My co-worker and friend, Roy Graber, wrote a blog on WATTAgNet about his love of baseball caps collected as swag at trade shows. As a cowboy, he has ample use for sun protection. Graber may stock up on caps as he starts the convention season with the International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE) in Atlanta, Georgia. While IPPE had a pet track, the majority of of pet food industry events remain to come this year. Pet food producers, equipment fabricators, ingredient suppliers and other businesses are planning their own booths and selecting goodies to distribute. What kind of swag appeals to pet food professionals?

Pet stuff seems to work well, considering the demographic. Nearly everyone I’ve met while covering the business-to-business pet beat has owned a dog, cat or other pet, which means they might actually use pet product hand-outs from booths. Whether it’s a collapsible water dish or poop bags, I’ve either used or re-gifted pretty much every useful pet item I’ve collected at trade shows. I wonder if it’s possible to make a laser pointer that shoots out a logo? Watching a cat frolic with a company’s logo seems like it would build good feelings towards that brand.

The most important thing to me is that those pet items, or any other swag, actually work. One personal peeve is stuff that was never really built to work, just look like something nicer. It’s a marketing fail when swag is a piece of junk, especially considering the importance of sustainability to many in the pet food industry. Crummy stuff not only annoys people, it’s a waste of resources and source of pollution, particularly plastic do-dads that end up swirling in the sea or choking albatross, sea turtles and other marine life.

Speaking of sustainability, I’ve received numerous supposedly reusable swag bags that tore apart after a few uses. You seriously do not want your logo to be what someone sees after a torn bag drops a jelly jar onto the kitchen floor. The entire point of a reusable bag is to reduce waste, not cause it. Heavy-duty canvas bags not only provide free advertising, but may build subconscious associations of dependability and strength with a brand.

Similarly, little pocket tool hand-outs are often too small to really fix anything. The blades and scissors usually are made of soft steel that dulls and deforms after even light use. I do have a small, multi-head screwdriver that I got as swag. I especially like it because one of the heads is a star bit. Practicality is a great attribute in swag, so make sure there’s a bottle opener or cork screw.

Keychains aren’t appealing, since I’ve already got enough bulky keys in my pocket, especially with a smart key and tracker, like a Tile, attached. Stickers are just advertising, without much other use, so I don’t pick those up either. Notepads are often too small to be useful, or too much of the paper is covered with a logo.

What’s your favorite bit of swag?

NOTE: One reader has mentioned a shortfall of cat products in the swag bounty. 

Ethical issues of collecting swag

Pens and pencils are always useful to a reporter, especially one with an artistic family. However, some journalists avoid taking anything from people who could be sources for or subjects of articles. I have to avoid taking anything that would actually influence my reporting or seem to show a preference for a particular company. However, I just don’t value a canvas bag enough to make it change my reporting. Patches make fine logo covers too. I avoid using branded swag in a professional setting, except of course for Petfood Forum items.

Get reusable bag loads of sweet swag at Petfood Forum 2020. Petfood Forum conferences and exhibitions serve the global pet food manufacturing industry. The current portfolio of shows include Petfood Forum, Petfood Essentials, Petfood Forum Asia, Petfood Forum China and Petfood Forum Europe. Petfood Forum events deliver opportunities to learn the latest research and innovative information on pet nutrition, global pet food market growth, pet food safety, processing, packaging and much more - all from leading, recognized pet food industry experts.