Too Many T’s?

Who Doesn't Love Free Stuff

Everyone loves free stuff – free food, free swag, free fun. However, as an event planner from the millennial generation, I must admit I have reached my capacity for free t-shirts.

The T-shirt was first popularized in the United States as part of the U.S. Navy uniform in the Spanish-American War. It became the clothing item of choice for workers across most labor intensive industries and an official American-English word in 1920. By the 1950’s with the help of Marlon Brando the T-shirt had become a fashion item, and by the 1960s was used for souvenirs, advertising and self-expression. The T-shirt’s popularity has only increased. Most members of the millennial generation, those born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s, have received a t-shirt from every sports-league, club, activity, and place we’ve visited since the time we were able to walk.

A free t-shirt is a popular piece of swag that few people would turn down, but is it the most effective way to promote your brand? While many companies do not mind their personalized apparel covered in sweat at the gym, often times t-shirts end up at the bottom of a closet or in the trash. While a t-shirt can be the right giveaway in some circumstances, have we all gotten too comfortable? Let’s give guests something worth keeping, something unexpected.

Be Creative

Swag comes in all shapes and sizes, from a potato peeler, to a rain hat, to a brick – just to name some of the most unique. Creative swag does not have to be this extreme; the challenge is finding the perfect balance. While a zip-drive is useful, it is a common gift and may not help your brand stand out. What will make a statement about who you are as a company? If you’re going to give something wearable, be sure to ask yourself first if you would ever wear it, or more importantly if your intended audience would wear it… after wearing it once, will they wear it again? While the hottest or wildest trends may not be the right fit for your invitees, translating relevant and fresh ideas to meet the needs of your audience is vital.

Be Present

Gift cards to local experiences or locally sourced products help connect the event to the place. Supporting local businesses cuts down on shipping costs and promotes community. Fashion journalist Jim Shi reminds us that, “when it comes to swag, there should be an immediate link between the goodie bag and the event itself.”

Be Practical

At a recent networking event I was given a branded portable charger. It is sleek and practical, especially in an industry where travel is frequent and a cell phone is a lifeline. Recently Bizbash asked its editors what swag they’ve received and still use. Answers ranged from heavy-duty umbrellas, to tote bags, sneakers, portable speakers, and yes, a t-shirt. It was explicitly defined as extremely soft and well-fitted, descriptors most free t-shirts cannot claim. I am not suggesting we desert the shirt, rather we must challenge ourselves to consider all the options, and recognize other items may be a better fit.

The more we understand our audiences and push ourselves to be creative, the better our events and event swag will be.

What is the best swag you’ve ever received?