all the cheap crap you can have your logo printed on? Flimsy pens, plastic yoyos, and, maybe worst of all, generic, half-transparent t-shirts with no consideration for fit or comfort? And if you have, did you ever find yourself thinking wow, I want one of these?

The problem here is that this kind of swag treats people as if any small shiny object could charm them into giving you their money and their loyalty. But your people aren’t lemmings, so don’t let anyone tell you that “people love that stuff.” Create something you would love to wear, even if it wasn’t your studio/practice/business/project.

2. Make it quality.

Yes, that makes the whole project more expensive, but investing $500 into something that actually works is so much better than throwing out $50 for nothing. If you’re on a low budget, opt for ordering a smaller number rather than compromising on quality.

The quality of your swag also says something about you and your business: Do you respect your people’s sense of style? Do you value quality, fair trade, sustainability, and beauty? Your swag is part of your brand. Let it send a consistent message to the world.

3. Make it a conversation piece.

Rather than just slapping on your name and logo, make your swag a conversation piece. The best thing that can happen to you is when someone asks your lovely client where she got that awesome t-shirt and what she loves about that place. Get creative!

Final words:

Lucky you! You already have the main ingredient for great swag: an offering that people are genuinely happy to accept and to pass on. Wellbeing, joy, community – let that message shine through in everything you put out there.

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