Choose carefully when selecting branded giveaways

branded giveaways

Those little tchotchkes that firms hand out at conferences and events can go a long way to keeping the firm’s name high in the minds of recipients. Giveaway items like notepads, squeezy balls and all the rest are usually chosen for their broad appeal and utility. The theory is that functional gifts get wide use, spreading the firm’s name farther (while cementing it in the minds of those who use the items). Typically inexpensive, they’re nice gestures as well as smart marketing investments that support the firm’s branding. Unless they don’t…

When selecting branded knickknacks for giveaways, it’s important to assess your choice with care or risk unintended consequences that render your effort useless or, at worst, actually damage the brand. Before you place that order for 500 cute widgets, consider these questions:

  • Is it truly useful? Sometimes an item seems useful but doesn’t work well in real-world conditions. Key chains, for instance, are something everyone needs but most people have already. You may give out hundreds of them, but they’re most likely to end up in the hands of a young relative or tossed in a drawer rather than in the pockets and purses of the professional audience you’re targeting. Little notebooks are adorable, but unless they’re quite small or quite large, they probably won’t see much use.
  • Does it stand out? When many firms give out the same types of items, yours can easily get lost in the fray. Pens and notepads are ubiquitous at events where industry swag is plentiful. That’s not to say you shouldn’t choose them – everyone needs and uses these things. Just be sure your branded pens and pads are nice enough to make the cut when recipients get home and decide which to keep and which to offer their favorite niece.
  • Is it recognizable? Your giveaways should stand out, but not so much that they’re a complete mystery to the people who get them. I once received a lovely, um, thing at a lunch and learn event. I appreciated the gesture. Unfortunately, I had no idea what it was or how to use it, and neither did anyone else at the event. It looked vaguely technological, so I asked my college-age techie later that day, to no avail. Since we couldn’t figure out any sort of use for the whatever-it-was, it ended up in the trash.
  • Does it work? Your item must be of a high enough quality to perform its intended function. Years ago, a family member worked in a large health sciences facility frequented by medical researchers and their followers, pharmaceutical reps. As a result, our household was well stocked with pens branded for various drugs. I am the proud owner of not one, but two Viagra pens that refuse to stay erect enough for use. That’s right: my Viagra pens are limp and flaccid, with points that won’t protrude sufficiently to perform.

So what’s the perfect giveaway? That will vary with the whims of the recipient, to some extent. Here are a few of the branded items I’ve used often and appreciated most:

  • Pens that do work and write particularly smoothly or feel good in the hand
  • Purse-sized bottles of natural bug repellant, hand cleanser, and solution for cleaning glasses, complete with a small cloth
  • Bottle openers that fit on my keychain
  • Porcelain travel mugs (from my favorite bail bonding company, naturally)
  • Portable power packs/battery boosters for electronic devices
  • Notebooks just the right size and sticky pads of all sizes
  • Lip balm eggs

Everyone is different, but you’ll always be in good shape when your items are useful, attractive, a little unusual (but not so unfamiliar they’re useless), and most of all, when they work.



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Sarah Warlick

Sarah Warlick founded Proof Positive Content to provide professional service firms with high-quality content that resonates with their target audiences. Sarah's writing appears in books, on the websites of over a dozen Top 100 Accounting Firms and in Accounting Today, Forbes and other leading publications, but usually under another name. Ghostwriters rarely get the glory - their clients do!


  1. David Fritz on June 2, 2018 at 1:11 pm

    Excellent post! Valuable insights here.

    • Sarah Warlick on November 21, 2018 at 4:52 pm

      Thanks, David!