You can trace the word “swagger” to the 1580s. It was found in dialogue in two famous plays by William Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream and King Lear. Many people today use the word “swag” as a shorthand for “swagger.”
Now here’s where it gets confusing. The word “swag” was later used by English criminals in the 1830s to refer to “a quantity of stolen property or loot”. Then in the 2000s, record companies used “swag” to describe the promotional materials they used to advertise new artists or album releases.
When you put this all together, it only makes sense that “swag” became a catchall term for branded merch, promotional items, and free giveaways, primarily used in marketing.
Here’s what you need to know about marketing swag and how you can get some for yourself!
What is Swag?
Outside its slang definition of awesome or cool, the word “swag” is used to refer to promotional merchandise. You can get swag for free, or buy it at merch tables or through gift shops.
Swag is available both offline or online. Companies of all sizes and in every industry order promotional swag because they want to win people over and create new fans.
Did You Know? In the 18th century, satchels full of stolen goods were called swag bags. Today, the phrase is used to describe the bags handed out trade shows, fundraisers, and other live events.
What Does Swag Mean?
Swag is an acronym for Stuff We All Get.
It was Michael Scott in the TV show “The Office” who gave us that definition. He goes to an industry trade show and proudly boasts that he “basically decorated his condo for free with all his SWAG”!
You can be like Michael Scott and decorate your home with swag, but you can wear swag, play with it, work with it, listen to it, eat it, and drink from it. Company swag is part of our everyday lives!
Where Do I Get Swag?
If you’re lucky, you’ll get marketing swag for free from your favorite brands, or at the venue when you attend a live event. You may also be willing to spend your money on cool branded merch.
Promotional swag is everywhere! Here are the places where you’ll commonly find it.
Bands, comedians, and live podcasters will likely have a merch table set up somewhere off-stage. Fans load up on this custom swag since it’s a way for them to represent something they love.
Hop on your laptop, so you can shop a few online merch stores. McDonald’s, Lifetime Fitness, and even podcasts like “The Joe Rogan Experience” offer branded swag through ecommerce sites.
Theme parks, museums, resorts, and pop-up shops have gift stores for visitors to explore. You can go home with cool branded swag that helps you remember your experience.
Even if you graduated years ago, you may still wear your favorite college sweatshirt. Schools get a lot of love by selling promotional swag in their bookstores.
Nonprofits may give you swag in exchange for volunteering or making a donation. You may also get a promotional drawstring bag full of cool swag if you participate in a fundraiser like a 5K run or golf outing.
Ice cream socials, carnivals, art exhibitions, food truck fairs…you can get a variety of swag at events in your local community. Keep up with what’s going on in your town!
Company swag is a big part of the trade show experience! You see reusable tote bags everywhere in the convention center, and each one is full of swag from all the booths the person visited.
Raffles & Contests
How awesome would it be to win cool branded swag in a raffle? Buy a few tickets and try your luck! You’ll often see premium items up for grabs like wine tumblers or mink blankets.
What is Popular Swag?
There are a few tried and true merch items that will never go out of style. Here is the most popular marketing swag that companies use.
Look swag in your swag by rocking a promotional t-shirt! You have a large imprint area to print anything you want.
Promotional Coffee Mugs
Start your morning strong with a branded coffee mug. It’s always exciting to see your favorite logos when you first wake up.
Promotional Tote Bags
Swag bags are awesome to get for free, especially when they’re filled with other cool gifts. You can reuse your bag again for groceries or beach trips!
A cool keychains is a great swag giveaway at any event. It’s not something you’d think to buy, but you love it once it’s on your keyring!
Represent your favorite brands with promotional baseball caps. You can also get beanies as company swag for the winter months.
Of course, that’s not all! Companies can print their name and/or logo on basically anything.
Don’t fit in a box! Branch out with unique promotional swag like fun stress balls, cooler speakers, and mini potted plants.
Which Brands Have the Best Swag?
Be inspired by the best! These brands are winning everyone’s hearts with their amazing company swag!
Do you crave a Gordita Crunch, Mountain Dew, and cinnamon twists? Hit the drive-thru and then shop the Taco Bell online store for the best swag like backpacks, hoodies, and onesie pajamas.
Coca-Cola has advertised with promotional swag since the late 1800s. Today, you can still find a ton of merch from the soft drink brand and even visit a Coca-Cola store at Disney Springs.
Professional sports leagues like the NFL and MLB have online stores where you can shop for team swag. You can also get merch at the game, and rock it at the tailgate!
There are more than 60 million people who go to Starbucks every week around the world. You don’t become that big as a brand without cool swag! The coffee chain’s tumblers and travel mugs are bestsellers.
Some of us think of the car we drive as a lifestyle. Jeep, Ford, and Porsche are just a few auto brands who have a distinct culture. You can proudly buy swag from these manufacturers and many others.
Why Do Brands Offer Marketing Swag?
The point of company swag is to create a culture around the brand. Shirts, mugs, and other branded merch are an easy way to integrate your logo into the public memory.
As a company, you should definitely spread the word with promotional swag. It’s a good marketing strategy for bands, podcasts, museums, theme parks, realtors, lawyers, sports leagues, colleges, and just about anyone else. Everybody loves swag!
It’s safe to say swag is pretty swag. When you wear a promotional shirt or sip from a branded coffee mug, you’re telling the world which companies or creative properties you love. You become a part of their community.
Do you want to order your own marketing swag? You can find the best promotional items at Quality Logo Products! The order process is easy. You’ll talk to a human instead of a robot, and your order will arrive with fast shipping. Get your swag on!
Online Etymology Dictionary. Swagger. Swag. https://www.etymonline.com/
Merriam-Webster. The Word History of ‘Swag’. Retrieved from, https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/history-of-swag
The Commons. (2022, November 3). The Global Phenomenon of Starbucks. Retrieved from, https://www.thecommonscafe.com/the-global-phenomenon-of-starbucks/
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