How Great Swag Turns Customers into Loyal Brand Ambassadors


Consumers are bombarded with digital advertisements and online marketing content every time they go online. These tactics have become so common that many people tend to tune them out.

If you want to transform customers into brand ambassadors, swag might be the best option for you. Even in the digital age, promotional products remain a highly effective way to target audiences and establish brand relationships. Here’s how to create memorable, modern swag that earns loyal brand ambassadors.

Consumer Expectations

There’s no debating it: consumers love free stuff. But could it be true that your customers expect you to give them something? As explained by Brains On Fire, they just might. In multiple studies, consumers said that they expected some sort of promotion or freebie in exchange for liking or following a brand. At the same time, few of the CMO’s surveyed said that they thought their customers expected something in exchange for brand engagement.

This shows that there’s still a huge market opportunity for brands to connect to their audiences by meeting their expectations through promotions. It also shows that there might not be many other brands in your industry giving away swag at random, and that there’s an opportunity to surprise customers with swag when they aren’t expecting it.

Aligning Swag with your Brand

From t-shirts to tote bags, branded swag has the ability to forge a lasting and memorable impact in the minds of consumers. But if you don’t choose the right items for your customers, you could be missing out. That’s why it’s important to make sure your swag is well aligned both with your brand and your needs.

Kristie Notto, author and host of the podcast Be Legendary, says that you can choose something that aligns with your brand’s theme. Since she’s promoting a book called Ignite Your Impact, branded lighters would be a great way to reinforce their message. Aside from aligning swag with your brand message, ThriveHive points out that swag should cater to your customers’ behaviors and fit into their lifestyles. Think about it this way: if a piece of swag is irrelevant to someone, why would they even want it? Instead, put yourself in the shoes of your customers and think what they might really want. As Corporate Specialities puts it, swag provides an opportunity to impress your customers and elevate their brand experience to the next level.


Successful Swag

Creating love for a brand can be equated to building a sports team following. Stephanie Wheeler of Boundless explains that the most successful brands build communities around their brand. Regardless of where people come from or what they do in life, they can all unite around their same love for a sports team. Similarly, brands can help cultivate this feeling by helping people unite and come together around a shared item.

So what kind of swag creates a sense of community? As pointed out in Monaica Ledell’s website Truth Hacking, the best swag is memorable, shareable and useful. When your swag achieves all of these elements, it’s much more likely to stand out in consumers’ minds and make an impression. We recommend checking out how Zen Pup does this.

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Successful swag evokes emotion in the hearts and minds of consumers. To create this emotional connection, your swag should be customized. The Noise Lab suggests providing a selection of related, yet differentiated items to let customers to choose what they want. This allows you to create a conversation with people, asking them why they chose what they did. Once you open up this door to conversation, you can also ask people to share their swag on social media and spread the word to their friends. This creates a stronger experience with your brand and helps the consumer feel connected to it.

You can also tug at your customers’ heartstrings by personalizing your swag. For example, crowdSPRING suggests creating handwritten notes and messages that help customers feel important. It’s easy to send an email, but email has become such a common way to communicate that it can feel impersonal. Since people rarely take the time to write handwritten letters, doing so shows that your brand truly values that customer.


The best swag is that which delivers immediate recognition and shareability. Caroline Ruggerio at Marketo says that wearable swag provides immediate returns because it showcases your brand to other people in the real world. Glasses, hats, socks and shirts are all easy pieces of swag that can feature your logo. Badges and patches are another way to incorporate wearability into your swag while standing out from others.

No matter what you give away, it’s important to think outside the box. How can you really wow your customers and keep them coming back for more? For example, brands can try appealing to consumers by giving away recycled and reused products rather than new ones. Since today’s consumers are more socially and environmentally conscious, they may not want to take home disposable items they’ll only use once.

For example, fair trade, eco cotton shirts printed with a fun message can be part of the perfect Instagram photo. Or, you can turn to items that promote sustainable behavior, like reusable lunch bags and water bottles. This can help you stand out from your competitors and create a social buzz around your brand, all while reinforcing your values.

brand ambassador


According to Orange Label, “eight in 10 consumers own between one and 10 promotional products, six in 10 keep them for up to two years, and about half (53%) use a promo item at least once a week or more often.” What’s the differentiating factor between swag that’s kept, and that which is discarded? Usefulness. If your swag doesn’t provide benefits for your customer, it isn’t going to last.

Carrie Melissa Jones, Founding Partner of CMX, uses the example of Lululemon to show how a win-win strategy works. The activewear brand sends free swag to its brand ambassadors, who then wear these clothes in social media posts. Lululemon also helps these ambassadors promote free events in stores, which entices potential customers and creates strong relationships between ambassadors and the brand.

Swag and Your Bottom Line

It’s clear that swag can make people happy and excited in the short term, but can it have lasting impacts on your bottom line? When done correctly, it absolutely can.

Digital marketing and social media agency Brand & Mortar explains that giving away swag is a method of initiating reciprocity. When a brand gives away something of value to a customer, they subconsciously generate in that customer a desire to give something in return. Even when this doesn’t come in the form of an immediate purchase, people who receive swag are often more likely to follow a brand on social media, sign up for their newsletter or check their website more often. This means they’re more closely engaged with the brand, which now has more opportunities to reach this person in a sales funnel.

You can also use swag to impress new customers and transform them into loyal ambassadors. SessionCam recommends giving away free swag to users during an onboarding process, or right after they’ve made their first purchase. This sets a positive tone and makes people feel good about their decision to buy your product. You can involve your customers in raffles, giveaways and other exciting promotions that show you value their business.

Jodi Shapiro at the Pardot blog says that swag sends a message of reliability. “You’re building a relationship with your client that goes beyond selling them a product or service they need.” As a result, your buyers will trust you and remain loyal to your brand. Instead of browsing competitors when they’re in need of a product or services, they’ll head straight to the brand they already trust.

Images by: Pexels, StockSnap, Amîlcar Vanden-Bouch

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