We have been getting a lot of questions lately about if swag is really worth the investment. At the beginning of the year when companies were doing really well, with crazy growth, hiring, and getting funded, this question was rarely asked. Now, flash forward to today with budget cuts and tech companies doing layoffs, it leaves a lot of people wondering if they should be cutting swag from their line item. It can be a tough decision to make because, on one hand, it can be an expense to a company but also on the other it can be an effective tool to drive revenue and employee retention. So that leaves us wondering, is the ROI of Swag - worth it?
Our team spotted a LinkedIn post from Alex Kracov, the CEO and Co-Founder of Dock, a startup focused on building unified, shared workspaces for companies, about the value of swag for companies, especially right now. This promoted our team to reach out to him to learn more about his thoughts on the ROI of swag. Especially now, in a time that seems like an obvious answer to cut swag spending.
Before we dive into the interview with Alex, let’s really break down the RIO of swag and if the investment is worth it, and how to really measure if you are doing it right.
Is Swag Worth It?
As an outsider, you may think swag is extremely wasteful. The entire industry is wasteful. To an extent, we at SwagUp agree. Swag can be a waste if you are not using it as a tool to engage, connect and promote your brand. For example, just randomly ordering shirts with your logo on them for it to then just sitting in your office closet with no clear use case or intention is wasteful. Now, ordering shirts for a new company merger to bring people together and make them feel unified, is valuable. While we would love to say let’s not order swag because it's wasteful, well then we would have to reconsider our buying habits for anything we buy. Birthday gifts, anniversaries, get-well-soon gifts, or welcome-home gifts can all be considered extremely wasteful. But those types of gifts don’t get that reputation, right? Why? Well because those gifts have intention. They allow us to show one another as humans, “We share this moment”. That connection is valuable. That connection is what is needed for us as humans to feel appreciated and part of something. Swag, when done right, is worth it, swag when done for just the sake of saying you have swag is not.
Furthermore, we have seen live examples from customers who share stories of employees feeling extremely welcomed and part of something bigger by the simple gift of swag. Here are a few examples we have collected from our customers. You can’t replicate this any other way. Swag makes the experience memorable and last longer since they have something tangible to bring them back to that moment they felt a part of something.
So we ask again, is swag worth it? Is the ROI justify ordering swag? We think these companies that used swag with intention got their ROI.
How to Measure Return On Swag?
When we think about measuring the ROI of Swag it might feel like something really impossible to measure, but in reality, it’s not. If you are measuring swag RIO for sales and marketing campaigns it's very simple to just add the cost just like any other campaign. We ourselves use swag to engage new customers and not only is it our best-performing campaign, but it also tends to attract the longest-standing customers. Why? They have something tangible from us, sitting in their homes. They wear our shirts to the gym and use our water bottles on their runs. Their children might have taken the notebooks to draw in. They are constantly reminded of the time we sent them swag before even placing an order with us or having to talk to anyone from our team. That creates value.
Now, let’s break it down for measuring swag for employees and culture. Well, how are you measuring your employee's morale today? Do you send surveys, are you retaining employees? Is turnover high? Are employees engaging with your social media teams? Are they actively talking about your company? These are all easy things to measure and you can see the impact of it when you send swag. Can you think of something that gets teams more excited than swag? Sure you can do a company happy hour or fun activities but swag lasts. It brings people together. Imagine joining a baseball team and they tell you they don’t do jerseys. Do you really feel part of the team after that? Swag can be an effective tool to help keep employees engaged. The key is using swag as part of the activation or activity. For example, an employee's first day or a company summit. Both of these events are meaningful, so why not give swag to make that memory last? It serves as a positive reminder of a time their employer did something nice. It also shows employees that you care for them beyond just hitting metrics and the company making money. Employees know it’s an expense to the company, so that sacrifice goes a long way to keep employees engaged and retained. I’m sure if you ask any employee at Google about their first day and the meaning of the “Noogler” hat. Being an owner of that hat holds value and it means something special to the employees at Google. Their swag is ROI positive and can’t log into Linkedin without seeing a Noogler post.
Now that we have broken down the ROI and how to measure the effectiveness of swag, let's get into our interview with Alex Kracov, CEO and co-founder of Dock, a startup focused on building unified, shared workspaces for companies.
We chatted with Alex about why he thinks company swag is important to crafting company culture, and how it can grow team camaraderie, even if it's something as simple as a t-shirt.
When times are tough, swag budgets are the first to go. Why do you think companies shouldn't just cut swag out for their employees?
Swag is a simple way to drive employee happiness and build loyalty. For $20, you can put a smile on an employee’s face. This is especially important when you’re not able to offer salary promotions or offer other more expensive perks.
What is it about Swag that builds company culture and strengthens the bond of everyone?
Swag is often a badge of honor for an employee or customer. It makes them feel like they are part of a unique community of people.
In the early days of Lattice, we all got branded Patagonia sweaters. It was a way to celebrate an important revenue milestone, but it also bonded this group of people together as the early Lattice employees. As the company grew, you knew that if you had one of these sweaters, you were part of the original people who started the company.
What would you tell other companies on the fence about making swag for their employees (or clients/customers in general) to make the investment?
Swag for customers is even more valuable than for employees. When you deliver valuable swag to customers, you’re able to create a repeatable brand moment that becomes part of the customers’ daily lives.
One time, I bought 20,000 coffee mugs that said “I Love Humans” on them and sent them to HR professionals around the country. It was an amazing marketing campaign that drove millions of revenue for the business. If you go visit offices today, you’ll still see these Lattice mugs around the office and on people’s desks. It was a great way for us to get a mini-billboard inside of offices and on our buyer’s desks.
What kinds of swag have you made for the Dock community?
Dock, my business, is in its early days, and we are already in the process of making sweatshirts and stickers for our employees.
When I worked at Lattice, though, we made a ton of company swag. We sent our people everything from t-shirts to sweatshirts to coffee mugs to fidget spinners. All in, we’d probably spent a million dollars over the years on swag for our employees and customers. Beyond the price tag of it, we wanted our people to feel taken care of and appreciated.
In short, if you are planning on investing in swag, it seems like now is one of the best times to do it. When employee morale is low and companies are having higher expectations from their teams, a simple thank-you swag goes a long way to make your team's day.
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