5 Questions to Ask Before Choosing Your Next Trade Show Giveaway

May 8, 2024

Michael Stausholm

Michael Stausholm is the Founder and CEO of SproutWorld, manufacturer of the patented plantable pencils and makeup liners. A Danish entrepreneur with a passion for combining sustainability and business, he founded SproutWorld in 2013.

Handing out logo plastic pens, USB thumb drives or cheaply produced key chains at trade shows and exhibitions is an outdated practice. Studies show that most giveaways are unwanted, thrown away and end up in landfills. In addition, nearly 50% of consumers feel more favorable about brands that gave them a promotional product if it was environmentally friendly.

That’s why the promotional product industry must continue its efforts to become more sustainable in 2024. Here are five of the most important questions you need to answer before purchasing your next company giveaway:

1. Are they useful?

This is the most important question to ask. Who is your target audience and in what context do they receive your gift? For example, if you’re at a conference with attendees from all over the world, don’t offer a big bottle of dessert wine, as most people travel only with carry-on luggage. Or, if the conference is held in Dubai, handing out an umbrella is not the most appropriate choice.  

2. What footprint do they leave?

Ask yourself how the product is made – from design to shipping. What will happen to the product when it’s no longer in use? Can it be recycled or upcycled? We know that 35 billion plastic ballpoint pens are produced globally on a yearly basis with most of them ending up in the trash when the ink has dried out. That’s a lot of plastic waste. Always consider a product’s after-life (or second life). 

3. Do you have any proof they’re sustainable?

Greenwashing is a very common practice, so you need evidence that the promotional products are as green and eco-friendly as they might claim. Making unsubstantiated claims no longer works and documentation backed up by verified data is essential. 

Is the company B Corp certified? Does it have valid certifications? Has a Life Cycle Assessment report been made on the product so you can see how much CO2 it emits when produced? Is the company a part of the Science Based Target initiative where it has set a goal on when to become Net Zero? Ask for documentation from your supplier. 

4. Do you rate price over quality?

Cost is an inevitable factor when deciding what merchandise to pick for your next event, but offering fewer products in exchange for better quality is worth a thought. A quality product that’s useful and ethically produced with no harmful toxins leaves a much better impression of your company than offering cheap-looking swag that breaks easily or are made by workers under poor and polluting conditions. What you give out as a company or brand reflects your values and standards. 

5. What type of feedback do you get from attendees after the event?

Make sure your giveaway stands out to a degree that you can use it as a conversation starter during or after the event. We have found that receiving a usable gift with a second life after use is something people like and remember, and the fact that it doesn’t create waste attracts attention because this isn’t typical when it comes to event swag. It’s always a good idea to ask for feedback post-event and then evaluate if something wasn’t as successful as you’d hoped. Why keep giving out the same merchandise at future events if it wasn’t received well the first time?


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