2021 Swag Trends
The promotional products industry has undergone a fundamental shift, like many other industries impacted by Covid. With the industry traditionally driven by live events, traditional workplaces, and long established customer/client relationships, we’ve seen enormous impact to how companies are utilizing promotional products, corporate gifting, employee reward and recognition, event swag, and much more. Here we’ve identified the top trends and industry changes, and how successful distributors have embraced these changes to emerge from the pandemic better positioned to serve their customers than ever before.
Events Gone Virtual!
Among the most significant impacts to our industry has been the shift from live events to virtual events. From outdoor summer festivals to conventions to trade shows to live sports, live events have historically been a huge driver for our industry. This was a scary shift at first, but has led to the rise of virtual events, and with them, the creation of “Virtual Event Kits” which have been a huge focus for us at Imprint Engine. As events have gone virtual, event organizers have recognized the importance of maintaining a physical touchpoint to differentiate their events from “just another zoom.” We’ve seen an enormous variety of creative virtual event kits over the past years, and they generally have the following in common:
Customization is key
Most virtual event kits aim to deliver “an experience in a box” that captivates the imagination of the recipient from the moment it lands on their doorstep. That means custom packaging (fully decorated boxes, custom tissue paper, custom packaging tape, custom colored crinkle paper, etc), custom decorated goods/gifts, and gourmet food items sourced from local makers.
Make it useful
The components of these kits are intended to serve an actual function for the event they are complimenting. We’ve seen some incredibly creative items included in these kits, including things like beverages/food, confetti/streamers, wine glasses, and other items intended to be used or consumed during the events. We’ve also seen kits include technology items to enhance the event experience, including professional grade headphones, microphones, web cams, and scent diffusers, all with the purpose of making a virtual event more immersive and engaging for participants.
Simplify the logistics
Virtual event kits tend to have a lot of moving parts, including: variations for different recipients based on their role in an event (sponsors, attendees, presenters, internal vs. external participants, etc.), address and data collection, many components being pulled in from different vendors often being sourced by different parties involved with the event, the actual kitting and packaging to make sure everything is superbly presented to the recipient, and finally the shipping/tracking to ensure everything lands in time for the event. At Imprint Engine we’ve developed a number of technology advancements to streamline this process and make it seamless for all involved, for example, custom event landing pages where participants can order a kit customized just for them.
Work From Home – Employee and Client Gifting, and new employee onboarding kits.
As offices have shut down and remote work has become the norm, it’s become more important than ever for employers to maintain a connection and company morale for employees who no longer interact at the office, for new hires who have never been to the office, and for clients who can no longer visit. How do you foster a team mentality or make a new employee feel welcome if they aren’t coming to an office every day and don’t physically interact with their coworkers? It’s critical in today’s environment that new employees feel welcome and connected from day one, and the best way to do that is send them a custom “Welcome Kit” before they even start, containing company branded swag, useful equipment to set up their home office, and everything they need to start out on the right foot. You also want to maintain continuity with existing team members and continue to make them feel like they are part of a team, and a valued member of the company. You also don’t want your clients to forget about you since your team isn’t able to do the usual visits, meetings, and outings. All of these things can be accomplished with thoughtful and well executed swag kits, tailored to the individual, and delivered directly to them in the comfort of their own home.
Many of the same “rules” of virtual event kits apply to employee and client gifting:
Customization Is Key
Companies are looking to deliver “an experience in a box” that captivates the imagination of the recipient from the moment it lands on their doorstep. That means custom packaging (fully decorated boxes, custom tissue paper, custom packaging tape, custom colored crinkle paper, etc), custom decorated goods/gifts, and gourmet food items sourced from local makers.
Make it useful
Functionality is key for these kits, giving people items that are useful in a work from home environment, such as web cams/lighting, bluetooth speakers, noise canceling headphones, mouse pads, desk caddies, and other functional items to make the work environment more effective/efficient, such as aromatherapy diffusers, candles, white noise machines, slippers, etc. It’s also great to include some food and beverages that people can enjoy remotely with their co-workers, further fostering the team spirit and feeling of togetherness.
Simplify the logistics
Just like virtual event kits, work from home or client kits can have lot of moving parts, including: variations for different recipients based on their role in the company, address and data collection, many components being pulled in from different vendors often being sourced by different parties involved with the project, the actual kitting and packaging to make sure everything is superbly presented to the recipient, and finally the shipping/tracking to ensure everything lands with the intended recipient. Sending to home addresses can also be more difficult than bulk shipping to one commercial location. At Imprint Engine we’ve developed a number of technology advancements to streamline this process and make it seamless for all involved, for example, custom landing pages where participants can order a kit customized just for them, picking out their own swag, selecting their shirt size, entering in their own shipping information, and more.
Ethical Sourcing – Environmentally Friendly, Mission-Driven, and Minority Owned Vendors
The past few years of pandemic, social tragedy, and environmental disasters such as record global temperatures and wildfires have forced everyone to start thinking more responsibly when it comes to selecting their products/vendors, with a major focus on sustainability, mission driven companies, and minority owned businesses.
Imprint Engine works on an ongoing basis toward using products & services that have a minimal impact on the environment. Our core philosophy is to create swag and products that people want to not only use, but actually keep, hence minimizing any negative impact to the environment traditionally associated with the promotional products industry. We’re committed to working with vendors, suppliers, and manufacturers that adhere to this same philosophy and the strictest environmentally friendly production standards. We currently work with over 100 vendors and suppliers that are eco-friendly in their offerings and production practices with a focus on sustainable production methods and materials.
We pride ourselves on being both conscious of our practices toward a sustainable future for generations to come and our actions toward protecting the environment and reducing our carbon footprint on the world. This includes using eco friendly packaging and shipment methods whenever possible, using biodegradable packaging, and limiting our use of plastic whenever possible.
Our areas of focus in vendor and product selection are focused on the following attributes:
Products made primarily of or are 100% Organic ingredients and materials.
Products made primarily of post consumer recycled materials or upcycled from scraps of previous products.
Products that are biodegradable or compostable without leaving harmful long lasting waste in our landfills and oceans.
We primarily work with vendors that comply with and are members of one of the following: Fair Trade Federation, Fair Trade America, the World Fair Trade Organization, or Fairtrade International.
Made from renewable resources
Products made from renewable resources such as bamboo, cork, and hemp.
Made in Minnesota or The United States
We do our best to source and work with as many local companies as possible. This includes companies that operate out of our home state of Minnesota and The United States in general. This helps reduce a product’s overall travel time to get to us and cuts down on emissions transporting products from around the world.
Products that can be used over and over again to replace their single-use disposable counterparts.
We like to support minority and women owners striving for success, with products they produce here in the US, or source elsewhere, particularly in developing markets where they help raise women out of poverty.
Third Party Certification
Reputable third party certifications and recognized labels from government entities and non governmental organizations (NGOs).
PPE – Return To Work/Back To Business
With the timeline for returning to offices still uncertain, employers are spending a huge amount of time and resources preparing for maximum safety when their employees do physically return to the office. Having proper safety protocols and equipment in place will expedite the return to offices and minimize the potential for additional outbreaks and the need to return to remote work. People will not feel safe returning to work without the right resources and equipment in place, so it’s a high priority for companies to source PPE equipment and be prepared for their employees to return to the office.
Return to Work PPE KIts: Making it safe, functional, and on-brand
Many companies are preparing PPE kits that will be sent out to all employees before they return to the office, or waiting for them on their desks when they arrive. These kits are generally including similar items such as:
Some are disposable, but most are including a handful of company branded reusable masks, with a focus on quality and comfort.
We’re seeing a variety of hand sanitizer being used, but generally a desktop pump style for each employee to have at their desk, along with some smaller pocket/purse sized containers.
This can be anything from UV phone sanitizer units to wipes with disinfectant, to antibacterial wipes, and more.
PPE kits don’t have to be all doom and gloom, and we find most of our clients like to include some fun items to welcome people back to the office in addition to the PPE. We’ve seen a lot of items that can fit on the desktop, like desktop organizers, phone chargers, mouse pads, succulent plants, and even treats. In Summary, having a custom branded PPE kit shows employees that you care about their safety, and have invested in equipment and a plan to make sure they are returning to a safe environment.