Design is Everything.

In this series on how to start your Swag campaign, we’ve covered the basics. Everything from the scope of the project including deadlines, budget and intended goals. What we haven’t talked about yet is design. Design is everything. AND more importantly, it’s crucial to ask the questions you might not be thinking about.

swag bag ideas for business

For example, let’s look at t-shirts. Do you want a certain kind fold? What about having the shirts poly bagged? Size stickers on the poly bags?

These are examples of the final touches on any product design. Another way to look at it could be chargers. If you’re wanting to get some chargers branded for your company, did you think about the packaging? Often times these come in standard white boxes. Would you want the box customized?

It’s all about the first experience the recipient has with your company swag. As you can tell, we are still continuing with the theme of reverse engineering and starting with the end in mind.

Here is how we tackle design, at ValueBP

  • Packaging
  • Markings
  • Essentials

1. Packaging

Let’s start with the packaging…

Most pieces of swag come with some sort of packaging. Now, when I use the word “packaging” I’m using it somewhat loosely. Is putting some sunglasses in a polybag actually packaging?
While technically that is the packaging; it doesn’t really give you that wow experience. Now, let’s think about socks. Socks have been a popular swag item in recent years. In fact, there are so many options as to what types of socks you can get that the packaging options are just as great. If you don’t specify special packaging for your socks, then they’ll likely just be polybagged the same way sunglasses, bottle openers, and other small inexpensive items often are.

Socks are a high-end retail item tho… stay with me here… have you heard of the brand Stance? Stance has dominated the sports industry in recent years with partnerships that allow them to put graphics of NBA legends and other athletes on their socks. You can go to most hip shopping stores and find Stance socks in their collection. I prefer Strideline myself. Strideline is an up-and-coming sock company in the swag industry. Anyway, whether you do Strideline branded socks or from any other manufacturer you have the option to add retail packaging vs. just poly bagging. This adds a higher perceived value and thus gives the recipient a more meaningful experience when first engaging with your branded socks.

The next most common example to use for packaging is the classic white boring box. So many items are packaged in plain non-branded boxes. That’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with it. But, check out this packaging design from our friends at Origaudio. What would you prefer a boring white box or something cool like this?

2. Markings

What does “markings” even mean?

Well, have you ever noticed how apple designs their products? If you have an iPhone or any apple product for that matter, try taking the phone out of its case (if you have a branded case)…

You’ll notice it’s got a subtle and small marking that reads something like “Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China”.

Why is this important?

First of all it’s subtle and you barely even notice it. Believe it or not but there are factories within the Swag industry that put in a bright colored font and sometimes large something like “Made in China”. I have seen sunglasses that said “Made in China” on the exterior of the frame. That means it’s even in the place of where your recipients could see it. Usually you want to hide these markings.

It’s important that your Swag advisor knows where the markings are, because you probably wouldn’t think of asking questions like this. AND let’s be real, most Swag that’s ordered is ordered last minute and there isn’t time for you to get a sample in your hands.

Secondly, let’s look at the “Designed in California” strategy. Oftentimes, businesses like to support local. Meaning that we look to work with other businesses more or less in our general area. However, when it comes to ordering promotional swags, most of the items come from overseas. We do have quite a large variety of options for USA made but if you just want USA made that narrows the product choices drastically. SO, if you do end up choosing an overseas item why not take the apple approach and add “Designed in” and enter in your City or State. There’s no harm in that. See legally, the factory needs to print the place of origin but there’s nothing saying that you can’t stake your claim on where the product was designed. Afterall, you are designing the product when you strategize your art and imprint information going on the branded items you choose.

3. Essentials

This is the easy part. Let’s go back to the t-shirt example. It’s extremely easy to design a basic t-shirt…

First, what color shirt do you want?

Second, what is the message you are trying to convey?

Let’s use an easy example and say you want to giveaway shirts at a conference with your company logo on it.

Well, a cotton/poly shirt is not only a fan favorite for the softness but it’s also a more economical option than a tri-blend. It’s important to choose a shirt that’ll be a “fan favorite” because when anyone goes to their shirt drawer they choose the shirts that are most comfortable. You want your shirt to be in your recipients “rotation”.

Now, that we have the color and the style of the shirt – what’s going to go on it?!

We’re promoting your company. Let’s say you don’t have a huge graphic design team and limited time to make artwork. So, we can’t get cute on this and do some cool design that reflects the city like an ocean wave if you’re in San Diego or another beach destination. A simple and easy choice for a lot of companies is a large imprint of your company logo across the chest.

That’s great, but we don’t want to be a billboard do we? Think of a Charcoal Grey shirt with a white imprint of “ABC Company” on it. Doesn’t matter how soft and comfortable the shirt is, if you don’t love the company the shirt probably won’t make it to your rotation. So instead, let’s take the tone on tone approach.

Tone on tone is when you print similar colors together to get a subtle effect. For example, that Charcoal Grey shirt is now going to have a black imprint to make it tone on tone. It’s subtle and classy. The idea isn’t for your recipients to be a walking billboard for everyone else to see your brand. Rather, your recipient is your target market. They are the ones that attended the conference, not just anyone off the street. Your goal is to get your brand in front of them. So now they don’t feel like they are a walking billboard and will wear your brand more often as a result.

Now, that’s Success with Swag(ger)!

When it comes to designing your Swag items, it’s important to go over these questions and think about these type of scenarios.

To help you, here they are again outlined…

  1. Packaging: How will the items be packaged? What do you want your recipients to feel? Is a white cardboard box or a folded shirt good enough or do you need a custom branded box or a poly bagged shirt to give your recipients that extra touch?
  2. Markings: Where is the product coming from? Are you okay with it not being USA made? Do you know where the markings are on the products? Can you get a picture of it? Do you want to take the “designed in” approach?
  3. Essentials: What color item do you need? How many locations do you need printed? How many colors? Do you want to be a walking billboard or retail inspired (subtle and cool).

In our next post, we’ll be talking all about artwork. Everything about art requirements to tips on how to use VA’s to get art made quickly.

If you’re ready to take action and start a project, email me! (

Some of our custom promotional items are featured on our ValueBP website.

Swag On,