Make the Most of Your Marketing Budget with Branded Swag

Chloe Ayres
July 12, 2024

A problem I’m currently facing as a Director of Marketing is hiring. In each interview, we ask our candidates what they think the three most important challenges are in marketing today.

My answer to this question is how to accomplish hyper-personalization at scale, how to navigate the updates to privacy laws and their effect on digital marketing, and finding even one candidate that mentions the privacy laws. 

All of those answers are ones that are rooted in my personal experience. However, the problem that comes up more than any other in this conversation is breaking through the clutter.

My solutions to this problem? Lasers, non-dairy creamer, and Legos.


The thing that makes lasers different from other light sources is something called spatial coherence.

Spatial coherence allows a laser to be focused to a tight spot, enabling applications such as laser cutting and lithography. Spatial coherence also allows a laser beam to stay narrow over great distances (collimation), enabling applications such as laser pointers and lidar.

A laser is strong enough to cut through physical barriers because of its focused energy.

A study from Bain & Company said that 81% of marketers said that segmentation was a critical tool for growing profits, but fewer than 25% believed their companies used it effectively.

In addition, according to the study, “Our analysis shows that, over a five-year period, businesses that successfully tailor product and service offerings to desirable customer segments post annual profit growth of about 15%. By contrast, companies that fail to connect the right value propositions to the right customer segments realize annual profit growth of only 5%.”

“Concise, segmented information about a customer base eliminates the need to spend excess funds revising a market strategy and greater efficiency in translating a company’s message to its target audience. Less spending means more time and funds to focus on other aspects of the business.”

So, what is a laser?

A laser is targeting your ideal prospect so specifically that your messaging is able to cut through physical barriers.

Non-Dairy Creamer

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked me, if I could have ten thousand hours of experience in any discipline, what would it be?

My initial response was software development, which seemed practical and applicable to my current position.

After thinking about that answer for a while, however, and the general state of the world right now, I changed my mind. 

My new answer: apocalypse survival skills. We might be on the brink of collapse as a society, and I truly have no idea how I would acquire ten thousand hours of that skill without just being able to have them in the blink of an eye.

This sent me down a rabbit hole of what items I would need in my “collapse of society” survival kit. The one item that came up over and over again was non-dairy creamer.

So, why is non-dairy creamer an essential item for your bunker?

First, long-term instant milk can be purchased by the bucket, #10 can, or by the case. This version of powdered milk may last for up to 20 years. Secondly, it can be combined with several other items to increase the ways you can grow, raise, or prepare. Lastly, it provides vital proteins and nutrition!

In summary, non-dairy creamer is a practical, useful, shelf-stable item with diverse applications.

According to Pew Research, YouTube is the most widely used social platform, with over 81% of people surveyed reporting that they had used YouTube. YouTube is the most commonly used online platform asked about in this survey, and there’s evidence that its reach is growing. Fully 81% of Americans say they ever use the video-sharing site, up from 73% in 2019.

Furthermore, YouTube is used daily by 54% if its users, with 36% saying they visit the site several times a day. By comparison, Twitter is used less frequently, with fewer than half of its users (46%) saying they visit the site daily.

But social media is not the only digital outlet that sees greater success with utility. The Search Engine Journal says that Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines say that high-quality content has the following features:

  1. Highly useful – Useful content serves a purpose for the reader. It should provide something of value for them. That can be as simple as providing information on a topic they want to know about, or as complex as solving a specific problem for them.
  2. Highly relevant – Relevance in content is key. If your piece of content is not relevant to the reader’s search intent for the keyword you are targeting, you will not rank.
  3. Strong E-A-T – Google wants vetted experts who know their stuff populating the search results – not know-nothing non-experts who just want to rank. Proving your E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness) is non-negotiable in high-quality content

So, what non-dairy creamer in your marketing strategy?

Instead of targeting your ideal prospects with the sexiest messaging, target them with messaging that will stick with them because of its utility and practical application.


Everyone loves Legos. Young or old, whether you’re building the Death Star or a small village from four blocks, the principles of design and connection are the same.

Also, through each Lego experience, each person experiences their company value of Learning Through Play.

The Learning Through Play model is based in five development competencies—social, creative, cognitive, emotional, and physical—and the three-phase learning process of connection, exploration, and transformation.

The simplicity of their design allows for differing levels of complexity with the same building blocks.

Legos are able to utilize flexible and simple design to allow their customers to build a complex message.

Now 63% of purchases have more than four people involved — vs. just 47% in 2017 — and they can include different buyer roles — champions, influencers, decision makers, users, or ratifiers — from multiple departments.

So, what role do Legos play in your marketing strategy?

Legos are building blocks that provide your prospects with simple, easy-to-understand, well-designed building blocks for a self-directed buying process.

Branded Swag and its role in your marketing strategy

Branded swag can help you cut through the clutter by bringing physical objects into a digital space. What better way to disrupt the digital buyer journey than getting a non-digital item in front of them?

As the Director of Marketing of a company that manufactures branded swag, there are a few pitfalls that, from experience, are both common and easily avoided.

The first category of mistakes that people make when ordering branded promotional items is logistical. What is the context in which your prospect will be receiving your product? 

Most of the time, the prospect is receiving this item when they are away from home, more than likely a plane ride away. Is your branded swag item TSA approved? Can it be carried home on a plane? If not, you might want to reconsider your choice.

People come in all shapes and sizes, and your promotional product should make them feel immediately connected to your brand. If you provide an item that does not physically fit them, they feel immediately alienated from your brand. Purchasing a one-size-fits-most item, or an item that does not require sizing, will help mitigate that risk.

A common fallacy is that swag needs to be a walking advertisement on the prospect to other people. The conversion that you are after is the prospect. How can you make a lasting and personal impression on the actual prospect, and not fleeting impressions on random passers-by?

The second category of pitfalls that I commonly see are pitfalls that compromise the ROI of the branded swag item that is ordered.

Trendy items or items with short life cycles are here for a good time, not a long time. Very few of us are still playing with fidget spinners, but a lot of us have received them. Are you mirroring the lifetime value of your prospect with your gift, or are you concerned about the first impression only?

Items with short life cycles can mean consumable items or items that are designed to only last for a short period of time, but it can also mean low-quality items that break quickly. This happens when marketers invest in quantity over quality. Could you accomplish the same ROI by targeting your prospects more specifically with higher-quality products?

Lastly, buying branded promotional material for one hyper-specific message limits your ROI because it increases your initial investment. Using your branded swag as a building block in several prospect journeys allows you to get the best price for your item at the best quality. And, if one particular message does not work as well as intended, you don’t have to completely cut your losses.

What is effective branded swag?

In short, effective branded swag is all three: a laser, non-dairy creamer, and a Lego.

A laser is Branded Swag that you have identified will enrich your prospect’s life specifically.

Non-Dairy Creamer is Branded Swag that your prospect will go back to, again and again, because it is useful and will stand the test of time.

A Lego is Branded Swag that can be a building block in several user journeys, but still feel purposeful and integral to the success of that customer.

Can any one item solve all of these problems?

I think so. :)

A custom sock that is a branded swag item that is a laser, non-dairy creamer, and a lego.

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