Tradeshow Giveaways & Mardi Gras Beads

Imagine that you at Mardi Gras in New Orleans.   You’re standing among the masses of spectators waiting as the large elaborate floats are heading down the street toward you.   The scene is festive and crowd is boisterous bordering on rowdy as the floats get closer and closer.  With their elaborate costumes and sparkling masks, the parade participants are finally insight.  As the floats begin to move past, the crowds lining the streets erupt in cheers.  All around you people do what it takes to get the attention of those on the floats, yes, including flashing… maybe, in the excitement of the moment, you decide to let a little more flesh show than would normally be your style.  But … there’s something missing, something going terribly wrong… the people on the floats aren’t throwing back beads, or anything for that matter.  That’s what it would be like at a tradeshow without giveaways!

Fortunately, instead of getting flashed for the giveaways, most tradeshow exhibitors readily handover items in exchange for a few minutes of a participants time and to help participants remember them after the show is over.   Of course, if the exhibitors did some flashing, they would most certainly stand out and be remembered, at least until they were hauled out of the show.   Instead, exhibitors try to find the best giveaways that they can … the beads that people want to keep rather than pass on to their shy friend who has none.

The best tradeshow giveaways will generally fall into one of the following categories:

  • Theme items which are consistent with a booth, show or corporate theme
  • Eye catching & engaging items that will capture participants attention
  • Immediate value items that participants will find useful during the show
  • Long term value items that participants will want to take home or to work to use and reuse

Of course, items can fall into more than one category and, occasionally, you can find something that will fall into all the categories.  When that happens, the tradeshow’s participants are going to feel like you’ve just tossed them a whole handful of beads!  

So, let’s explore some different promotional products that fall into each of these categories to give you an idea of the type of characteristics that make a product a good tradeshow giveaway.   After all, tradeshows are a significant marketing opportunity that giveaways can help you optimize.

Theme items:  Tradeshow organizers often establish themes for shows.  These themes can help focus exhibitors, differentiate one show from another and address emergent needs and trends .  For example, environmental consciousness is increasingly important to a wide cross section of consumers and companies alike.  Of course, environmental responsibility may mean different things to different industries.  To a utility company, it might translate to developing alternative energy sources while to retailer it might mean eliminating wasteful packaging.   Regardless of the industry, the theme can easily be carried over to their tradeshow giveaways by providing attendees with eco-friendly promotional products like recycled paper pens, corn-oil based pens, recycled rubber key tags, recycled note pads or even recycled pill boxes. 

While exhibitors may not be bound by a tradeshow’s theme, it is important to find out if there is a theme.   Not only can it give you ideas for the ideal giveaway but might also help you to avoid an inappropriate giveaways, like traditional plastic bags during an event focused on environmental responsibility.  

Even if the organizer of a tradeshow doesn’t have a theme, corporate advertising themes can be carried over into tradeshow giveaways.  For example, Wal-Mart might giveaway a happy face stress reliever representative of their price cutting mascot, Verizon might hand out map imprinted pens to tout their coverage area,   and Sony might promote their new 3-D televisions by giving participants 3-dimension imprint pens.   Giveaways based on a corporate advertising theme can be highly effective.  When a tradeshow attendee later sees a commercial for Sony’s 3-D TV, they’ll remember the pen and who they met at the tradeshow. 

Even in the absence of a tradeshow or corporate theme, employing a theme for your booth can be a great way to capture attention.  Travel agents might create a Caribbean theme with staff wearing custom logoed Hawaiian shirts featuring their embroidered logo, booths decorated in a tropical motif, banners imprinted with palm trees and giveaways like custom lip balm or flip flop key chains.   They might even use traffic builders.  A Prize wheel might enable the travel agent to add some higher value giveaways to the mix like a voyager travel pack while a scratchers promotion could feature a cruise as the grand prize!

Eye catching & engaging items:  Getting noticed at a tradeshow filled with other exhibitors and throngs of participants can be a challenge.  There are really two basic objectives here.  First, you have to get the participants attention and then you have to keep it long enough to deliver your “30 second elevator pitch” and capture their contact information.  Once again, promotional products can help achieve both objectives. 

Items which are brightly colored, make some sound (though not too irritating), move or encourage interaction are among the best giveaways.  Having your staff using products like the Promo Popper which can fly several feet into the air is sure to get people to pause and look, and probably want to try it themselves.   Better yet, they’re also brightly colored.  Magnetic Sizzlers which clatter when tossed into the air will attract attention and keep it long enough for a lesson on how they work.   The brightly colored Amoeba which “splats” flat when thrown on a hard surface and then rolls itself back into a ball is something that not only makes people stop to look but also want to try out.  Make it part of a contest and you can toss in some higher value promos into your mix!

Immediate value items:  Tradeshow attendees spend hour after hour walking from exhibit to exhibit trying to take in as much as they can and pick up those brochures and giveaways along the way.  So, why not give them something that will make their tradeshow journey a little easier?  That’s a giveaway that will give them immediate value and leave them with positive impressions of the exhibitor who supplied it! 

Logo imprinted totes are great tradeshow giveaways because they give attendees something to haul all those brochures and giveaways around in.  After all, it’s not like Mardi Gras where they can just wear all the beads around their neck.  Another great thing about totes is that attendees are walking around the show displaying your logo on the tote the entire time!  A key thing to remember about totes is that smaller totes can end up being stuck inside the larger tote!  If you want your logo to be seen as the participants walk around the show, get a large enough tote so that it’s not going to be the one stuck inside.   

Food also tends to be a popular tradeshow item.  People tend to push themselves at shows to get through it all and don’t stop to have that usual snack mid-morning or mid-afternoon.   Why not give them some candy in a customized wrapper featuring your logo, a custom logo chocolate bar or even a custom logo cookie?   Offer attendees logo cups filled with some refreshingly cool water, especially if it’s an outdoor event on a warm day?    While a bit riskier of an option but with great potential payoffs, custom ponchos can be hugely popular in the event of rain at outdoor events.  For those who exhibit at outdoor events frequently in rainier climates, it could be a great giveaway to keep on hand.

Long term value items:  These are the items that people will want to take home or back to work with them because they find them particularly useful or innovative.  This is a bit broader category of items which may be more easily tailored to the tradeshow’s industry.  For example, custom golf balls and golf tees would be perfect giveaways for a golf industry related event.  Music download cards or music download dog tags would be great for a consumer electronics, music industry or event planning show.  Custom pill boxes could be ideal for the medical industry.   For more general events, giveaways that offer longer term value could include higher quality pens, calendars and desk accessories for the office.   Of course, there’s always beads!