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Tell Your Brand Story With SWAG

Tell Your Brand Story With SWAG


Every brand has a story to tell. Your product or service, logo colors, mission statement (or lack thereof), social media presence, and even the way you answer the phone tells the world who you are.  It’s a story that is constantly evolving and each interaction with your crowd is a turn of the page. Good marketing is about wrangling your brand story and telling it in a way that turns strangers into loyal fans.

Why should you knuckle down on your brand story? Isn’t it merely another marketing buzzword? Do people really care about your story?


Here’s why…

When you share your story, you share your values. Values lead to connection. And connecting with your crowd is like finding a $100 bill in your coat pocket. Everything just got better.

To tell your story you must first know your story. It’s a thoughtful process that involves distilling your brand down to a basic arc that all marketing efforts revolve around. No problem, right?

Let’s keep things simple. Below is our CliffsNotes advice for developing your brand story.

Step # 1

Define your crowd. What do they want? What’s missing from their life? (They might not even know. This is where your brand can shine.) Maybe it’s reliable cloud storage that saves their butt during a crucial client meeting. Or maybe it’s a new flavor of frozen yogurt that’s not all “been there, done that.”

Step # 2

Define what’s holding your crowd back. What’s preventing their progress? What are their doubts? When and why have they been let down in the past?

Step # 3

Define your gift. How can you help? What do you offer that’s different? If you haven’t listened to Simon Sinek’s TED talk about the power of “Why”, give it a listen here. It;s a crucial element of your brand story.

Step # 4

Define how your crowd’s trust is earned. What is the process? Is it difficult or easy?

Step # 5

Define what victory looks like. What does your crowd now know (that they didn’t know before)? What does their future look like and how does your brand play a part in it?

You may be wondering, “How can a pen or a water bottle possibly tell my brand story?” Hold onto your logoed hat while we explain.

The world of promotional products is more than slapping your logo on the side of something and hoping it doesn’t end up on the curb with Thursday’s trash. Swag should amplify your brand’s passion and elicit a “heck, yeah!” emotional response from the receiver.

Think about your favorite t-shirt. Why do you reach for it over and over again? Why are some of your t-shirts relegated to thrift store bins while others maintain holy grail status in your closet?

Because it means something to you.

Because it’s anything but boring. Instead of basic white, it’s charcoal grey and made from the softest fabric. There is no scratchy tag at the back of the neck to flip up and distract you throughout the day. You love the graphics on the front. When you wear the t-shirt out and about, people immediately grasp the kind of person you are (and aren’t).

Yep… it’s awesome.

Let’s break down what went into creating your favorite t-shirt.

While defining their story, a brand realized their crowd (you) loves t-shirts. After a long day at work, there’s nothing quite like changing into your favorite shirt and settling into a full Netflix queue and (hopefully) a huge plate of cheese. A yawn-worthy 2” logo on the front left chest wasn’t going to cut it. They knew they needed something amazing, so they tasked their graphics department with creating an unforgettable design.

This enlightened brand then sorted through 27 charcoal grey t-shirt samples before selecting the softest one. They knew comfort was important to their crowd. Delight is one of their brand values, after all. Shouldn’t every t-shirt they give out reflect this? Ditto for the tag in the back. “Does this make people feel good?” they asked themselves and opted for a t-shirt with the sizing info screen printed on the inside back neck.

The end result? A charcoal grey t-shirt (their primary brand color) with a kickass graphic on the front that perfectly represents the happy vibes of the brand. Every time you wear their t-shirt, you help tell their story.

At the end of the day, your brand is not about you. It’s about the people you serve. Whether you give them whiter teeth or sell them the best dang hamburger in all the land, your brand exists to make their lives better. In return, you earn loyalty.

We’ve put together a “swag story” checklist for your next event or giveaway. How does your promotional product stack up?

  • Does it create an experience (such as interesting packaging or a surprising graphic?)
  • Does it exceed crowd expectations?
  • Does it affirm quality over quantity?
  • Will it make it’s way onto desktops and nightstands or into closets and hearts?
  • How does it represent your brand story?

Turn your crowd into brand storytellers

The true test of a good promotional product is if your crowd reaches for it. What story do they want to be a part of? A passing thought or a meaningful connection?  

Stories create a sense of belonging and understanding. They inspire people and propel them into action. Every time your crowd wears your t-shirt or carries your bag, they are saying to the world, “This brand is worthy of my love.”

Our story is all about helping you stand out in a crowded world. How can we lend a hand to your next project? Let’s chat!

Chose the Perfect SWAG For Your Crowd

Chose the Perfect SWAG For Your Crowd


The world is a picky place. “I love this. I hate that. Could you make it 4% smaller and 11% more awesome?” Choosing the perfect promotional product for your next event or giveaway can feel like running through the American Gladiator gauntlet. Bam. Whap. Arrrrgggh.

Did you know there are over 750,000 promotional products available in the United States today? Throw in custom possibilities and that number becomes even more insane. While it’s great to have so many options, it can also be overwhelming. How do you whittle it down to THE perfect item that aligns with your brand message?

While we don’t have a crystal ball that reveals All The Answers Great and Small, we do have a few suggestions for peeking behind the curtain of your customer’s lives and seeing what makes them happy. (Because every piece of swag you give to your crowd should make them shout, “I love this!”)

Getting to know you

Grab a piece of paper… go ahead, we’ll wait… and write down everything you know about your customer: age, gender, occupation, hobbies, etc. Describe their day. Their car. Their wardrobe. Their browser history.

See the world through their eyes. What are their toughest questions? What’s the favorite part of their day or week? What are their dreams and goals? What do they care about? How would they fill in the blank “I just want________” ?

Let’s say your target audience is working mothers. Their frenetic mornings involve sweeping rogue Cheerios off the kitchen counter and putting on mascara at stop lights. When you dig deeper into their lives, you discover they “just want a moment of zen each day.”

How can you help with that? What one thing can you give her that would make her day better? We love the idea of a tumbler that never leaks and keeps coffee piping hot all day long. The flip lid is easy to use while driving. Imagine her delight when she takes a sip from her tumbler at 11:47 a.m. (we’ve all been there) and finds that her coffee is still hot.

Zen. Moment. Found.

Take notes

You’ll never know your crowd if you solely rely on purchase data. You’ve got to research their humanity. What makes them “them”? Social media is one of the best tools for diving into your customer’s world. What are they sharing? What are they saying? What’s important in their world?

Let’s say your crowd is ambitious millennials. During your research you discover that many of them volunteer for causes they believe in. What kind of swag would inspire them? It’s probably not a stress ball or a mousepad. Instead, give them a meaningful, socially conscious product with a story behind it, such as a scarf made by entrepreneurial women in Honduras or a notebook assembled by disadvantaged youth in Chicago.

Ask the experts

When you want a fabulous haircut, you go to a salon. When you want to build a house, you work with a contractor. When you can’t figure out the remote control, you ask an 8-year-old. Experts make life easier.

We’ve been around the block a few times and have seen swag trends come and go. (See ya, fanny packs. It’s been… fun.) We’ve helped hundreds of clients dive into their brand demographics and get to know their crowd. Our days are spent researching what’s new and fresh in the world of branded merchandise and we’ve gathered thousands of creative ideas. (Ready for a “we never thought of that” chat? Click here.)

Have a conversation

The obvious answer to “How do I know what my crowd wants?” is … drumroll, please… ask them.

Business is about relationships and connection. Try having a conversation with your customer. “Hey, what do you like? What can we give you? What would make your life better?” Yeah, they’ll be surprised by your outright moxie. They’ll also be thrilled when, a month later, they receive an awesome piece of swag. “You totally get me” is always good for business.

Not sure you can come right out and ask your crowd what they want? Send them a survey instead. Studies find that most people will readily give info in a survey as long as they receive something in return. Ask questions, get valuable answers, and give them a gift. A discount. A free song on iTunes. A shoutout on social media. Small gestures like this go a long way in getting the answers you need.

What do people want?

We want stuff that is creative. We want stuff that is useful. And we want stuff that is memorable.

When exploring ideas for your next event or giveaway, ask yourself these questions:

  1.    Does it pass the double-take test? (Look once. Back up. Look again. I love this. I need this. Thank you.)
  2.   Is it useful?
  3.   Will it make people feel something?

If you can answer “yes” to all three, you’ve struck swag gold. Focus on what makes your crowd happy and you’ll have devoted fans for life.

Need some creative muscle for your next project? Let’s chat!

The Go-To Guide For Your Next Trade Show

The Go-To Guide For Your Next Trade Show


Few things strike fear in the hearts of marketing departments more than trade show season. The logistics alone could make Chuck Norris weep. Getting All The Things from point A to point B (maybe even throw in a point C for good measure) and then back to point A again, all while growing your audience and your bottom line? It’s not for the faint of heart (and no amount of roundhouse kicks can find misplaced boxes or a longer extension cord).

Exhibiting at a trade show is different from attending a trade show. Instead of strolling down miles of aisles, the focus is on spreading brand awareness and connecting with potential customers, all while wearing your least-ugly pair of comfortable shoes and secretly worrying about the emails piling up in your inbox.

Yep… trade shows are like an intricate game of Chinese jumprope. Go too high or too low and you’ll become a tangled mess. But trade shows can also be awesome if you have a plan in place.

We think the world needs more awesome, so we put together this handy guide to help make your next trade show a success.

Set a goal

What do you want to accomplish? Whether it’s a certain number of leads or sales or shoutouts on social media, write down a number that your team can rally around.

Create a budget

Costs add up quickly in trade show land. Itemize your list of known expenses and pad it by at least 25%.

Prepare as far in advance as possible

The early bird gets the better booth location. And the better rate. Getting bogged down by hundreds of details right before the show… well… it shows.

We like to create a trade show binder containing every piece of info we might need: venue logistics, city information, airport and transportation schedules and phone numbers, lodging details, contact info for the show, rules and regulations, a dedicated space for tracking numbers and delivery details, booth schedules… basically, everything. This binder is the Holy Grail of your trade show planning

Keep track of timelines

Seriously. Be meticulous about timing. An average promotional products order takes 5-10 working days to produce. Add on another 3-5 working days for ground shipping to the end destination. This means you need to allow for 8-15 working days to get your awesome swag to the show location.

Most venues provide a shipping timeframe for swag, booth and banners to arrive. If your boxes show up too early, there’s a risk of them becoming misplaced (or even refused). If they arrive too late, they could vanish in the  frantic pre-show hustle.

Start generating buzz

Put a content strategy in place. How will you let your potential crowd know you’ll be at the show and that they should visit your booth? Start talking about the show on social media at least a few weeks beforehand. Give hints and teasers for what attendees can expect at your booth.

How will you market yourself pre-show? Expos usually provide an attendee list to exhibitors. Plan to reach out to your crowd ahead of time via email and social media. Create anticipation.

The experience matters

What does your booth look like? Does it go beyond a navy blue table skirt and a fan of business cards and brochures?

Think like an attendee. What would make them stop for a chat? Maybe you provide comfortable chairs for them to relax for a few minutes. “Can I tell you about how we make people’s lives better?” you ask while they sip on a complimentary cup of cucumber-infused water. Create an environment where you can have an actual conversation.

Good swag also matters

Free stuff is amazingly popular. It’s one of the reasons why promotional products work. People love to matter. But… swag only works when you know what your crowd wants.

The point of a trade show is to get people excited about your brand and want to be a part of your story. If your booth is basically an assembly line of strangers walking by while you toss a 25¢ pen into their plastic show bag, you’ve missed the point.

Match your giveaway to your goal. Are you looking for 1000 basic leads or 150 well-qualified leads? Imagine attendees returning to their hotel room at the end of the day. They dump the contents of their bag onto the bedspread and began sifting through the loot. What do they keep? What do they toss into the incredibly small hotel room garbage can?

This is where the Keepability Factor comes into play. When your swag is thoughtful and tailored to the well-qualified leads, it makes its way into their suitcases and eventually their world.

Take notes

Every time someone hands you their business card, make a quick note on the back. What did he say? Was she wearing unique shoes? Do you know someone in common? Write down anything that makes you remember them. This will help you personalize the follow-up process.

We suggest creating a spreadsheet for trade show contacts and updating it at the end of each day with their business card info and notes.

Have a post-show plan

Always respond to your leads. Otherwise, what’s the point? Your window is 2- 3 days after the show. After that, their enthusiasm has likely moved on.


  • Is there an internet connection in your booth space? How about lighting and power sources?
  • Do you have display items (such as oversized signs) that require special handling?
  • What will you wear? A logoed shirt? Branded socks? Will all team members dress in congruence with your brand story?
  • Who is going to help with booth set-up and tear-down? No one wants to play Tetris with packing crates by themselves at the end of the day.
  • How long can one person staff a booth before they pass out from lack of food or a full bladder? Create a booth schedule and make sure there is more than one person to manage the flow.
  • Have you triple checked everything? Yes, be that weirdo.

Trade show success is measured by how much effort you put into it. Be thoughtful. Stay calm. Ask for help. And carry that dang binder with you everywhere you go.

Chuck Norris would be so proud.

Need help taking your next trade show from meh to whoa? We can help with that. Let’s chat!