Please, Stop Giving Branded Pens at Trade Shows

Pens are the ubiquitous giveaway at trade show booths. They’re cheap, easy to purchase, and they come in a variety of different colors, have styluses at the end, or light up. But, the very thing that makes them cheap and easy to purchase is also what makes consumers feel okay about disposing of the them after a trade show. If you want your giveaway to make it into your customer’s luggage on the way home, rather than sitting on the desk in the hotel, it’s time to move beyond pens.

Branded Pens Are Cheap

Branded pens are cheap—they don’t cost much to make, and ordering them online takes almost no effort. But, you absolutely get what you pay for. Pens at trade shows break, look flimsy, and never write like everyone’s favorite pen. The flashy pens with multiple ink colors or multi-functional pens with lights or styluses aren’t any better.

Branded Pens Are Forgettable

As the standard swag option at trade shows, a branded pen looks the same as your competitor’s pen. Logos aside, the styles and colors are the same, and a bag full of pens after a tradeshow doesn’t leave a lasting impression. Your opportunity at a tradeshow is to showcase your brand and the value you bring to your customers. A pen doesn’t say much about either of those things.

Better Alternatives

When it comes to swag, focus less on cost and rather on unique, trendy, and functional items that say something about your brand. This approach takes more effort and possibly more budget, but since 81 percent of consumers hold on to a promotional item for more than a year, your swag has the potential to build brand exposure over a long period of time. Here are a few options for items that will deliver at trade shows this year:

Bottle Openers

Quality, portable bottle openers are a great alternative to pens because they are inexpensive, the perfect size for a brand logo, and infinitely useful on the go. Whether you go for a classic keychain style or a modern design that fits in a wallet or on a magnet, offering a bottle opener shows that you’ve got something practical to offer customers.

Pair your bottle opener with your brand logo and a website, and when a potential customer reaches for it while on a picnic or at a concert, sporting event, or even in the kitchen, there’s another chance for you to make a good impression.

Power Banks

For many people, millennials and younger in particular, constant access to a charged smartphone is a necessity. However, heavy phone usage while away from a plug can drain batteries and raise anxiety.

Compact, convenient power banks small enough to fit in a backpack or purse will get plenty of use. As always, make sure the item you’re purchasing isn’t too inexpensive—you don’t want the power bank to fail to deliver a charge when your customer needs it most. But, a good one that will charge a phone even one time before needing a recharge is the perfect item for students, frequent travelers, or parents whose kids drain their batteries playing games or watching Netflix on the go.

Water Bottles

Eco-conscious consumers are looking for items that eliminate waste, and a reusable water bottle is one of the best ways to start reducing plastic waste.

As with any item, water bottles vary in quality, so don’t be afraid to research and be willing to spend a little more for a well-made water bottle. Some of the most popular options include glass, steel (insulated or not), collapsible, and plastic with a spout.

When it comes to picking a particular water bottle, keep your audience in mind. If they’re the type that spends a lot of time outdoors, consider something lightweight, portable, and durable. A collapsible water bottle is perfect for travelers and campers, while a steel or plastic water bottle is great for having by the side of your desk.

Why Making a Good Impression Matters

Moving beyond pens as a swag item at trade shows is key to making an impression with your brand. Swag and promotional items are the best way to connect with consumers. In a study by Promotional Products Association International, consumers at all age levels said promotional products were the most effective form of advertising. Also, 82 percent of consumers who received a promotional item said they had a more favorable impression of a brand.

Seize the opportunity to make an enormous impact with a promotional item by consciously evaluating your brand, your audience, and how you can creatively and effectively tell your brand’s story at a trade show.