Promotional swag has a deep history in world culture, although it has been less significant in American culture until recently.
The first written reference to Swag comes from William Shakespeare, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which Buck’s character asks, ‘What cannabis plants do we brag about here? “
19th century British thieves also commonly used the term “booty” to describe stolen goods.
The term “booty” did not spread to the American cultural scene until the 1970s. The term “bag of goods” joined the American lexicon after computer professionals began using it to describe the free stuff they received from technology companies at industry conferences.
Talk of “gift bags” at Hollywood Awards shows has pushed the term deeper into popular culture, and rapper Jay-Z immortalized the term “swag” in a song called “All I Need” in 2001.
Americans embrace free stuff
Now, a new survey from Vista Print shows that more than half of Americans love getting products from the brands and 51% use them regularly in their daily lives.
According to the survey, the quality and usefulness of free merchandise matters to US adults, with sustainability also being a big “feel factor” among consumers.
Here’s more study:
- 80% claim to have received a promotional product from a brand.
- 53% say they like receiving promotional products.
- 51% use promotional products in their daily lives.
- 83% have worn or used a promotional item from the companies they work for.
- 34% consider sustainability an important factor – and 32% consider it important that the product is locally made.
Americans will also go to great lengths to take advantage of some free gifts.
According to the survey, people are more likely to write a positive review online (40%), recommend a brand to others (40%), and follow them on social media (39%) if they get merchandise.
Nearly half (49%) would prefer receiving merchandise from small businesses while 46% enjoy receiving promotional products that they can use regularly.
T-shirts, pens, mugs, water bottles, headphones, handbags, and sunglasses top the Vista Print survey as the favorite swag. Bands, bookmarks, koozies, and beanie hats are at the bottom of that list.
Why Convergence for Free Swag?
The allure of free swag lies in this loaded term “free,” marketing experts told TheStreet.
“The brand-made merchandise typically can’t be purchased in-store,” said Joe Karasin, Head of Growth at CircleIt. “So when a brand or company is thinking about making their swag look great, it can be a nice way for the person who owns it to stand out and feel trendy.”
For promoting products and brands of a company through reviews and referrals in exchange for free swag, doing so excessively can be a red flag for the consumer.
“In some ways, it can be almost addictive,” Karasin told TheStreet. “It depends on what you are being asked to do in exchange for the booty. But I can’t think of any examples of places that have been harmful to anyone.”
Self-esteem also contributes to the booty hunt, since for many people the desire to match with a well-known brand is too good to be resisted.
“Americans love to associate themselves with well-known brands,” said Pearly Drinks co-founder Filip Pejic. “Nike, (NKE) Gucci, The North Face (VFC) They make their brands look great, and people do their best to buy from these brands and flaunt them. If they can do it for free, they will seize the opportunity.”
Clothes can be expensive, so free T-shirts and hats can also help with the family budget.
“A free shirt or a cheap hat is great when you’re running errands, need a shirt for a night out, or any other casual reason,” Bejek said. “You really can’t buy this kind of product in a regular store.”
In the end, over-seeking for goods does not seem to be much of a problem, for amusement is as much a hobby as it is anything else.
“It feels great to get something for free that you feel you should have bought,” Bejek said. “It’s harmless fun, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”