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:
- Make the recipient feel appreciated by you
- Make the recipient feel appreciative towards you
- 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.