Here's the thing about that piece on swag by Elizabeth Segran in Fast Company: she's right.
The $24 billion dollar promotional products industry is up in arms over the Fast Company article by Elizabeth Segran, It’s time to stop spending billions on cheap conference swag. [Full disclosure: we provide the software that powers over $500 million in sales in this industry. It’s an industry we’re proud to not only support, but an industry in which we have -not just customers- but so many dear friends who have given their lives to this business].But Elizabeth was right about a few things:
- She did her homework enough to know product category percentages, dollar volume, industries who buy, she researched key players, uncovered resources, tapped into supply chain logistics, she painted a broad picture of the industry and did a decent job capturing its breadth.
- She’s right (of course) about the impact of landfill on the environment and the contribution of swag to these landfills. Everyone in this industry knows she’s right to rail against the harmfulness to our environment as many of us feel exactly the same way.
- She’s right that many products are not well-designed and well-engineered and therefore are not functional or beautiful enough to keep.
- She’s right about clients: “The companies buying these things are looking to get them out to as many people as possible, while maximizing their marketing budget.”
- Directly drove sales: she re-subscribed. The New Yorker’s total paid circulation rose 12.3% last year to $1.2 million (according to Digiday) and over 500,000 people received that bag.
- Her statement proved that the right swag is about creating an emotional connection to the brands we love, which never ends up in a landfill. The New Yorker bag is a simple bag with a functional and elegant design, those who created the bag knew their audience, knew they were building a practical piece that would serve a purpose. And Elizabeth’s bag will now be around for years, avoiding the landfills. Elizabeth bought a subscription to The New Yorker just so she could receive the tote bag, identifying herself as a proud member of the tribe and making an emotional and financial investment in a brand she loves.
- Swag is tribal and therefore ubiquitous. Because Elizabeth is proud to own her bag, she’ll carry it more often. She might use it for groceries, maybe for carrying things back and forth on her commute. The mileage of advertising from one simple bag is pennies on the dollar for the New Yorker, better than any other advertising medium, it’s a walking billboard on the arms of their raving fans, a tactile referral in motion. Dwayne Sheppard, VP of consumer marketing for the New Yorker commented on its ubiquitousness, “I’ve been traveling a lot personally, and my new game is, ‘How long will it be before I see a tote bag?’ In Berlin, it was day three. In Dublin, it was 24 hours. No matter where I go, I tend to see at least one.'”
- And customer retention? Because swag is reminder advertising, it lives in our homes and in our offices as visual influencers. What's the lifetime value of a New Yorker subscriber? I’m a subscriber and I paid $120 for my renewed subscription this past year, and I’ll likely be a subscriber for years to come, but let’s just say I’m a subscriber for only ten years, that's $1,200, and a tote bag at 500,000 pieces would be approximately $1-$2. That’s about 1% of my ten-year subscription and that doesn’t include the advertising I’ll provide for The New Yorker as I carry my bag nor the money I’ll spend with those who advertise in the magazine and on the website.
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