The UX of Marketing SWAG

In Engineering terms, SWAG stands for Silly Wild Ass Guess. It’s used to estimate how big a project will be. It’s pretty unscientific, but useful for planning.

In Marketing circles, SWAG means Stuff We All Get. SWAG is generally a gift given to prospects and customers.

(I think the SW is pronounced similar to the bicycle SCHWINN, not like the word SWAY.)

SWAG should achieve three purposes:

  1. Make the recipient feel appreciated by you
  2. Make the recipient feel appreciative towards you
  3. Piggyback advertising. If they use/wear something that has your logo on it, other people will see it

Is SWAG common?
Yes, gifts to customers are as old as business itself. It started out as a simple thank you note. Maybe that turned into a free dinner or lunch. Eventually, it became free tickets to a show. When marketing got involved, they realized they could give a gift that actually served more purpose than just #1 and #2 above. They could brand the gift. This led to a whole cottage industry around SWAG and it’s extremely common.

Is SWAG ethical?
The saying, “There is no such thing as a free lunch” originated with the practice of salespeople paying for your lunch in the hopes that they could convince you to buy their products or services. It’s a bribe, plain and simple. It’s often not explicit, but it’s a bribe nonetheless. However, I would posit that all forms of appreciation are bribes. When I say thank you to someone, I am participating in a social contract. You treat me nice and I will treat you nice. Bribes sound bad but are actually a critical part of doing business. The whole point of the social contract is that things go better when we adhere to the rules. I say “Thank you”, you say “You’re welcome”.

Referral programs are an explicit bribe. If you refer someone, I will give you cash. The only thing more “bribey” is saying “I will give you an advance on the referral. I’ll pay you now and hope for the referral later.” This is clearly illegal in certain circumstances like politics. However, bribes like this happen all the time. The reason it happens is because it generally works.

Is there bad SWAG?
Yes, bad swag is when it feels heavy handed or the gift is inappropriate. Like if you sent an iPhone case to someone with an android. They would feel annoyed, instead of grateful. Bad SWAG is also when the gift feels cheap or overdoes it with the branding. If it’s a t-shirt, don’t just have your logo on the front and back. Keep it simple and classy. Otherwise, they won’t feel #1 or #2 at all and therefore won’t wear it. Remember the purpose. Don’t overdo it.

The best SWAG is thoughtful and useful. Sometimes, it’s just entertaining. For example, Engagio just sent out Bobbleheads that were custom designed for people based on their LinkedIn photo. Not useful, but entertaining.

Anything else interesting about SWAG?
Whenever you have an interesting gift, people will copy it. For example, Engagio had Gio socks last year. This year, lots of people had branded socks. If everyone has socks, then they are not interesting anymore. You have to constantly look for new and different things to give as gifts. We have tried Kindles with eBooks about Marketing on them. We have tried umbrellas and water bottles and other items. Whatever you do, it won’t last forever. You have to keep innovating.

SWAG is a good thing but can go wrong. They aren’t free. You need to follow up with the gifts. You can’t just give someone an umbrella and hope for the best. You need to call them and email them and set up meetings. You have to invest in their happiness and appreciation. This is true for prospects as well as customers.

Invest in your audience and they will invest in you. It’s the social contract.

The UX of Figma

The CEO of Figma recently visited me and gave me a quick tour of their product. I think it holds great promise as a prototyping/design tool and I am giving it a try. The main benefit is real-time concurrent usage. In other words, two designers can collaborate live at the same time the way you might use a Google spreadsheet. I know that Adobe XD has been promising this feature for 6+ months, but the tool doesn’t even have a workable Windows version yet. I ran out of patience and am trying the competition.

My initial usage is slow, I’m learning a new tool.  Rather than use it for a few days and then review, I am going to document my first few hours with it.

  1. Italics. It took me 2 minutes to figure out how to make text italics. I was looking for a button [I] but it was actually a drop down box. I need to get faster at it.
  2. Zoom. It’s just not very smooth. Slow it down with more intermediate points. Maybe provide a slider?
  3. Components. I am struggling a little of how best to organize. I am just guessing.
  4. Sizing. I really don’t need things to be 22.48px wide. 22px is fine. Can there be an option to make 1px the minimum increment?
  5. Moving things. I have a component with two elements in it. I am trying to move one of them. Not letting me. Grrrr…
  6. Rulers as guides. Hmm, innovative. I kinda like that.
  7. Publishing to the library. That works nicely.
  8. Projects. I think I need one of those, but how do I get to it? Oh, it’s called files? Hmm. A bit confused, but Ok.
  9. Preferences. Why aren’t there preferences in the desktop UI? Am I just missing where they are?
  10. Found preferences! Duh, make it available under Edit

I got better at it over the day. I think there are a bunch of little things that would smooth out the experience. Ill keep experimenting.

Plus one of their engineers actually reached out to me to ask about storyboarding and prototyping. The truth is that I can’t fully use the system until I have that.

Anyway, its good so far. More to come…

The Death of the Unsubscribe Link

I’ve been getting alot of email lately from SDRs using tools like Salesloft, Tout and Outreach. I have noticed a couple of important trend occuring.

  1. There is no unsubscribe link
  2. There is no content, just a request for a meeting/conversation
  3. They are not personalized or interesting to me the recipient

It is hard not to think of these emails as spam. I assume the reply rate is dismal. Most importantly, I feel like all of the content marketing techniques learned over the past 10 years have been tossed out the window. I have questions:

  • Who is writing these emails?
  • How do I unsubscribe?
  • Are we witnessing the death of the unsubscribe link?
  • Is marketing and SDRs emailing the same people at the same time?
  • Are SDRs the new marketing department?

Think about that last one for a minute. If you, the marketer, sit idly by while your SDRs send your targets unsolicited emails, they are hurting your ability to engage and nurture those people. Just because technology lets you send emails to lots of people, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. I actually heard of a company whose corporate IP was blacklisted for this kind of email.

When I reply to these SDRs (which I often do), I give them a haiku.

Not personalized
Do not see unsubscribe link
Please leave me alone

You can google me and find a dozen things that will get my attention. You can read my blog or twitter or watch past speeches I have given. Any kind of personalization will get my attention. I still might not be the right persona for your company or care at all about your service, but at least I will treat you as a human being.

The unsubscribe link exists for a reason. It is when you send bulk mail with no personalization. There are laws that try and protect the rights of recipients from getting spam. These tools are blatently side-stepping these rules.

The point here is about choosing a side. Either send a truly customized email or include the unsubscribe link. What side are you on? Do you even know what your SDR team is doing?

I think I am going to start a kickstarter project called “Save the Unsubscribe Link”. The way it would work is when an email is uncustomized with no unsubscribe link, it will send 10 messages in reply every hour for 72 hours. The content will be the above Haiku. Anyone want to be the first to fund the project?

The Simple Volume Control

We have Sonos speakers here at the office. The Sonos application is pretty cool. However, there is one part of the system that bugs me and it’s extremely simple.

This is the volume control. Now when you have a Sonos speaker in a group environment, the volume is actually a crucial function. Some songs are recorded louder or softer and when people are working a high volume can be very annoying.

To use this control, you have to put your mouse onto the slider and drag right or left. It is very sensitive, so finding the right setting is tricky. The volume controls on my keyboard are not connected to Sonos, just my local machine.

So why is this bad?

The main factor here is fine motor skills of the users, or lack thereof. Most users are unable to move their mouse in 2px increments. However, a single pixel, in this case, is the difference between too loud and too soft.

Other Examples of requiring fine motor control.

  • Resize a column in a table/grid and you might find you need to move your mouse 1px to find the spot.
  • Screen capture software often makes you start your clicking in exactly the right spot.
  • Settings in an UI is often behind a 10×10 icon with no padding so finding it is challenging
  • Drag targets are often tiny and dropping on the right spot nearly impossible.

The bottom line is that, as a designer, always make sure you are not asking your user to be too fine with their gestures. Make it finger compatible and you will be in good shape.

The thing that Sonos missed it a Spinner control. If we take the existing Sonos volume, I would enhance it to look more like this:


  1. Keyboard: Arrow keys move volume
  2. Dragging from anywhere on spectrum moves volume
    1. Up/Right = Loud
    2. Down/Left = Soft
  3. Mouse wheel also changes volume
  4. Clicking up/down arrow icons move by 1
  5. Double-click on up/down arrows moves by 10
  6. Allow type in a number in the input box.
  7. Left click on the OFF will mute

First, we added feedback. What volume is it currently at? Then we added gestures. I wrote about using multiple gestures years ago.

All of the sudden, this control has detail and nuance. It can be used by people without a struggle. It is the job of a designer to make sure the UI Requirements are comprehensive. It is the job of the product manager to not cut scope on these requirements. Yes, it takes longer, but a positive experience is worth it.

Simple controls are rarely simple if you look closely.

Myers Briggs 2017

I had another Myers-Briggs for an executive team offsite this month. Previously my tests in 2014 yielded these results:

2014 INFP
Introvert(11%) iNtuitive(75%) Feeling(12%) Perceiving(33%)

  • Slight preference of Introversion over Extraversion (11%)
  • Distinct preference of Intuition over Sensing (75%)
  • Slight preference of Feeling over Thinking (12%)
  • Moderate preference of Perceiving over Judging (33%)

They call this personality type, the Mediator/Idealist.

This time I resulted in INTJ, also known as the Architect/Mastermind.

The different tests didn’t give me the same preference statistics, but the above shows the equivalent. I don’t have a strong preference for anything apparently. The descriptions of the personalities both match me somewhat. The moderator thought I showed extroverted tendencies, which always conflicts with how tired/uncomfortable I get in group settings like parties. I am obviously a conundrum for these things.

Here is a breakdown of my sub preferences.

I don’t know. I am not sure how useful this all is for me. I want to feel special, like a unique snowflake. The two reports both can be applied to me with some flaws.

How well do these things work for you?

If you want, you can read my Myers-Briggs full report.