Opinions & Editorials

Swag Madness

By Carolina Raciti



Have you been to any of the trade shows that take place at the Moscone Center? Or any other convention center venue?

My personal experience has been mostly attending one huge conference per year that takes place at Moscone. In this event, tech companies participate and so maybe this is why things get so out of hand with the swag extravaganza.

The amount of swag is so incredibly large, it makes me just wonder how this is impacting the world. There are all kinds of items branded with company logos, from t-shirts to keychains, pens, water bottles, stress balls, bottle openers, bags, lip balm, packing cubes, backpacks, notebooks, socks, mints, thousands of stickers (if not millions), and whatever can be imprinted with a logo. It’s like tchotchkes or Knick Knacks galore (as my boss used to say) and of course, most of these items, if not all, come from China. Some are so cheaply made they don’t even work properly or break easily after one try.

I just cringe at the amount of waste we are generating. A few of the items can be useful, ok, but most of them are not, and also the amounts are so exaggerated to get cheaper prices, that I have seen lots of leftovers that need to be dumped or recycled, because the companies either revamp their branding and change logos, or they simply don’t get to use all of it, before they are getting into the new things. It’s like fast fashion, but seems to go faster sometimes.  

The worst is to see all the waste when companies have to just dump it. As new marketing campaigns come along, not only have they wasted lots of money and time on these items, they are now polluting.

Of course, I think my opinion won’t be very popular with the folks that work in Marketing departments, and even less popular with the companies that provide swag as their main service, but coming from an environmental background, I just can’t believe my eyes when I see all of this normalized madness, and this is just one conference!

If I try to imagine the many events and conferences around the US and other countries that do this, my head might just explode. I know other countries don’t go overboard like this with swag, but I am afraid these trends can catch on and spread. Plus I have seen that conferences and trade shows have picked up since the pandemic is now mostly over, and lots of events are returning in full force.  

From doing a quick search online I found this posted on August 2021 here is the article:


“In 2017, Swag.com generated $1.1 million in revenue. In 2018, they grew that to $3 million. In 2019, they did $6.9 million. In 2020, they were on pace for $14 million; however, the pandemic caused their growth to slow. In 2021, they expect to generate $11 million in total revenue”

Per the article, the company got one big order from FB first, but then the one that pushed them to be such a huge business was an order from WeWork, specifically for their t-shirts, which then brought them tons of customers.

During the pandemic, all events were off for this industry. The business slowed down, although some companies still send swag to new employees that work from home, or custom gift baskets for special holidays, etc.

I would love it if there is a consensus or guidelines on this topic, for example, no more than X amount of swag can be provided by the expositor and the quality of the items needs to have certain standards, or something of the sort.

Maybe people would also appreciate them more, as they know it is just a limited number of items, and this way maybe they can be really good quality items that will work fine and be useful. It’s worrisome to see so much trash in the oceans and the landfills and we as society just keep behaving in this manner, it may seem harmless for some but deep down we are  literally trashing the world with unnecessary stuff.  

Hopefully Marketing Faculties in Universities and Marketing experts could take a look at how they are implementing and teaching marketing campaigns, and can come up with fresh ideas addressing this situation and that can be more in tune with the environment. 

The Guardsman