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Marketing Smart with Trade Show Giveaways

It's time to let go. Let go of whatever poor experience you've had with promotional products and giveaways. Just like a trust fall, you may need to shake off your apprehensions and continue reading with an open mind. Why? Because promotional products work. Specifically, they work when you are empowered with knowledge of how well they can work for you. You can be confident that what you are leaving in the hands of attendees will stand out from the rest.

Ready? Let's go!

The cypher for selecting the right giveaways for your next trade show lies in the facts you already know. Here's what to ask yourself!

1. How much do you have to spend?

2. What is your audience like?

3. How many impressions do you want to make?

4. What useful items will resonate with your audience?

5. What is currently popular in your region or with your audience?

6. How should you display your items?

Check out our related videos for a visual breakdown!


These questions may look familiar, but your answers will yield smarter choices with a little industry insight.

1. How much do you have to spend? By establishing your expense limit, you can explore more unique possibilities than what you're used to purchasing. Consider the potential of the event and budget accordingly. Not all trade shows are created equal.

2. What is your audience like? You might think you know your audience, but more often than not, there's more to be discovered...and considered. Identify their demographics (age, gender, geographic location, etc.) or "who they are" as well as their psychographics (interests, attitudes, opinions, etc.) or "what their connection is to the event". If the majority of your audience is from a particular region of the country, for instance, you'll more easily narrow your promotional product shopping list. The obvious connection is to the climate. (It'd be better to consider heavier apparel like hoodies and jackets for those living in a cooler climate.)

Then there's the not-so-obvious. Take the Pacific region. More than half of people along the coast are more likely to do business with an advertiser who is on their drinkware! In comparison with the Midwest, only 30% of people feel the same way.

3. How many impressions do you want to make? Here is where your budget comes into play. Statistically, certain items will make more impressions than others, and you'll want to decide how much value you want to invest in each impression.

Let's use a power bank as an example. That's the charging device you can connect to your cell when you don't have an outlet available. Pricing typically starts at just under $5 each, which can be a little high for a trade show; however, power banks can yield more than 1,000 impressions throughout its lifespan. Considerably less expensive are lip balm and pens. At under $1 a piece, each can actually gain well over 2,000 impressions each!

4. What useful items will resonate with your audience? The keyword here is "useful". It has been found that consumers will keep a useful product 82% of the time versus one that has no relevance to them. In the case of an umbrella, an undeniably useful item, it is typically kept for around 12 months. Now, consider all the impressions that can be made in that time.

5. What is currently popular in your region or with your audience? Although usefulness is a more promising characteristic for a successful promotional product, popularity still plays a significant role. Based on the average temperatures, it may be no surprise that 50% of consumers in the Northeast own branded outerwear. However, would you have guessed that nearly the same amount of people on the West Coast own logo'd USB drives? Or would you have guessed that the most influential promotional product in Rhode Island is a t-shirt? This kind of research not only aids in narrowing your shopping list; it also promotes your advocacy for a corporate investment.

6. How should you display your items? When promotional products are left on the table for the taking, they can arguably depreciate in value. The presentation and interaction that take place with the giveaway can positively or negatively impact the effectiveness of the item. For this reason, it's wise to consider handing them out to those who interact with you. You might display some to entice people to look, but keep the bulk of them elsewhere to reduce clutter. If you have a large or high-valued giveaway, a prominent and creative display option can both assist in drawing people to your trade show booth and encourage engagement. This is especially important for those companies and organizations that represent lesser known brands or new messages. (Click to read more on Connecting with Trade Show Visitors.)

Just like billboards, TV commercials and magazine ads, promotional products have their own unique marketing benefits that are closely tracked, measured, and make the kind of impact that you seek. What makes giveaways work as well as any other form of advertising or marketing is the research and planning that's invested. By working smarter, and certainly not harder, your team is sure to gain the results--and impressions--that you seek at your next trade show.

Pre-Event Tip: Whether your expo or trade show is at a ball field or in a ballroom, there is an often overlooked audience in attendance who did not pay to attend. The employees of the facility are everywhere and, if fulfilling their duty, interacting with many of your trade show attendees. Engage with this secondary audience by sharing your giveaways with them. This is especially effective for organizations with the objective to blast their message to the masses and for companies who serve the general public. It's not only a way to thank them for their hard work, but also a friendly gesture that is sure to be remembered.


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