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Choosing Promotional Products

24 Apr 2019

Few things draw in crowds at trade shows and conferences like promotional products, aka swag. 

Tablet sleeves, cell phone card holders, sports bottles—the better the swag, the more likely people will hold onto it and your message will get seen. We turned to 

our friends at Smart Commute Central York (SCCY)—masters of the art of swag—for tips when choosing it. Here’s what they had to say. 

1. Go for different price points.

The SCCY team runs a variety of awareness initiatives as well as outreaches at its member businesses throughout the year. They use promo products to entice people to learn more about the Smart Commute program and commuting options. Items vary depending on the event but can include lower cost things like pens and sticky notes as well as pricier products such as branded umbrellas and mugs. Those 'bigger ticket' items are often included as parts of prizes.

2. Choose useful items.

“It’s nice to have something that won’t add to landfill and is either recyclable or biodegradable,” says Pat Lusink, Smart Commute Central York Program Manager. She likes choosing products that people typically use. For example, the SCCY team does that with seasonal items, handing out bike bells in spring and summer and touchscreen gloves in winter.

3. Be budget savvy.

“We work hard to get the best bang for our dollars,” says Lusink, adding a lot of research happens before any promotional products are purchased. The Smart Commute team makes a point of using a variety of trendy and novel items (pop grips are a current hit) and tried and true favourites such as lip balms and lunch bags. This method, says Lusink, helps them cut down on the costs associated with new artwork.

4. Try before you buy.

Pens that don’t write, scratchy facial tissues, sticky notes that don’t stick—those are just some of the bad swag items you could end up with if you don’t opt to see samples. They’re especially important for clothing items. “Try everything on,” recommends Lusink. “Consider fabric content, longevity, quality, colour and design, and logo placement.”

5. Create a clear message.

Include your logo and website URL and check that both are large enough and easy to read. “And be careful not to put your branding on the outer wrapping of an item or it’ll end up getting tossed,” says Lusink. Keeping your audience (and appropriateness) in mind, don’t be afraid to get creative with messaging. Take Smart Commute’s tissue pack. Along with its branding, it reads ‘Need congestion relief?’ “We get a lot of positive feedback on that,” says Lusink.

Leslee Mason
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