Giving away branded promotional merchandise is a great way to upgrade your customer <–> brand relationship (and get referral sales).

Why it’s a good idea

Giving away branded promotional items is a great way to leverage your existing audience to build awareness among their friends, family, or colleagues.

Popular options include:

  • Stickers
  • Hats
  • T-shirts
  • Water bottles
  • Notebooks

If you elect to go the contest route, social media engagement can be very high on these campaigns. Additionally, swag giveaways are often used to turn high-value customers into brand ambassadors — a move that commonly increases both retention and overall brand satisfaction.

There are also strategic campaign options with promotional swag, such as those campaigns that seek to amplify marketing messages or brand taglines (see the Strategy Analysis section below for details).

🌟 This Guide is Part of a Series of Marketing Patterns

For more free and ready to use marketing strategies just like this one, view the full marketing patterns library.

Strategy Analysis

There are many common campaign types for these swag giveaways.

Amplifying a Message

The campaign objective is to amplify a particular message, often a slogan, or a campaign tagline.

These campaigns are an excellent opportunity to bake in additional social sharing or require digital amplification before they can receive a real-life swag item.

An example would be this campaign from Fathom Analytics:

To unpack it a bit:

  • Fathom Analytics is a privacy-focused website analytics service
  • They created a utility called the Phantom Analyzer and launched just before Halloween (it had a Halloween theme to it)
  • The Phantom Analyzer allowed users to scan any website and see what “invisible creepers are lurking in the shadows & collecting info about you.”
  • If you shared your results on social media (and a link to the phantom analyzer), you were entered into a drawing for a limited edition Fathom Analytics branded hoodie (with the Halloween theme)

Here’s a tweet that’s pretty explicit about the intention:

Thousands of you have used the tool, and traffic has significantly exceeded expectations!

Remember to share your results. We have a limited edition Halloween cat hoodie to give away, and the only way you can win is by sharing your result.

This particular example only had one winner, but for campaigns with multiple winners (stickers, shirts), it’s not uncommon for the winners to post the swag when they receive it, further amplifying the entire thing.

Amplifying a Brand

This is a very common path in the tech industry. Attendees of hackathons, tech conferences, and events often receive swag bags that include shirts, laptop stickers, water bottles, lanyards, or other items.

These events have specific audiences, and one only needs to attend once to see how many of those items get put into use during the event. It’s like creating hundreds of walking billboards for your brand to be seen by a particular audience.

Budget Considerations

Promo items can vary in costs, but for the major ones:

  • T-shirts ($10-$20 per piece)
  • Stickers ($0.25-$1 per piece)

Tech and Tools

The cheapest option is to buy the products upfront. The downside is that you’ll probably have to ship them yourself unless you already have a third-party logistics provider integrated for your other products (it wouldn’t be economical to set one up unless the campaign was huge).

The more common option is to use a print-on-demand service. It’s going to be a bit more, but they handle everything, including shipping.

Many print-on-demand services exist. Here are some popular options: