What is a Swag Bag?
What stars get in their celebrity swag bags at events always makes news. But what is a swag bag? And how do marketers use them to promote their businesses?
The Meaning of Swag
The term "swag" has a variety of meanings. For the discussion here, swag is a term used in and about the promotional products industry. But how can the word possibly be connected?
According to Dictionary.com, the slang definition of swag means "plunder; booty" or "money; valuables." That's a plausible connection. Trade show visitors usually score promotional booty as they walk an expo floor. And, usually, those goodies are carried or distributed a bag. Thus, a "swag bag." Unfortunately, some folks lean more toward the "plunder" side of the definition and score a little more than their share.
But another explanation for the use of the word swag for promotional items is that it's an acronym for the following phrases (TheFreeDictionary.com):
- Stuff We All Get
- Souvenirs, Wearables And Gifts (a variation is Souvenirs, Wearables, Awards & Gifts)
- Sealed With A Gift (a gift as a promotion can sometimes seal the deal)
All of those fit, too.
Regardless of how it came to be connected with promo, swag is a term used in today's vernacular to refer to promotional giveaways and gifts.
Celebrity Swag Bags and Swag Suites
Why would anyone want to give rich Hollywood types a swag bag full of expensive goodies? One word: marketing.
Imagine that a fashion company could get a famous starlet to don—even endorse, talk about or be photographed with—their clothing, accessories or beauty products. Talk about swag meaning "valuables!" Huge PR value.
These Hollywood swag bags and goodies are often distributed in swag suites. These suites offer brands the chance to get photo ops of celebs interacting with the featured products or services.
Lest one think that this is a way that "the rich get richer," our friends at the IRS have stepped in and now require swag suite gift recipients to report their takings as "income" and not "gifts."
Swag Bags for the Rest of Us
Okay, most of us are not Hollywood's A-list or sports superstars... and don't do business with them either. But anyone's branded swag bag can have similar goals as those used for giving to celebrities: Getting people to interact and talk up a brand, with the ultimate goal being to create a group of brand loyal customers.
In the everyday marketing arena, both the bag and/or the swag items it contains can help build an organization's brand. As customers use a branded bag, they spread the brand name throughout their communities and networks, creating a higher number of impressions than almost any other mass media or broadcast advertising medium. This higher number of impressions is achieved, not only through the number of places it appears, but as a result of long term use of the bag.
- Discover how promotional products advertising impressions compare to other mediums (Advertising Specialty Institute, asicentral.com)
Whether the bag itself or its contents are the focus of a promotion, selecting the right branded swag bag for the audience and intended use is critical.
Digital Swag Bags
New on the swag bag horizon are digital swag bags. These use no physical bag at all. Rather, recipients are given gift cards, special website links, QR codes or promotional codes to download digital gifts of all kinds including:
- Music downloads
- Mobile apps
- Services (online or offline)
- Gift certificates
- Magazine or other subscriptions
Best part about these gifts is that they can encourage high engagement with a company and its brand. As well, recipients often appreciate these high value e-gifts more than physical ones.
Digital swag can be very cost effective and a greener promotional alternative that can be distributed in the following ways:
- Media download cards
- QR codes
- Mobile apps
The biggest challenge with digital swag is getting people to use it. Signs, email advertising, social media and in-booth trade show promotions can be crucial to digital gifting success.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2014 Heidi Thorne