The end of SWAG?

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The first of year will ring in with a voluntary moratorium on pharmaceutical companies free branded giveaways to doctors. The decision is wisely trendy in light of rising healthcare costs and continued scrutiny of large drug manufacturers, corporate cost-cutting, consumer pleas for more transparent marketing and an eco-conscious eschewing of all things clutter. Whether or not this pharma swag actually swayed doctors unfairly is up for debate.

But is pharma the only group that will adopt these stringent self-imposed bans on the branded giveaway? Other sectors sensitive to branded giveaways (education comes to mind) can benefit greatly from the odd handout. Underfunded classrooms or community sports teams in some cases rely on discounts or free gifts from Scholastic, Nike or other supply stores looking to improve their community and community image.

That being said, as an editor who gets lot of branded gift bags and promotional swag (most of my office pens and mugs are branded) -- I've seen my share of what could be deemed as corporate waste. One embarrassing example I can think of was how much media attention Lehman Bros. swag received after the bankruptcy. In the light of economic failure, the amount of branded trinkets got a critical eye from the public (and plenty of bids on eBay)

I think the bottom line when ordering your company's next set of stress ball giveaways or considering the postage on sending branded coffee cozees to your top 150 clients is, is there a true marketing purpose and cleverness to the swag? Are your plans for it in any way measurable or justifiable to a CFO?

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