Swag, Tchotchke, Bauble: 7 Things To Consider For Event Giveaways

Event Marketing


Earlier this year I attended Content Marketing World in Cleveland, Ohio representing Curata as its CMO and hoping to learn best practices in content marketing from other marketers. That said, I also had a special mission assigned to me by three very important people–my children. I needed to bring back the best tchotchkes that the event had to offer.

In case you’re unfamiliar, a tchotchke (choch-key), according to Wikipediais “a small bauble or miscellaneous item. It can also refer to free promotional items dispensed at trade shows, conventions, and similar large events”.

Event tchotchkes are some of the most hotly contested items amongst marketers as part of the event planning process. Each company wants to stand out at events and have the best tchotchke can make a huge difference.

As a frequent attendee of marketing conferences, I’ve come across my fair share of these items; some are full of utility, while others inevitably find home in the nearest trash barrel after their receipt. In fact, there are several things that I consider in the three to five seconds between a vendor offering me a tchotchke, and when I politely respond with a “yes” or “no thanks” :

1. Utility:  What can I do with this item either now or when I get back home?  How much value will this item add to my existence?  (Yes, there’s some deep thought that goes into deciding whether you’ll need to “lug” an item 3,000 miles home and then spend the next 3 months trying to extract yourself from someone’s email database).

2. Financial Value: How much would this item cost me in a store? Perhaps it’s a pure impulse item that I would never buy for myself, but I would love to have it.

3. Uniqueness: Wow, not sure what I’d do with it or even what it is, but it is cool!

4. Business or Personal Use:  I could really use this as a gift for my kids!  Or, perhaps it’s something that can help improve my work productivity.

5. Size and Weight of Item: The older I get, the lighter I like to travel.  My days of dragging a suitcase filled with gifts and Sake from Japan are over, either because I can get almost everything at home or because I’m not interested in herniating a disc over it.  If it’s a book, make sure that it’s a paperback and, even better, signed by the author.

6. Opportunity Cost: There’s no doubt that I’ll be getting several calls and emails from vendors that get my information at conferences. As a marketer, I’m certainly ok with this process if I want to hear from this vendor and if they are sending me valuable information as part of their nurturing process. However, I consider this “cost” in my decision-making process.

7. Desire to Live a “Logo-Free” Life:  I don’t mind an occasional logo on my USB drive or my kids’ toys; however, the last thing I want to do on my day off is put on a vendor’s t-shirt, (i.e., unless it has something fun and witty to say such as groove’s shirt displayed below)

Over the years, I’ve noticed tchotchkes often fall into a few categories like business survival needs (iPhone charger, USB drive), personal hygiene (breath mints, hand sanitizer), home utility (a bottle opener, corkscrew or water bottle), fashion (good bags, t-shirts), and self-improvement (an inspirational book). And, brands will keep experimenting with their giveaways to see what makes the biggest impact.

While I was on the hunt for great tchotchkes for my kids, I was also  looking for a fun treat for myself. I’d put regular food and drink into this category, (e.g., freshly brewed coffee, berry-infused water) which can make a big difference during a long day at a conference.

Which brings me back to my Content Marketing World trip — as the show was closing, I scrambled to gather some final items to bring home to my kids. The first score? Cotton Candy–I was in luck, they had a lot left over from the event and were happy give a bag or two to me. Unfortunately, there’s no way I would have been able to get it home without crushing it, so I had no choice but to eat it myself.

michael gerard

As a content marketer and curator, I’ve created an infographic about the tchotchkes referenced in this post.  I’d love to know what your favorite tchotchke is and why? How do you think about creating tchotchkes for your events?