A graphic of a Starsight Communications superfan wearing branded swag.

To swag or not to swag? How giveaways can support your analyst relations strategy.

You might have noticed last month that our Twitter timeline was taken over by a hot debate in the analyst relations industry: to swag or not to swag? We saw industry analyst input from a host of firms, including Gartner, Constellation Research, HFS Research, Gigaom, Otter Advisory and VDC Research

Ever been to an event and received a backpack of free stuff, only to have those giveaways (aka swag) sit on a shelf and gather dust? Or maybe you’ve been gifted something that seemed useful, but fell apart the first time you used it? Or maybe you were lucky and you got something free that has lasted and become a staple in your life? 

If you work as an industry analyst, you’ve likely had at least one of these things happen. Probably even all of them, and more than once! If you work in analyst relations, you’ve likely given out gifts like those described. Hopefully yours fell into the last category…

A Starsight survey of analysts and AR pros gave us valuable insights on industry best practices. Analyst giveaways contribute to the AX (Analyst Experience) and a source of questioning for many analyst relations (AR) professionals. And yet, there’s some surprising disconnects between AR and its audience. Read on for more.

Perception is everything.

There is a perception gap between analyst relations professionals and industry analysts when it comes to swag. When we asked if swag is fun or overdone, we saw that twice as many industry analysts compared to AR professionals felt swag was overdone. A gulf this size of differences in opinion means that it is time for the analyst relations industry to reevaluate giveaway strategies.

Chart displaying the answers to the survey question "is swag fun or overdone?" With 2x the amount of analysts saying overdone than analyst relations professionals.
20% of AR Pros think swag is overdone compared to 42% of industry analysts.

AR pros need to have clear objectives when offering giveaways to analysts during events –or it might  simply be a waste of time, money and resources. 70% of analyst relations professionals said that they send swag to thank analysts for their time when swag can do so much more as an AR tactic. What’s more –90% have no metrics for swag success. Developing relevant KPI’s for your swag tactics is a surefire way to understand why you are sending it and to ensure you send thoughtful swag rather than thankful swag.

Pictogram showing that 90% of analyst relations professionals have no KPIs for swag
90% of AR professionals have no KPIs for swag

Swag with style.

Our survey asked the hard hitting SWAG questions: would you rather have quality goods or edible goods, a sustainable item or something techy, something for the office or for the garden?

Fintan Ryan kicked off the Twitter thread with his view that a charitable donation is better than swag –however the wider industry seems to disagree.

Pie charts showing the answer to whether swag should be charitable or useful. 70% of analysts chose useful, 30% chose charitable. 65% of analyst relations professionals chose useful, 35% chose charitable.
Only 30% of industry analysts think that swag should be charitable rather than useful.
AR Pros feel similarly, with 35% opting for charitable.

At Starsight, we certainly encourage charitable donations as part of an ESG program, however when it comes to AR events, swag is here to stay. On this occasion, the AR pros are already on the right track. Similarly the analysts, 65% of AR professionals said they would rather send useful swag than charitable swag.

Other answers highlighted even stronger opinions amongst analysts, with 95% of analysts preferring a use item over a display item and 83% preferring something for their office over something for the garden. Some less clear cut answers were whether it should be something for yourself or kids/family and if swag should be sustainable or techy. Here, we saw a disconnect, as AR pros felt strongly that swag should be for analysts themselves and that sustainable is better than techy.

Be thoughtful, be useful, be practical.

The Starsight takeaway: industry analysts want thoughtful, useful and practical swag. Sure, “out there” items might be memorable, but mostly for all the wrong reasons.

To help, we’ve listed some of the top swag items analysts have received: a USB adapter, a Yeti travel mug and a quality portable charger. 

Perhaps even more helpful, here are some of the worst items analysts said they had received: a stopwatch, a USB of marketing material and a pair of wooden clogs. 

Starsight’s recommendation is to gift swag that is aligned with your analyst relations strategy. Brands are increasingly using spontaneous recall metrics to measure their success and swag can be a great tool to keep your company top of mind. Instead of using it to simply say thank you, try to think bigger. Use swag to reinforce your message, back-up your brand and enhance your event experience.

Wait there’s more! Our survey yielded more insights than we could cram into one blog post, including preferred items and mistakes to avoid. We’d be happy to chat more about this, if you’re interested then reach out to schedule a call.

Many thanks to Fintan Ryan, Ray Wang, Liz Miller, Phil Ferscht, Jon Collins, Thomas Otter and Steve Hoffenberg for sharing their opinions on Twitter and to all of the industry analysts and analyst relations professionals that took part in our surveys.

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