Virtual swag bags:

What does promotional gifting look like in the age of social distancing?

With the live events industry going digital for the foreseeable future, many brands, marketers and event organizers have been left wondering how to create lasting branding experiences that would typically take place in real life.

A core component of any in-person event is the physical take-home products attendees leave with. You might be surprised to hear that promotional gifting translates surprisingly well to the online space. Think about all the times you’ve attended an event and received multiple promo packs. Inside is maybe one thing you do really think is cool, a few items that are nice to have, and then a bunch of things you will probably never use and just end up throwing out. Even though physical gift bags have always been considered a bit special, the virtual swag bandwagon has a lot of benefits (and creative opportunities) to create far more memorable moments that are eco-friendly while leading to lasting brand engagement, minus the baggage.

Resonating with everyone from tech nerds to green thumbs, here are a few ways to create those ‘take home’ brand experiences via virtual goodie bags in the age of social distancing.

Keep it simple

The golden rule when planning an online event is to ensure the experience you are offering is straightforward and to the point; the last thing you want to do is confuse your attendees by trying to do too much, especially when it comes to your swag.

Typically an IRL gift bag includes branded products like USB sticks, t-shirts, water bottles, pens, coupons for discounts and product samples. Virtual items tend to veer towards coupons, discounts, online courses and contests for things that can either be sent to them, or redeemed online. Try to stick to no more than four or five so each one doesn’t get lost in the noise. Most of us are spending a lot more time at home, so it would be wise to invest in things or experiences that don’t require your attendees to leave the house.

Get personal

Bespoke gifts are always a hit. From coffee cups to t-shirts and water bottles, there is plenty of merch that can be customized. Giving your attendees the chance to unleash some of their creativity by customizing a design is a great way to get them to interact with your brand and spend more time on your website. If design or tech are at the core of what you do, then this is a great chance to show that off by getting them to create something for themselves using your platform. Another option is to provide a ‘build-your-own’ style swag bag. Attendees can pick and choose what they actually want without getting stuck with things they’ll never use.

Tell a story

Regardless of the type of event you’re hosting, but especially if it’s a film premier, your swag should always relate to the narrative you are trying to tell. Think of it as a take-home continuation of your event’s story. Everything should come full circle and leave your guests feeling like all the dots have been connected.

Utilize technology

The global augmented reality market is expected to reach $60.55 billion by 2023, and for good reason. Brands should look to Asos’ virtual catwalk for inspiration for how guests can recreate a live event experience that can be enjoyed from anywhere at any time, so long as they have a smartphone and an internet connection. Something like this can easily be incorporated into your digital swag by making it accessible only to your attendees. Brands can even create bonus experiences that can be unlocked the more attendees interact with their platform — the possibilities are pretty endless here.

Build loyal brand advocates

If you’re a live-streaming service like Netflix, Amazon or Spotify, a complimentary subscription to your platform would no doubt be used and greatly appreciated. The brands that offer the most value during this unprecedented time, will be ones that we remember. You’ll likely find yourself with some loyal brand advocates for years to come from now on.

Make them feel like a VIP

Creating unique and ‘first’ experiences in your digital goodie bag is a great way to make your attendees feel special and more likely to engage with your brand after your event. Perhaps you could grant access to a VIP hidden virtual green room via a code with added perks like free alcohol delivery and one-on-one video sessions with spokespeople from your company. Keep in mind that your audience is likely filled with early adopters so giving them access to content, products or services that are not yet readily available to the public, will make them feel like a VIP.

Entertainment brands could partner with known artists to offer attendees access to unreleased music, and food companies could provide samples of soon-to-released products before they hit store shelves. Offering complimentary access to beta services you want to test out will not only provide you with invaluable feedback while you get it ready for market, it will make your guests feel like your brand is not only listening to them, but also values their opinion.

Be organized

Once you’ve decided what you’re going to put in your bags and when you plan to deliver the goods (before, during, or after your virtual event), you’ll want to make sure your your bags are easy to find — some options include having it live in your app (if you have one), text message, your website, sent to them via email or by QR code; many brands choose to include a combination of these methods.

Going digital also means you can now direct customers to your website, focus on lead generation opportunities and track how popular and useful your swag really is. Look to tools like Virtual Event bags or Fanomena Events that include reporting dashboards to document how frequently your virtual bag is opened and which items are redeemed and used the most. Multiple visits mean you can offer a new brand experience or get a new product in front of users every time they open their bag. 

Make it charitable

Community is more important than ever. As a brand, how can you give back and make it engaging for your audience at the same time? Partnering with a number of charitable organizations for your attendees to choose from in their swag bag for your brand to donate to on their behalf will be both empowering and show your brand’s sense of humanity. If a financial donation isn’t feasible you could offer your brand’s products or services (if relevant) to their chosen charity.

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