What Makes a Conference Goodie Bag Truly Memorable?

What An Awesome Conference Goody Bag Looks Like

I’ve been to a ton of conferences, and although I’ve seen some nice swag bags in my day (not Oscars nominee-level nice, mind you), nothing has compared to the goodie bag pictured above, which came from the iFabbo social media conference last weekend. (Disclosure: I received a comped invite and took home all the swag you see above.)

Unlike your typical conference goodie bag, which is often overrun with corporate branded tchotchkes no one wants), this bag was chock full of products the attendees (beauty, fashion, and lifestyle bloggers) would be excited to use and talk about with their networks. In other words, it was an event goodie bag that made sense!

Stowing all these beautifying potions in my medicine cabinet got me thinking about how frequently goodie bag sponsorship ends up being a bit of a missed opportunity for marketers, and how to turn that around in a few simple steps:

1) understand your audience.

2) provide them with a product or service trial or indispensable item.

3) give them a way to continue the dialogue with you.

Understand your audience

OK, you’ve signed up to exhibit at or sponsor an event. Now what? Start doing your homework on the event attendees by finding out everything the conference promoters know about past attendees. Map that information to what you know about your ideal clients.

Find out if there are any pre-event networking activities, such as Twitter chats or webinars, and sign up. Even if you only participate as an observer, you’ll gain greater insight into your audience’s current pain points and recurring themes. This is exactly what you need to identify a targeted and exciting event giveaway item. A few questions to answer as part of this quest:

  • Is there a visual or written theme you can riff on?
  • Is there a special event during the conference that you could tie into?
  • What item is most indispensable to your audience in the day-to-day doing of their jobs?
  • At the end of the first day of a multi-day conference, what is the one thing attendees will wish they had in hand?
  • Does the location of your conference lend itself to giving away a popular item of local significance?
  • Is there a book on a related theme, or better yet written by someone in your firm, you can give to attendees?
  • What about a special extended free trial or discount for attendees?

Provide them with something they really want

News flash: no one was ever truly excited about getting yet another corporate-branded scented stress ball, no matter how innovative the shape.

The iFabbo blogger conference audience consisted of 300+ women who blog about fashion, beauty, and lifestyle topics and who were looking to learn more about social media, network with their peers, get the scoop on upcoming trends, and learn how to take their entrepreneurial efforts (i.e., their blogs) to the next level. And the giveaway items reflected that. There were full-size products, samples, product discount cards, product literature, and on-site giveaways to be had for bloggers willing to take a few minutes to interact with the brand ambassadors.

When attendees found out that Becca Cosmetics, a sponsor who also did a lunchtime demo, announced that they were including their new One Perfecting Brush in the goodie bags, the event attendees went wild — and chatted up a storm about it on Twitter. Talk about being on target for your audience! With your research in mind, think about what sort of relevant brand giveaway would get your audience talking.

Continue the dialogue

Don’t make the mistake of providing your audience with an amazing giveaway then not letting them know how to get in touch! In addition to whatever information might be found on the item itself, it pays to insert a special business card or postcard into the goodie bag with details on the giveaway item, your brand, and how to get in touch. It’s also a great place to put a discount code for future purchases from you.

But most importantly, you need to give them a reason to get in touch, such as a free white paper, a free trial, or a discount. You’ve gotten their attention, now you need to compel them to start a conversation.

What are some of the most memorable conference swag items you’ve seen? Let me know in the comments.

2 thoughts on “What Makes a Conference Goodie Bag Truly Memorable?”

  1. Hi Erika – My biggest concern as a marketer is the waste that comes from corporate tchotchkes: pens that don’t work, t-shirts that suck, laminated brochures that won’t get read, and anything plastic that won’t decay. There must be a greener, more useful way to do promotional giveaways – or really attendees shouldn’t take them at all!
    p.s. But good for you if you got some great facial cream in that goodie bag!

  2. I agree Risa– so much of the stuff that’s given out at trade shows never makes it home with the attendees. Especially the print collateral. That’s why one of my favorite giveaways is the free extended trial of a service instead of a brochure, or an exclusive research report delivered digitally.
    And yes, I did take home some amazing facial cream (Prai) in that goodie bag.

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