The Psychology of Bad Trade Show Swag


When your potential customer decides to throw your trade show giveaway item in the garbage can, something happens, psychologically. Sure, it’s only a micro moment. A split second in time. But that quick rejection of an undesirable product attached to your brand can cause a negative impact on your brand image, especially if it’s a first impression. Force yourself to imagine this: your swag, laying on top of trash in the middle of a garbage can. Shiny, new, with your logo and a little mustard on it from a half-eaten hot dog. Sorry for that. But the truth is, micro moments like this happen regularly at trade shows, and the juxtaposition of a new giveaway item with your logo on it, treated as trash, can be quite memorable. If you ran a focus group, what do you think people would say about your brand after seeing that? How would they describe their feelings about your brand in the moment that they decide to toss your swag?

How many times have you thrown away something that was so cheap and useless that you said, “I can’t believe they actually spent money on these things.” Then you laugh and toss it. (Unless you’re the hoarding type, in which case useless swag is piled up somewhere and you give it to kids as a “present.” But I digress.) There might even be a certain satisfaction we get from throwing away another company’s giveaway item. No? Yes. Because this is a race and we’re all in it. And when another company wastes their money, it means you’re probably ahead, or winning. “At least I didn’t waste company money on THAT.” But we can’t blame them for trying. We’re all trying.

We’re hoping we might hit the swagpot again.

Contrarily, many of us do still have something we’ve snagged at a trade show that’s smart, unique, attractive, but most importantly—it’s useful. It’s the keepers, those few free items that really connect with us, that stay at the forefront of our mind. It’s the keepers that continue to stoke the hope that we’ll get another useful gem at the next trade show. Isn’t that the only real reason we continue to accept trade show swag? We’re hoping we might hit the swagpot again.

Does that mean we need to spend big money on expensive swag gifts to bribe our potential customers? No. We just need something that’s quality, useful, and potentially addictive. The most popular item we see that reaches this level of giveaway swag is Worthy premium lip balm. SPF 15, beeswax, aloe vera, coconut oil. People go crazy over the stuff. Once that premium lip balm hits their lips, it goes straight in their pocket every time. They use it over and over, because it’s so darn good. And when they twist that stick for the last time and discover that it’s almost gone, they read the label to see who they need to contact to get some more. Yes. It’s that addictively good. In fact, some people have saved the empty stick instead of throwing it away, because they plan on getting some more.

“I’m addicted to this lip balm. I like it better than my ***** lip treatment balm and I didn’t think I would ever say that. Please NEVER STOP SELLING THIS! Thanks, Jenn”

Custom Lip Balm with Personalized Label by

So, when that lucky trade show attendee studies the Worthy lip balm label one last time, searching for someone to contact, will it be emblazoned with your brand? To order yours, and to see what else we offer that’s trade-show worthy, visit us online.

See how easy it is to customize your own lip balm.