The Perils of Give-Away Items

Creative Company Conference 2011

Photo by Sebastiaan ter Burg, Creative Company Conference 2011

Your organization has decided to hit a few conventions and conferences later this year and into early next year. The plans are coming together pretty fast by necessity, but you of course want to make sure that your booth gets a lot of traffic, and that you realize a positive ROI for your efforts. Someone suggests that you offer some give-away items that you can promote in advance of each conference. Inevitably, someone suggests you give away an iPad. Someone else recommends a flat screen television. Everyone gets excited because hey, who doesn’t want a new iPad? Is this really the best way to proceed, however?

There are two potential problems with offering these broad-based, somewhat generic give-away items. First, these items will not really help build your cause’s brand in people’s minds. While the winner may remember that they won their new electronic prize from your organization, that is not an assurance that they will remember what your cause actually is or what your organization was trying to get across through the contest.

Tied closely to the first issue is issue number two: as you entice people to enter your contest what you are probably really hoping for is that they will give you an email address or some other means of communication so that you can follow up with them after the conference and beyond. The idea here is that someone who registers is a potential future donor, and your continued communications will help nurture that relationship. If you are giving away an item that would appeal to anyone and everyone, you are running the risk of attracting people who may never contribute to your organization.

The answer is not to forego give-away options altogether, of course. However, you want to think out of the box a little more when pondering what to give away. The best bet is to offer something that is very closely tied to your cause and the campaign you are trying to push out at the time. If your organization is striving to save a musical curriculum at a school, for example, try to make your give-away something that will remind people of that effort, whether it’s customized guitar picks, a little guitar pin, or something similar.

Another peril of give-away items is a failure to brand your prize. This can be particularly unfortunate if your prize is generic like an iPad, but even if your prize is niche and related to your organization’s mission, a failure to brand it properly means people will not necessarily equate the item with you. This defeats the entire purpose of offering a give-away, really.

As with anything involved in promoting your cause, a little thought and planning on the front end can go a long way to preventing heartache in the long run. You would hate to have to tell your supervisor and your co-workers that you squandered a chance to make a big splash because you didn’t adequately think about branding your give-away item. Plan now, then act knowing you have all of your bases covered.