Friday, September 21, 2007

Swag Off

I went to a trade show last week, wandering around on behalf of a client trying to see whether there was anything of interest. The show was ultra-techie, and was definitely worth the walkthrough, but what really surprised me was the dearth of swag. Have we finally reached a level of trade show maturity - or consciousness about how all this crap is ruining the earth?

Nahhh.  That'll never happen.

Maybe the good stuff was being held back so that you couldn't just dive and grab - you had to actually talk to someone and feign interest in order to get that rubber ducky key chain or lightbulb tension squeeze toy.

In any case, other than a couple of tins of mints, I came away empty-handed. I really don't need any more pens, pads, t-shirts, or ethernet cables, although as usual with a trade show, I'm sure if I'd strolled the exhibit area toward the end of the final day, folks would have been tossing swag out like beads at Mardi Gras. Ain't nobody wants to pack all that junk up.

A couple of the big name companies appeared to be raffling off motorcycles, but I wouldn't know what to do with one if I won it. And, given how trade show drawings typically go, I'm pretty sure that someone walking around with "Marketing Consultant" on her name tag is not exactly going to ride off into the sunset on the grand prize.

Rigging the results is not done universally, however.

I know because one time at Internet World - oh, those were the days of swag - I won a video camera from Global Crossing. Since they were a Genuity competitor, I decided to sit in on their spiel, which included a trivia game. I won for my session - as I recall, I was the only one who knew the name of Cinderella's fairy godmother - and my name got put in the bowl for the "big prize". Which I won.

So, this was actually an equal opportunity drawing - or they just didn't realize that Genuity was a competitor.

Internet World - in "the day" was just insane. Twice a year, NY and LA, and's shooting loot out of cannons at you as you walked by. Nothing good, nothing lasting, of course - although I did wear that t-shirt as a nightie for a good long while - probably well past the demise of LeapFrog. com. (And my apologies if you're still around.)

At a couple of these shows, Hum-Vees were being raffled off.

Genuity wasn't raffling off a Hum-Vee, but at one show, we did give out cool Black Rocket lunch boxes to anyone who sat through our preso. There was nothing that Genuity didn't have in its swage closet: pens, caps, shirts of all kinds, jackets, umbrellas, lava lamps, coffee tables (don't ask), temporary tattoos, lapel pins, statuettes....

The second-to-worst swag I was ever personally associated with was the exploding NaviSite pen. The pens were individually wrapped in plastic, and when I went to open the box, I found that about half of them were already leaking ink. Nice little forget me not: put one of these pens in the pocket of your best shirt, and watch the fun begin!

The absolute worst swag was at Softbridge. We had designed a "demo diskette" that ran on a floppy, but we hadn't managed to get them produced before a show that we were doing. So, we asked people to sign up for a "rain check" if they wanted the diskette. People lust after free anything, and we were getting all kinds of people signing up for the demo diskette. My friend Valerie started asking whether people wanted the demo disk or the blank disk. "Oh, the blank diskette," most of them told us. "Thanks for asking."

I don't believe that I have ever laughed so hard while standing in a trade show booth.

Needless to say, most of that swag fulfillment went unfulfilled.

1 comment:

Derse Exhibits said...

For a trade show display to offer value to the customer, they have to put themselves in the shoes of both the interested audience and the "casual" audience, like yourself. Creating a "free" experience that further entices the audience to find out more is rare, but ultimately very effective.