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Giveaways get attendees to say ‘thank you’

Call them giveaways, chotchkies or swag, but a promotional product by any other name functions as an instrument of an overall marketing strategy to help draw booth traffic.

Craig Reese, partner and senior vice president, Jack Nadel International
Craig Reese, partner and senior vice president, Jack Nadel International

“It’s the only type of advertising that someone thanks you for. When someone hands you a pen or a bag, you say ‘thank you’,” said Craig Reese, partner and senior vice president, Jack Nadel International.

In business since 1953, Jack Nadel International, a promotional merchandise distributor, has seen it all. At its start, most exhibitors gifted pens and other stationary products to attendees. Today, technology reigns supreme among giveaways and incentives at tradeshows and events.

Although some exhibitors might feel they are giving away something for nothing, Reese explains that “the gift has to fit the show” to maximize the benefits of promotional products. At a clothing and apparel tradeshow, for example, Reese suggested promotional bags made out of a fabric from the fashion designer’s collection that would become a collector’s item in place of generic canvas bags.

“That interaction, if promotional products are being used properly, can make a difference,” Reese stated. “It gives [exhibitors] an opportunity to invite people in.”

Designer peacock bag
Designer peacock bag

Wrapping marketing around a giveaway creates a cohesive marketing statement. Placing a company mascot on a stress reliever ball, a button or a bag provides brand recognition and increased visibility for the exhibitor. Such artwork can be used as a recall tool to visually connect the promotional product to the booth staff or product demonstration.

Effective marketing before the show can also increase booth traffic. Jack Nadel International helps clients work on traffic building campaigns and pre-show mailers to let attendees know there’s a promotional gift waiting for them at the booth. Shows will provide registration lists to help drive more attendees to the show.

“In our business, we put a lot of value in lumpiness rather than something flat received in the mail,” Reese said. “A greater number of people will stop by the show.”

Playing a major role on today’s show floor, technology is used both in branding promotional products as well as an actual giveaway itself.

The ease and inexpensive use of four-color printing has dramatically changed the way products can be branded, according to Reese. Bags and other promotional products can be customized beyond the company logo and tagline.

A shift to technology-related promotional products noticeably paralleled the rise of accessories for smartphones. Similarly, technology for mobile devices, such as portable power sticks, USB chargers, phone wallets, etc., has become hugely popular among exhibitors.

One of the most prevalent products is a charging cable that has five different connectors from one USB.

“USBs continue to amaze me at the continued popularity. People still order an unbelievable amount of them,” Reese commented.

Another example of a technology-related promotional product is a Webkey – a USB that contains no memory chip, but is hard coded to open up a browser and direct the user to a specified URL once inserted into a device. Companies can then track the number of people visiting the website, making it one of the only giveaways with the ability to document ROI.

Pens are less than ordinary when personalized with company branding.
Pens are less than ordinary when personalized with company branding.

From the classic pen to the power of USBs, exhibitors cannot deny the influence of the tradeshow giveaway. Invaluable to the exhibitor – as a conversation starter, to draw booth traffic or to increase brand awareness – promotional products achieve several marketing goals in one simple giveaway as well as an appreciative “thank you.”


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