Pump Up Your Swag — See the Latest Trends in Promotional Products

No matter what you call them, promotional products, or free giveaways, are a critical part of your company's trade show presence.

Promotional products, Small business, Trade shows

Swag. Tchotchkes. Trinkets. No matter what you call them, promotional products, or free giveaways, are a critical part of your company's trade show presence.

"Trade shows are crucial for your brand exposure within your industry," explains Barb Wells, senior vice president, marketing and direct sales for Staples Promotional Products¨ in Framingham, MA. "Make a lasting impression on the key contacts you meet with a promotional gift that bears your company's name and contact information.

"The most successful booths at trade shows offer promotional products that have an average lifespan of six months," she adds.

Here's a short list of hot products and trends to help you choose memorable giveaways.

1. Colors. Your first impulse may be to select giveaways in your branded color scheme, and that's never a bad call. But if you want to tap into current trends, consider branching out into trendy or eye-catching colors that complement your own — a new color palette helps draw attention to your booth. Neon colors and bright turquoise have been a big trend in recent years according to Allyson Kosko, merchandising channel analyst for Gemline in Lawrence, MA. Since color trends are constantly changing, check in with Pantone, the company that declares the Color of the Year and related palettes, before ordering your swag.

2. Power tools. No, not an electric drill — an accessory that provides on-the-go power for attendees. Logoed power banks' high functional value keeps your brand at attendees' fingertips well after the show, and generate buzz, too. "Aim to get other attendees to ask where they can get their hands on one of those gifts," notes Kelly Weppler Hernandez, principal with WH & Associates in Rancho Margarita, CA. "That's how you get attendees to refer others to your booth and send traffic your way."

PRO TIP: Charge up the items before the show so they're useful on the spot.

3. Quality totes. Research shows totes generate more impressions than any other promotional item, and the good old reusable shopping bag is experiencing a resurgence, driven by the growing number of municipalities banning single-use plastic bags. "It's something that will continue to be used after the show, and it has a lower price point so it has great return on investment," Kosko notes. Attendees value features like flat bottoms for groceries; zippered tops or insulation.

4. Stylus pens. "Pens are great, but make it a good pen, like one that doubles as a stylus," Kosko says. Multifunctional writing instruments are a low-cost, high-impact giveaway that people will use time and again. The quality is important, adds Neha Mittal, head of strategy and business development for Arrow Devices in San Jose, CA, because "the giveaway represents your company. The word of mouth a good giveaway creates is well worth the extra few bucks it costs."

PRO TIP: Try before you buy to be sure the stylus functions well and that the ballpoint retracts fully to avoid marring tablet screens. That's an impression you don't want to make!

5. Water bottles. This tried and true giveaway never goes out of style. It leaves your booth and travels nearly everywhere with its new owner, all the while carrying your logo with it. Since many other exhibitors choose this option, select a bottle that has extra features, like an in-bottle water filter or fruit infusion feature. This is what Mittal calls a pièce de resistance, "anything that catches a person's eye while they are passing by."

Regardless of what trends you follow, make sure your swag makes sense for your customers, your prospects and your brand, says Mitchell Stern, president and CEO of Burning Bush Nurseries in Oakland, CA."We have produced calendars in the past, with the intention that they would be hung up in people's gardens to help them plan their harvests."

Take advantage of these trends to select swag that drives traffic to your booth and customers to your door.