Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Swag Bag

BaselWorld is a treasure trove for swag.  It is no small secret that the lobby of the Ramada becomes a swap-meet of truly epic proportions between the hours of 6 and 7 PM.  And the quality of the swag can either be very good, or very disappointing.   Sorry to be so blunt, so crass, but consider that those of us who spend our own money and vacation days to write about these things tend to view the "swag bag" almost like a combination of our birthdays and Christmas mornings.  And this year was no exception!  Beautiful neckties, pocket squares, pens (fountain and ball point), and perhaps the most extravagant thing - the wireless headphones from Hublot.  Needless to say, this year I reaped the penalty for not smooching a certain backside, but I figure if I have a choice between "kissing the Biver ring" and buying my own headphones, I will visit Radio Shack ; )

One night last week as we were comparing the bounty of our visits to Halls 1, 2 and the Palace (not unlike a bunch of kids haggling over our trick or treat bags) I noticed an interesting phenomenon.  There was nary a trace of catalogs or books.  For those of you out there not familiar with the process of the BaselWorld brand visit, it tends to go like this:

1.  You show up for your appointment - either solo or in a group.
2.  You listen to the pitch, admire the watches, take some photos, propose story ideas, try to sell some advertising.
3.  You receive a thank you, possibly the "triple kiss", and the BAG!

Now it's important to know and appreciate what is generally in the bag -
A.  Chocolate is a popular item
B.  Moleskin notebooks (if not Moleskin, generally something of a similar quality).
C.  Scarves - the woolen type was quite popular in 2015, but nowhere to be found this year.
D.  Neckties, pocket squares, cuff links.  That of course is for the fellas.  I am not entirely certain what shows up in the women's version.
E.  Liquor - and this year a lovely bottle of wine.

If you've read this far, I am sure you know what happens to item F.
As we used to say in Japan -

gomi desu!
Japanese noun: means rubbish or trash
The catalogs, fact sheets, booklets?  Almost all go into the garbage.  This usually happens once you have departed the booth and reached a reasonable distance so that you can jettison the unwanted, unneeded catalogs and brochures with some modicum of discretion.  You have to keep in mind that you will be visiting up to 10 booths per day, and it is highly unlikely you will be able to lug (comfortably) all of that ballast around with you.  So for better or worse, you cherry-pick the stuff you want to keep, and you dump all of the printed materials.  
A colleague of mine did a survey and although the data could best be described as anecdotal, what he found was that the amount of discarded catalogs was so extreme that the hotels catering to BaselWorld traffic needed to bring in extra dumpsters to haul the excess garbage away at the end of BaselWeek.  Now if you took all of the printed materials that get thrown away outside of the hotels it would probably be enough paper wasted to "reforest" a deforested portion of prime land.
So here's my crazy idea -
Brand CEOs, managers, pr /marketing managers -
PLEASE don't produce catalogs, brochures, etc. for BaselWorld.  Almost everything is digital these days, and it is safe to assume that almost nobody attending the fair will want to carry 20 or more pounds of catalogs back with them.  Make a PDF catalog or brochure.  As the journalist or retail partner is leaving the booth, you simply ask them for a good email address to send a link to an online catalog that would also include images and fact sheets - all of them digital.  You type the email address into your smart phone, iPad or laptop and hit send.  They will then have everything they want/need already in their inbox before they step out of your booth.  
Now I know what some of you guys and gals working for the big brands are thinking - we have to spend our entire budget, or else our department will get less money for next year!  No problem! Consult your previous year's budget for what you spent on printed material that inevitably got thrown away, and donate it to your brand's favorite charity!  No, I am not kidding.  Think of what a positive, amazing message that would be, along with all of the positive buzz you would receive for not wasting money WHILE doing something positive for others?  
And if you must spend money on swag for the press, I know a certain fellow in the Metro Boston area who could use a new pair of wireless headphones...

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