Tchotchkes.  Swag. Trinkets.  Promotional items.  These are the tiny items that fill the bags trade show attendees drag around.   Often the goofier the better.  Light-up balls, flashing pens, flashlights, eyeglass holders, phone cases and notepads, all proudly displaying your logo and brand messaging.

So where does the tchotchke stand in the digital age?  Is the online marketing manager as interested in them as the trade show manager? There are online alternatives, but it seems the tchotchke lives on.  There’s even an industry association, the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), which puts on an annual trade show in Las Vegas. They don’t seem to call them “tchotchkes,” however.


Branded pens and note pads are still part of the office landscape.  They do their jobs as reminder of your branding.  Trade shows wouldn’t be the same without them.   Upper level giveaways can be a nice thank-you to customers and partners.   Here are some ideas to get the most from your tchotchke investment:

  • A durable, quality item will sometimes last for years.  It’s not uncommon for a good pen or letter opener to sit on someone’s desk for years.  There are also other kinds of tchotchkes that have a shorter life.  When given the choice, go for the longer lasting giveaways.
  • Make sure your branding is visible.  There’s no purpose in the whole promotional giveaway strategy if your branding and message is too small or otherwise hard to see.  Yet some portion of the bounty from any show will illustrate items that violate this.
  • Clever gets attention at trade shows.  Giveaways that are different or that match your message well will enhance your trade show presence.  A unique tie in with your name, tagline or message will help folks remember both.
  • Things that can be easily mailed can serve a dual purpose.  If you get items that come in their own package or are uniquely ready for mailing, they can be sent to customers, prospects, partners, etc. quite easily.  It makes purchasing a larger quality easier when you can use them both for trade shows and for mailings.
  • Tchotskies have become digital.  The mobile app, for example, serves very much the same role and many of our phones are as full of them as bulging trade show bags.  They provide amusement or function and carry the provider’s branding.  Can also be great tie-in with trade shows or premiums given in exchange for contact info.
  • Make sure they get given away!  Branded promotional items don’t do any good packed in boxes in your storage area.  They are only really doing their job when they are in customers or prospects hands.  I am always surprised when I see people hording the giveaways.  Give them out!  Make sure they get used!

Often dismissed as junk, promotional merchandise done well can help distinguish your brand and add to your name recognition.  Don’t miss this important opportunity to spread your brand.  Take a moment and do it right! Long live the tchotchke!

What has been your best promotional item?  Have any favorites from other companies?

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