On June 14th I had a thought as I get ready for VMworld in August - the amount of swag given out feels wasteful to me. I understand that sponsors want to draw you in to learn about their products, and that even good swag can become mobile advertising - for example the Ravello Scooter from 3 years ago. T-shirts are another common giveaway, another piece of mobile advertising - some of my favorite t-shirts came from conferences Now consider the amount of literal trash - sorry vendors who give out camera covers but you’re just adding to our landfills.
So to me I see three categories of swag:
- Elite - like the Ravello scooter, or Datrium Raspberry Pis. These items can cost between $25 - $100 retail
- Clothes - Splunk t-shirts are always funny, the VMware Code t-shirts last year are amazing quality, or even the SolidFire socks are all awesome. I expect these are $5-$20 dollars
- Trash - Things like camera covers, bottle openers, foam balls. Some more marketing person was told they didn’t have a lot of money and got suckered into one of these and probably cost between $1 - $5 each.
Now stop and think, really think about what you take from a conference. If you get one of these pieces of elite swag how long is it cool for? I still have my Ravello scooter but to be honest its collecting dust. T-shirts? Yea I rotate one or two new ones in every year but that is just to give me some justification for wearing a t-shirt to work. The garbage - I don’t take, it’s a waste and I suspect a lot of them end up in landfills.
What if we, at an event like VMworld could do more than get a new t-shirt or fidget spinner? What if a sponsor, instead of spending $10 on a t-shirt made a $10 donation on behalf of every badge scanned to a charity? What if those t-shirts were packaged up and given to a homeless shelter? At an event like VMworld you could literally donate tens of, if not hundreds of thousands to people who need it.
In talking with Luigi Danakos this morning he brought up an interesting point - is that genuine? Does the company want to do that or are they just doing it to get your badge scanned? For me, personally, I don’t care why they do it - just that some good came from it. Douglas Arcidino also brought another great point - what about the charity? What if that charity doesn’t get a very high percentage of the donations to those in need? And that is another important consideration. As a vendor, I would hope you would do your due diligence in who you are supporting, but as a conference go’er I would rather have something go to that charity rather than nothing. To me, at least some good is being done.
There are also some fringe benefits, even for the event sponsors. You are not paying to ship goods (sometimes trash) to a conference saving of fules/gas/packaging. We are not adding more trash to an already polluted world with the packing materials, or junk swag you purchased. Finally, it is now a charitable donation for the company that you could potentially write off.
To that end, I am asking the sponsors of VMworld 2017 to consider a few options for your booth this year.
- Stickers + Donation - stickers are the things I enjoy collecting the most at conferences. The GitHub stickers from 2 years ago are still my favorites. Rather than spending money on a t-shirt I may or may not wear, order a bunch of stickers and show me your marketing budget for swag that is now going to charity.
- Shirt for shirt - for every shirt you give away to an event go’er, give a shirt to a local homeless shelter.
- Demos for donations - Setup a way to provide donations at the conclusion of a demo, I’ll come watch your demo and can then select the charity I want to give back to (Luigi Danakos’ idea)
So that’s it - can we make Swag It Forward a thing this year? Would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on how to make this happen.