A blindfolded man shooting a bow and arrow in the opposite direction of the target
31 January 2024

Poor Planning Creates Most Conference Swag Waste

Reducing swag waste is about sustainable sourcing and addressing improper usage. Even if eco-friendly products are selected, if they fail to generate results, they become wasteful for both your budget and our environment. To avoid this, it's essential to have a solid marketing plan rather than just slapping your logo on items in hopes of exposure.

Conference Swag is Only a Waste of Money When it is Misused


Conference swag can be a valuable marketing tool when used strategically. A well-designed promotion can leave a lasting impression on potential customers and clients, creating positive associations with your brand. It can increase sales, recruit star employees, reduce insurance costs, and even save an endangered forest.

The effectiveness of a promotional marketing campaign hinges on various factors, including the product's relevance to the intended audience, the narrative it conveys, and the distribution strategy's efficacy. Inappropriate use of promotional items, such as distributing them to the wrong audience, failing to elicit action, and neglecting to measure results, can result in a squandering of resources.

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Sustainability Applies to Your Product Choices AND Your Budget


It's crucial to remember that sustainability involves more than just the production process of a product. For the long-term sustainability of your marketing budget, it's essential to prioritize effective strategies that consistently generate actions, sales, donations, or recruitment candidates.

In terms of product choices, sustainability should be a key consideration. Using eco-friendly materials, reducing waste in production, and ensuring ethical labour practices will not only contribute to a better world. It can also improve how people perceive your brand and attract sustainability-conscious consumers. 

Conference Swag is Unwanted When It's Untargeted


To ensure the success of your promotional gift-giving, it's essential to consider the interests and needs of the recipients. Distributing irrelevant and untargeted swag could lead to it being unnecessarily wasteful. For instance, offering hemp t-shirts to office professionals may not be received well (I've seen it). Conversely, providing branded water bottles to sports teams or outdoor enthusiasts can be highly practical and appreciated. Investing in swag that will have a positive impact and not end up in the trash is crucial.

A blindfolded man shooting a bow and arrow in the opposite direction of the target

Instead of just giving away pens or notebooks for free conference swag, require your audience to take action to receive them. For example, they can only receive the product if they:

1. Attend an event or seminar

2. Sign up for a free trial or subscription

3. Share your social media post or follow your page

4. Refer a friend or family member to your business

5. Leave a positive review on your website or social media

By making your giveaway conditional upon a specific action, you increase engagement with your audience and encourage them to take action that benefits your business. This approach will attract more qualified leads, build brand loyalty, and drive sales. Plus, it will help you measure the effectiveness of your promotions and evaluate the ROI of your marketing efforts. So, next time you plan a giveaway, make it more meaningful by requiring action from your audience. 

You will waste less swag, less money and less time, guaranteed!

Marketing Plan That Includes ROI


A plan is the best promotional gift you could give your boss or shareholders.

Your plan should include, at the very least:

• What is your goal?

• What do you want the product to do to advance your goal?

• Who is your audience? Who do you need to reach?

• What do you want them to do to receive the product?

• What will you consider a success?

• How will you measure how many people took action?

• How will you follow up with leads?


Prioritizing Sustainable Swag Choices Avoids Brand Fill & Landfill


There are multiple ways to minimize your environmental footprint while enhancing brand recognition and customer loyalty through deliberate product selections and partnerships.

• Choose renewable materials, such as organic cotton, hemp, or bamboo. These materials have a lower environmental impact and can be recycled or biodegraded at the end of their life cycle.

• Use eco-friendly packaging, like recycled cardboard boxes or biodegradable bags. This reduces the amount of waste generated and helps to conserve natural resources.

• Communicate your commitment to sustainability: highlight your sustainable materials, your reduced environmental impact, and the positive social and environmental impacts of your sustainable practices.

• Partner with eco-conscious organizations, like the Nature Conservancy or WWF, to promote sustainable merchandise and communicate your commitment to conservation.

• Offer green merchandise as rewards, such as environmentally-friendly tote bags or reusable water bottles. This encourages customers to adopt sustainable behaviours and increases brand loyalty. Read: Our 10 Eco-Friendly Promotional Product Choices 

Stop the Giveaways.  Require Action!


Giveaways at trade shows or events are primarily a waste of money because so few exhibitors require any action to receive them. So they mostly attract time-vampires & freebie-seekers, neither of whom will help you grow your business or make any difference to the success of your recruitment campaign or cause marketing goal.

a screenshot on a smartphone of the Simple Leads exhibitor app

• Green Credibility: Are they jumping on the green bandwagon or have a proven track record?

• Marketing Awards: Just because they are gentle on the planet doesn't mean they can deliver results that make a promotion sustainable for your budget. 

• Sustainability: Ensure they use renewable materials and production methods. Ask for details on the materials used, such as recycled or organic cotton, bamboo, or biodegradable materials.

• Evaluate their supply chain: Check if they partner with ethical factories or manufacturers. Ensuring that the workers involved in the production process are treated fairly is essential. Look for standards such as WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production) or FLA (Fair Labour Association)

• Read reviews and references: Check online reviews or ask for references from other companies that have worked with the supplier. This will help gauge their reputation and customer service.

To sum up, the main reason for swag waste is incorrect usage. Selecting eco-friendly items without achieving results can result in unnecessary waste and expenses for your business and our environment. Hence, it is crucial to have a well-thought-out marketing strategy and prioritize ethically sourced products with minimal environmental impact. With careful planning and targeted efforts, you can significantly reduce the amount of unwanted promotional items and attain better results for your company.


Q: What is conference swag waste?

A: Refers to companies' unnecessary or improper use of branded merchandise or promotional products. It usually results in many swag products being thrown away or left unused.

Q: What is the cause of conference swag waste?

A: Swag waste is primarily caused by the over-distribution of promotional products at events, trade shows, and conferences. Many companies give away branded merchandise without considering if it will be useful to the recipients, whether it aligns with their values, and without any way to measure its effectiveness.

Q. What are some examples of sustainable promotional products?

A: Many alternative promotional products can help reduce waste that is not useless swag. Check out our top ten here

Q: What is the impact of promotional waste on our environment?

A: Marketing waste can have a significant impact on our environment. When companies give away low-quality or cheap water bottles or other disposable products, they produce more plastic waste that harms our environment and compromises the health of humans and wildlife. Every year, North Americans throw away more than 1.6 billion single-use pens. (EPA). Cutting B2B catalogue production by half is the carbon equivalent of removing 2 million vehicles from the road yearly. It would also save approximately 23 million trees. 

How to Choose a Supplier to Deliver Results for Your Brand & Our Planet


If you're looking for a supplier who can assist you in achieving your marketing objectives and sustainability goals, consider these helpful tips.

Sustainable conference swag is sustainable for our planet and for your budget. A photo of an orhanic cotton t-shirt and corn cellulose pen with a call to action.
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Strategy Reduces Marketing Waste For Your Budget & Our Planet

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