Mass Produced Promotional Items No One Wants. Ever!


Getting a slew of takeaway promo items at every conference is now a standard practice.

Unfortunately what has also become standard is the type of things being bundled into these bags. With conference attendees getting the exact same items at virtually ever conference, swag bags should be called ‘landfill suppliers’ because that’s where most of it ends up.

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What’s worse is, because people are too polite to give these bags back, promoters imagine distribution in itself to be a parameter of success when actually it has an opposite effect. Every attendee that secretly rebukes (and promptly discards) your bag is one potential customer you have lost.

However, given the widespread nature of this mass-produced lazy promotional drive, we are now able to make a list of serial offenders. Read on and if any of these items were set to make it to your next conference giveaway, turn back now …

Branded Rubik’s Cube

The Rubik’s Cube was a hit toy back in the 80s and now, apart from a few die-hard enthusiasts, no one (not even kids) play with these cubes any more. And if you’ve ever picked up one yourself, you must know exactly how frustrating it is to solve even with just the six colours. Now imagine how much harder it would be to master with tiny fragments of your company logo and brand messaging on each face. Which is why after minutes of giving it a few twists, these cubes are either abandoned at the venue or simply chucked away.

Branded Pens

We live in the era of digital note taking. Most of us have a minimum of two devices (smartphone and tablet) with us at all times. Our notes sync to the cloud and across all our screens. So what is someone expected to do with your cheap plastic pen anyway? Not only is it a habit Millennials aren’t used to, the sheer quality of the pen and scratchy writing experience ensures it javelins its way right into the dustbin just meters away from your booth.

Neck Lanyards


Unless you work for a particular brand, or have a very strong affinity towards it…chances are you don’t want to be seen sporting a brand name around your neck all day at a conference. And also, look around. How many attendees do you see rocking up with key ring bands around their neck? Probably none. This should be a hint that no one uses them in their daily lives and your gift was ‘handy and practical’ only in your mind.

Branded Business Card Holders

All serious conference attendees make it point to carry a good business cardholder. Which means they aren’t about to swap it out for your tacky, branded one. Plus, if they had to whip out a cardholder, why would they want it branded by a company they only just met?

Branded Desk Clocks


Look around you. How many people do you see even wearing a wristwatch these days? The dwindling numbers are because single function devices such as watches or clocks are seen as superfluous. Today, we have the time on our phones and on our computer screens. The desk clock is seen as just a piece of ancient technology that’s now cluttering up precious table space.

Branded Key Chains


Most people carry just two sets of keys – one to their home and one for their car. And if you ask anyone to show you his or her keys, there is almost a 100% certainty it will be on a keychain of some kind. Key chains are the perfect example to the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Branded Coffee Mugs


These are a lazy idea for two reasons – firstly, each of us have at least a dozen branded and unbranded coffee mugs at home. If the average person attends 6 conferences in a year, he would be adding half a dozen mugs to his home! Secondly, ceramic mugs add precious weight to the carry on luggage of attendees who are coming from out of town. So not only is your giveaway one too many, it’s also inconvenient to carry back home.

Branded Bottle Openers


Again, if coffee mugs were beginning to spill over in people’s homes, the sheer number of bottle openers clearly outdoes that number. Of course, they are useful but you don’t need 10 around your house to get the job done. Which means once you have a few, every additional one is discarded on sight.

Branded Multi Tools

This is a highly impractical giveaway and shows how little you’ve thought through the bag’s contents. Given that most attendees from out of town travel with only one carry-on bag … they will never be able to take your multi-tool back home (no matter how much they may want to). So even without attendee resistance, this item shoots itself in the foot just by being immovable past airports.

Branded Mass Produced Products: There Must Be A Better Way!

Promotional items can be a powerful way to break through the clutter of conferences and leave attendees with a clear, memorable experience. But none of this is possible by stuffing your swag bag with thoughtless mass-produced items.

Which promotional items do you hate receiving and are most likely to throw away? Tell us in the comments below …

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