Responsible Gifts and Tradeshows

Several times a year our clients ask us for advice on identifying the best giveaways to offer at tradeshows. Whatever you choose to call them — corporate gifts, swag, or tchotchkes — people want to know what is currently in fashion, vogue, hip or cutting edge this year. Considering that the tradeshow industry has the dubious honor of ranking second only to the construction industry in the amount of waste it generates1, it’s not surprising that people have been increasingly asking us about how they can choose environmentally responsible gifts that will help build their brands while minimizing the environmental impact.

Our response depends upon the venue and audience. Sometimes we recommend against tchotchkes altogether if we feel that the audience won’t appreciate them. However, most people attending tradeshows enjoy getting something tangible to walk away with, especially if it has a perceived usefulness (or fun factor!) either for the attendees or their families, friends and co-workers.

The traditional challenge is identifying tradeshow gifts that will:

A. Catch people’s attention. (Novelty response trigger)

B. Provide attendees with something that they will show to other attendees and drive traffic to our client’s tradeshow booth. (Bragging rights)

C. Provide tangible future benefit to attendees so that the gift will be regularly viewed and reinforce goodwill toward our client’s brand or services. (Functional durability)

Recently, another gift trait that is becoming increasingly important is:

D. Environmental impact of the gift, either in terms of its functionality in the life of its user and/or the gift’s “cradle to grave” or “cradle to cradle” product lifecycle. (Social/environmental impact)

While many might argue that the environmental impact of a few hundred gifts is insignificant when compared to large industries that pollute, the actual impact of even a few gifts in relation to the immediate neighborhoods in which they are produced can be huge.

Annie Leonard in The Story of Stuff2 identifies that the ACTUAL cost of many manufactured products is not reflected in their purchase cost. For example, that nifty $1.00 tchotchke may only cost us $0.99 to purchase; however, the cost to others and the community where that item is produced can often be far greater. Other people are unwittingly subsidizing our purchases because manufacturers fail to include the costs of pollution in the sale cost of their goods. Local people near manufacturing sites have to pay the higher healthcare costs, bottled water costs, and degraded quality of life costs as a result.

Fortunately, our clients are starting to recognize these hidden costs in many of the more traditional tradeshow giveaways, and are demanding more socially and environmentally responsible gifts. VerbFactory is thrilled to be part of the solution and we enjoy researching and helping our clients find the optimal and responsible gifts for their brand-awareness needs.

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