Check My Swag

One of the more intriguing and amusing aspects of preparing for a business conference like Domopalooza [1] is trying to gather swag. There are a lot of popular misconceptions about swag, especially the way that most people know it (aside from the carpet material, that is). There have been a variety of rap songs that have popularized the notion of swag referring to the accoutrements of the rapper lifestyle, otherwise known as bling. When a rapper asks someone to check their swag, they usually have in mind the sort of peacocking visual display that involves chains, gold teeth, and the like. Now, like any other case in which I demonstrate an awareness of the gangsta lifestyle, this seems to greatly amuse people who know me, since it would be difficult to be more painfully white than I am, despite my somewhat complicated life history [2]. At any rate, the mental image at least some readers have about my commentary on swag so far is of a somewhat awkward and dorky looking balding fellow dressed in khakis and a patterened button-down short sleeved shirt typical of what I wear to work with some gold teeth and a few chains.

This is not, of course, what I mean by swag [3]. During my days as a college student, when it was much more common for me to go to conferences related to my engineering studies, I was a keen collector of swag. If your company booth at the conference had a stress ball, a corporate themed notepad, or some pens, or something of that nature, I was going to visit, chat a bit, and collect that swag. Of course, I never had any swag to bring, but I would definitely take it from others, and relieve it from the generally willing booths of the engineering companies that populated such conferences. Now, of course, as a corporate guest of a conference, I have to wonder how much swag to bring, as my associate coming with me is not the sort of person to show an interest at all in such matters. As someone who has a keen interest in making a trip pay for the company I work for, I will be bringing some business cards to mark notes about the people who I drink shirley temples with [4], some pens, a nice glass I might use myself since it has a handy top, and a swag bag that I hope to fill with the loot collected from others. No doubt others will have even more elaborate swag to share.

What is the point of swag as marketing paraphernalia? At least as I think of it, swag is made up of momentos that are designed to stick in one’s mind. When I squeeze a stress ball with a globe which is labeled with a company, there is a subtle association between that company and stress relief, or relaxation. Alternatively, the place could be stressful enough that its employees, and prospective employees, need to be concerned about their ambient stress levels in day-to-day work. At any rate, the physical good is designed to trigger a memory, like a photo of a family member or friend or loved one brings up memories of time spent with that person. Likewise, a momento of a company would be a subtle sort of commercial that brings the company name to mind, hopefully in a positive way. This is the same sort of low level marketing that I prefer to use with my own writing, blogging about what I care about in such a way that people are reminded from time to time of my existence, and subtly encouraged to find out what I am thinking about or doing right now. It is an approach I prefer because it does not tell me what to think about something, it just provides me with enough material for my mind to make associations as necessary.

Today seems in general to have been a day for swag. Not only did I collect the swag for my upcoming business trip, but as it happens, surprisingly, Costco came in selling membership cards. Since I already go to Costco for my eye doctor [5], and since it is on the way home, that adds at least a few items to the sorts of purchases I can make there, and at least another shopping option so that I don’t have to rely on scheduling shopping excursions with friends who do have the card, as I have had to do in the past. This is, to say the least, a bit more convenient, and I will have to go in and see what is available that I already use. The membership swag and reading materials are something that I will have to add to my list of reading materials, to see what kind of deal it provides. I suppose if you have paid for it, though, it cannot fairly be considered swag, but merely has to be considered as consideration. Sometimes, though, the difference is hard to tell.



[3] See, for example:

[4] There are at least two other people I have seen who have tweeted about looking forward to drinking shirley temples with me, one of them saying it reminded him (or her) of childhood.

[5] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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