Why The Word ‘Swag’ Isn’t Helping Our Industry
I am tired of those within our industry using the word “swag.” If it is “stuff we all get,” then where is its value?
When we call our medium swag, trinkets and trash, or worse, all we are doing is devaluing what we do for a living.
We work with a tangible medium that does a remarkable job of helping recipients recall brand value and stimulate calls to action for brands. Our medium is there to “talk” about clients’ brands, their companies and their message when they are not there to do so themselves. Our products are essential reminders of what our clients do, what distinguishes them in their marketplace and why their clients should buy from them.
When we continue to use the word swag, and ignore or condone it when others do, we are hurting our industry. Using this word implies that our medium is less valuable than other advertising media or of no value at all. Promotional products, instead, have a reach and recall no other advertising media can match. Research shows that 88 percent of recipients recall the advertiser on a promotional product and 83 percent of people like receiving them. What other advertising media can say that?
Why are we torpedoing ourselves by using the word swag? Why are we giving others ammunition to sell effectively against us? Why are we putting ourselves in a position where people perceive our industry as simply stuff that gets thrown in the garbage the night after the trade show?
Because we let them!
We, as an industry, are not taking the time to learn how to speak the language of our own business, to educate our customers or create value for our media in the minds of others. We need to learn to speak in terms of brand, message, market, value and vision. We need to demonstrate how promotional marketing, when used correctly, allows a brand to demonstrate its uniqueness and differentiate itself in the crowded space it occupies. We need to speak the language of our clients and understand how they want their clients to feel about them. We need to ask what emotions they are trying to evoke, and how they want to be considered as a brand through their marketing.
Our goal should be to demonstrate the uniqueness of each and every client. To understand what they do, why they do it, what differentiates them in a crowded market, what their story is and why their clients care. If we are just selling them swag, we are doing none of this. We are just selling stuff. Is that what we want to be as an industry? I hope not.
When you are talking with your clients, use language that speaks of ideas, return on investment, measurable results and brand awareness. Those are the words, concepts and ideas customers want to hear. Those are the phrases they will relate to. By rethinking your approach, and the words you use, you can drive revenue and build your business without having to discount every order. Be a promotional consultant, not a purveyor of swag.
Ben Baker is president of Your Brand Marketing, a strategic engagement marketing firm. He consults, teaches and speaks on brand, message, market, value and culture. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.