Did you know that most decisions consumers make are based on memory? That’s why it’s so important to build a strong brand. Strong brands are memorable, and memorability builds brand loyalty. If you want to keep your customers coming back, you need to be top-of-mind.

Promotional items—or SWAG (“stuff we all get”)—are a great way to make an enduring impression on your customers. They also play an important role in the “rule of reciprocation,” a principle of behavioral science: when given a gift, people often feel they must repay it with a gift of their own. By giving your customers SWAG, you’re thanking them for their business, and hopefully, they’ll return the favor with brand loyalty.

One of our clients, the U.S. Coast Guard, uses SWAG strategically and creatively to build brand awareness, increase visibility, and create positive relationships with potential recruits. Because it’s National Military Appreciation Month, we thought we’d feature some of their promo items to describe five ways you can be strategic about SWAG.

  1. Relevant. Make sure your SWAG makes sense to today’s consumers and the world they live in. Promo items like branded letter openers, paperweights, and padfolios are relics. Consider instead items that help people work from home or protect them from COVID-19. Hand sanitizer and reusable face masks are part of the new normal and the demand for them has never been higher—so why not add a branded mask to your SWAG repertoire?

    USCG branded face mask

    USCG personal care kit, including hand sanitizer

  2. Different. Your SWAG should stand out from the standard fare of stress balls and badge lanyards.  People value what’s different. Check out what your competitors are giving away and look for opportunities to differentiate. For example, how often do you see a branded doormat? The Coast Guard’s eye-catching bright red doormat plays on the phrase “welcome aboard.”

    USCG branded doormat

  3. Innovative. Think outside the promotional box. If your primary target audiences include the government or businesses, you may tend to gravitate to run-of-the-mill items like sticky notes and pens. Brainstorm ideas for items that creatively relate to your brand. When you think of the coast, you think of the beach—and when you go to the beach, you need a towel. The Coast Guard’s branded beach towels offer an unexpected way to raise the brand’s visibility.

    USCG branded beach towel

  4. Useful. The last thing you want is your SWAG ending up in the “to be donated” pile. Think about what items you would buy and actually use if they weren’t free. Steel straws and high-quality reusable water bottles are great options for promo items that consumers use daily.

    USCG branded metal straws, lanyards, and pens

  5. Integrated. Promo items are an important part of your overall marketing strategy—but they’re just one part. When used in conjunction with other marketing efforts—like events, public relations, lead generation, brand launches, and customer satisfaction efforts—they act as a force multiplier. The Coast Guard uses SWAG as a key element of its national and local recruitment efforts.

    USCG branded water bottles, coffee mugs, whistles, phone wallets, and scrunchies

Want to learn more about how you can use SWAG to build your brand? Contact us. 

Vice President, Research & Content
As Vice President, Research and Content, Kristen works closely with clients to uncover what drives stakeholders' actions, attitudes, and beliefs, and uses these insights to create actionable strategies and powerful...Read more