I recently went to use a pen that I got at a conference from a law firm service provider. It’s my favorite pen. It writes perfectly, it never leaks, it has the perfect consistency and it is a bright color, so I can always find it in my purse.

On the flip side, I have another pen, from a top 10 Am Law ranked law firm with profits of more than $3 million per partner per year that ran out of ink the second time I used it. It’s flimsy and plastic. I was surprised that a firm of this caliber would give out hundreds of these pens to their clients, recruits and prospects.

It’s incredibly important that each touchpoint your target audience has with your brand is truly reflective of your brand.

That means even the pens you hand out at a conference (when we go back to conferences), the coffee you serve, the way the bathrooms look and the tidiness of the reception areas (including ensuring the plants in the reception area are healthy looking) need to be well thought out.

And the kind of swag (or promotional items or tchotchkes as I prefer to call them) you choose to represent your company is much more important than you may think. It’s part of your outward facing brand and can be an easy way to gain positive visibility for your organization.

Let me give you an example. I was a guest in a summer share a few years ago in the Hamptons. One of my housemates walked into the house wearing a baseball hat that said “MoFo.” I said, “do you know what that stands for?” and you can guess yourself what he replied. I told him that MoFo was actually a global law firm. He was shocked. He said he had been given the hat by a lawyer friend of his about 10 years prior and didn’t know (or ask) what the abbreviation stood for. He just assumed it stood for – well you know what.

This is a great example of how the wording and branding on a swag item can make all the difference.

Once I told him MoFo was the name of a major law firm, the hat lost its “cool” quotient to him. Later that summer I saw his once beloved hat thrown on a heap of beach gear in the basement. The MoFo hat had been demoted.

Company SWAG is the abbreviation of “Stuff We All Get” (I personally didn’t know that until I researched this article). It is free stuff and giveaways that employers give out to their current employees, alumni, recruits and clients.

As with so many things in marketing, one size doesn’t fit all, so it’s important to have multiple promotional pieces from which you can choose. Many firms keep closets full of promotional items and have an online catalog to make it easy for employees to choose items when they need them.

It should go without saying that your company branding should appear on every promotional piece.

So, how do you choose awesome company swag that your clients and other target audiences actually want?

There’s a huge difference between being thoughtful with your company swag items and just putting your company logo on the cheapest or coolest items you can find. The benefits of doing the former go way beyond what you might think.

Investing in high-quality swag has the potential to earn you extra brand impressions, build awareness, cultivate strong company culture, and build good rapport between your brand and your prospects.

  • Make sure it’s well-made: The number one rule when considering company swag is making sure it’s high-quality. While the initial excitement of a new or free thing might last a week or so, if it’s not something of true value, people will be over it just as quickly. When you take the time to pick out swag items that are worthwhile, people are going to use it far beyond the first week, giving your swag more longevity and the chance to garner more impressions. If it falls apart, so does your reputation.
  • Think outside of the office. Find something that is useful even outside of the office – it doesn’t always need to be a pen or a flash drive!
  • But sometimes the tried and true works. I have an umbrella from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison given to me for Employee Appreciation Day many years ago when I worked there. This is the Mercedes Benz of umbrellas. It still works after two decades! It even has a cool wind technology that doesn’t allow it to bend during crazy storms. I carry it with me whenever there’s a bad rainstorm. We always had high-end umbrellas stowed away as giveaway items at several law firms when it rained for client events. Don’t underestimate the power of a good quality basic like an umbrella or a tote bag. Just put your logo on it so you get free publicity. You want your brand to be associated with high-quality items, because you are a high-quality company.
  • Keep your company culture at the forefront when choosing swag items. This one really doesn’t need an explanation. Make sure the items you select truly represent you and your organization.
  • Consider thoughtful details. When planning what kind of items you want to order for company swag, think about which items you can use to relay small details about your company and/or its culture.
  • Make sure your logo/brand name is on each item – and that it’s not too big and not too small. Remember promotional items are walking advertisements for your organization. I still get stopped on the street sometimes when I wear a tote bag from one of my prior law firms – someone will inevitably ask me if I am a lawyer and it’s a nice starting conversation point. I am not a huge fan of doing special logos for an anniversary or special event – I think it’s smarter from a brand and cost perspective to stick to the basics, especially if you are not a household name.
  • Extra points if you can work yourself (or your clients) into the item. Intellectual property law firm Amster Rothstein & Ebenstein has one of the coolest promotional items I’ve seen in years. It’s a metal straw – but it’s not because it’s trendy as a metal straw – it’s because they helped the client obtain the patent for that straw. They actually have the patent number on the item – which is super cool too. So, if you did something novel like this – by all means please use it as your promotional item. And if your clients create items that you can use – even better. Why not support them? It helps to build stronger relationships. One of my prior firms had a program where they would source promotional items and startups from small businesses the firm represented. What a great way to support small businesses and your clients!
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Taking the time to pick out the right swag will enhance your brand and reputation, promote your company culture and promote positive buzz your organization.

I’d love to hear more about the promotional items your firm is using.

Stefanie Marrone advises law firms of all sizes, professional service firms, B2B companies, professional associations and individuals on the full range of marketing and business development consulting services designed to enhance revenue, retain current clients and achieve greater brand recognition. She also serves as outsourced chief marketing officer/marketing department for smaller firms. Over her nearly 20-year legal marketing career, she has worked at and with a broad range of big law, mid-size and small firms, which has given her a valuable perspective of the legal industry. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her latest writing on JD Supra.