The 3 Most Important Ingredients for Broadway (or any kind of) Swag.

Even if you’ve never heard the term ‘swag’ before, you’ve still probably gotten tons of it throughout your life.

Pens, t-shirts, notebooks, and more, emblazoned with a company logo,  are just a few of the thousands of products available that brands giveaway to try and keep their products at the top of your mind.

Look through your desk drawer or purse right now.  Go on. Do it. I bet you’ve got something that some company gave you.

Well, let me rephrase that . . .

If the company that was marketing to you knew what they were doing when picking their promotional item, then you’ve got something some company gave you.

If you’ve got nothing, then make sure those companies read this blog.

See, swag, or “promotional giveaway items,” are an essential part of any marketing campaign, whether you’re promoting a Broadway show or a bank.  And a couple of days ago, I posted a photo on Instagram of a promo piece I got more than a decade ago (!) that is a great example of the type of product you should pick when promoting your show.  (What was that product? Click here and follow me to find out!)

The Insta pic got a bunch of likes and responses, which told me that I should do a deeper dive into what the most important things are that you should think about when picking a product to market your show.

Here are my Top 3 things I think about when I pick a piece of swag for my show.

1. Is it something my primary demographic would use every day?

Promo items work best when they are useful . . . not fancy.  They don’t have to be expensive. They need to be something that my customers will need . . . but (and here’s the real win if you can figure this out) they don’t want to pay for. Great examples that I’ve used in the past are travel Kleenex packs (for Godspell – they said “Bless You” on them), nail files, chapstick, hand sanitizer, suntan lotion, etc.

Clever and “cool” promotional items that only get used once and aren’t part of a normal routine of your customer’s day will just get tossed.  Remember, you are giving these away.  So the customer already has assigned a value of ZERO to it.  They will have no problem throwing whatever it is you give them in the trash . . . and your logo along with it.  #NotGood

2. Is it something my primary demographic would see every day?

Where does this item live?  If you can pick something that would sit on a desk . . . in eyesight . . . then your logo will slowly seep into your customer’s mind. Mousepads, post-it note pads, coffee mugs, refrigerator magnets that double as a to-do list or grocery list, etc. are all good examples of items-in-eyesight.

3. Is it something my primary demographic would keep?

The right piece of swag can be one of the lowest advertising investments you ever make that has the greatest return.  Some of these things cost pennies! Yet, if you can get your customer to keep them around for months or years (like Spamalot did with me), then the value of the investment only increases! That’s why, when you look at the options above, some of the examples that would run out quickly are NOT the best choices.  Because ideally, your item lasts and lasts and lasts.

We did Magic 8 Balls for this show.  You can bet I’ll do some of Joy’s hangers for her show (see here).

Ask yourself the three questions above when picking your promo item and you’ll be guaranteed to have something that subtly markets your show without your customer even knowing it’s happening.

And yes, try as best as you can to come up with something unique that is on message with the brand of your show (those Magic 8 Balls for the show about advice or my Godspell kleenex) . . . but unique isn’t the most important ingredient for swag.  Usefulness is.

What is your favorite piece of swag that you’ve given or received?

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Want more marketing tips?  Click here to learn best practices about marketing your show and more at the TheaterMakersStudio.

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.