As the economy defrosts, it seems trade shows and live events are returning. With them, like the tide coming in on a polluted bay is a flood of tsatskes – knick knacks, premiums, swag given to attendees of demonstrations and visitors to exhibitions or sent as incentives to prospects.
Visitors to shows used to fill their shopping bags with the shirts, thumb drives, golf accessories, cheap watches, sports logo wear, etc. This detritus would often be abandoned after being schlepped to the airport from whence it would grace thrift shops and the abodes of TSA staff or be worn by street people.
In these leaner and meaner times, the tsatskes too have become shabbier. The pens are no longer a reasonable knock off of a pen one might want to keep. The t-shirts look ever more like underwear, the gym bag is in no shape to take to the gym, the coffee mug is too small and homely to be used by a soup kitchen, and the logo water bottle is no more durable and less useful than a plastic soda bottle.
In sum, the crap looks like and obviously is crap. Crap with a logo, which, if anyone keeps it long enough to notice, only makes your brand look poor.
This is not to say that a premium can’t help your presentation be more memorable or serve an incentive for prospects. As with any other piece of MARCOM, if its relevant to your brand or product, distinctive (how often do you awake wishing for a generic coffee mug?), desirable (why would someone want a white XXL t-shirt, when a logo sponge would do a better job of washing the car?), and affordable (much more likely if your target recipient is more specific than a warm body) it can be effective.
Until you can do these, skip the swag. You may be better with digital goods such as e-books, downloadable videos, useful information (as opposed to boilerplate white papers), or free on-line trials.