When a tchotchke is a brand damaging piece of junk

You wouldn't send a text-based direct email campaign with courier font and a flashing gif would you? So why do some vendors essentially do the same thing with their tradeshow giveaways?

Now that I have officially dug out from SHRM and caught with emails I can get to the really important task of sorting through all the tchotchkes I collected.

There were a few high quality giveaways that I will keep around the office or take home - great for the vendor because they serve as a permanent brand reminder. And isn't that the point of a tchotchke?

But most are junk.

Which begs the question - why do it?

The majority of vendors treat tradeshow giveaways as an after-thought or spend as little as possible just to have something. And I think this is a big mistake. Sometimes you are better off not giving away anything.

What am I referring to?

Wow, where to begin………

There are the pens that weigh less than the paper I'm writing on and would blow away with the slightest bit of wind. Oh, and they don't actually write.

And the eye-glass repair kit combined with a flashlight. Really cool idea except I could not figure out how to open the repair kit and when I finally did, the whole thing broke up into several pieces.

Or the mouse pad that within one day of using it started to peel apart. Useless.

The list of junk goes on an on.

Giveaways are all about branding and generating booth traffic. The point of this blog post is not to tell you what type of giveaway you should use - that creative/strategic decision is an art and there are hundreds of great articles on the Internet that help you with the decision. Like this one.

My point is to caution you against choosing junk.

I believe there are two primary uses of a giveaway at a tradeshow - and yes, I'm aware there is some overlap.

One, to attract people to your booth. For example, an iPad raffle. These giveaways are often used in your pre-show promotions to encourage prospects to visit your booth. A variation of this type of booth attraction giveaway (which do not always merit pre-show promotions) are what I will call "feel good" giveaways. These are not intended to be taken home and kept. These type of "giveaways" offer an immediate benefit or gratification. For example, a chair massage. Another example is food or beverages (if the event permits this). It's hard to mess these giveaways up unless of course the unlicensed massage therapist injures your prospect or someone gets sick from your candy.

At SHRM in Las Vegas where it was 110 degrees and where food and beverage were limited (and expensive) I found great value in vendors who had good munchies or bottled water at their booth. It brought me to their booth and regardless of whether I was a viable prospect it did leave me with a positive feeling about the company/brand (like the WebMD chapstick - a godsend in the dry climate of Nevada). And if just ONE person who otherwise would not have stopped by the booth did so and became a prospect it paid for the entire giveaway program.

But the majority of giveaways (the second type) are not intended to PROACTIVELY bring people to your booth nor be "consumed" on the spot - they are given to people as they leave your booth or casually picked-up by people as they walk by your exhibit space. These are intended to be brought home and kept by your prospects.

And this is where you can really tarnish your brand by having junk.

OK, I'm exaggerating but seriously, put some thought into your next giveaway. And if you are going to have a giveaway spend the extra $1 or $2 unit cost for a quality item.

Otherwise, consider saving some money and do nothing.

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