by Dalene Heck and Catherine Reed
In the travel industry, it’s common to invite influencers to come out for a visit. After all, if you want them to be enthusiastic about what your destination or brand has to offer, it helps if they’ve actually experienced it for themselves.
In an effort to make a good impression, most destinations and other travel brands also provide “swag bags”. The bags are typically filled with information about the area and/or brand plus a few momentoes and other items to take home. Some are often also branded, with the hope that they might make their way into a social media post. At the very least, their intention is to serve as a frequent reminder to the influencer about their great trip.
While most swag is given with good intentions, it doesn’t always achieve the desired goal. If the items aren’t useful in the eyes of the influencers, the swag might get thrown away. And given that influencers are often pro travelers who pack light, items are sometimes too big or heavy for the influencer to take with them. When this happens, it’ll typically be given away to someone local, abandoned in a hotel room with hopes that an employee will take it, or (regretfully) tossed out. This happens more often than you might be aware of.
Swag bags can be a great touch, but only when stocked properly. With that in mind, we queried a group of influencers for their thoughts on swag bags, and while their opinions varied widely overall, here are five key things they want you to know.
Ditch the Paper Brochures and Itineraries
When it comes to swag bag waste, nothing is as bad as paper. It’s practically guaranteed that any brochures or printed itineraries are going to end up in the garbage, and that’s terrible for the environment.
Nearly every influencer is annoyed when they are handed folders filled with paper. They know they aren’t going to take it home, and that means they’ll create waste. Since many travel and lifestyle influencers want to support the environment and actively try to be green, this experience can even be a bit heartbreaking.
Instead of paper, send the influencer digital files. Email them PDFs or create a folder on Google Drive and share it so they can access it on the road and after the trip. Even consider using an itinerary app (Travefy is one that we have seen used).
Remember, influencers are going to have smartphones with them in nearly all situations. A digital file is going to be accessible and convenient and it eliminates unnecessary paper waste.
Local Foods and Drinks are Winners
If you want to make a great impression on influencers, then fill your swag bags with local, specialty foods and drinks. During their stay, you can bet that your guests are going to need an occasional snack. By choosing local items, you are letting them explore the area’s culture while satisfying their hunger or thirst. It’s a win-win, and nearly always appreciated.
The only exception is food or drink that isn’t meant to be consumed during the trip, especially if your influencer is from another country. Getting perishable items back home can be a bit of a nightmare, especially if the influencer is continuing in their travels and not going back to their house for several days or weeks.
Plus, not all foods and drinks can cross international borders. Instead, those tasty treats might get confiscated by customs or, if your influencer knows the rules, will also get left behind.
Low-Quality Typical Items Are a Bad Idea
When you work with an influencer to promote your destination, there’s a decent chance that this isn’t the influencer’s first rodeo. While that means they’re bringing some experience and know-how to the table, it also means they’ve seen their fair share of swag.
If your plan is to provide them with inexpensive water bottles, portable chargers, backpacks, or other common swag items that are easily purchased in bulk, then you should go back to the drawing board. Similarly, USB drives, pens, and notebooks aren’t great either. Why? Because influencers already have more than they could ever possibly need.
Unless you are going to give out high-quality versions of some of those items, you’re better off skipping them. Otherwise, any influencer who doesn’t need another one is just going to throw them away, take them to a thrift store, or leave them in their hotel room.
Watch Out for the Size
Even the highest quality, most desirable swag item isn’t going to make a great impression if the influencer can’t reasonably get it home. Many influencers try to travel as lightly as possible, and they aren’t going to have an excess of space in their luggage to haul back a massive item.
Plus, if the influencer’s journey involves multiple stops, they’d have to lug the items around during their entire stay. Usually, this just isn’t practical, so there’s a decent chance it could get left behind.
If you genuinely want to give an influencer something big, then you need to make sure that getting it home isn’t a burden. For example, if you are willing to foot the bill to ship it to the influencer’s home, then you can offer that as a perk.
In fact, you could even send all of your swag to the influencer before their trip. It could be a great way to build excitement and eliminates the challenge of carrying it around entirely.
Get to Know the Influencer
While all of the points above are worth considering, if you want to make sure you are providing swag your influencer wants and will use, talk to them before the trip or scour their social media feeds to get an idea of what they might like. Is he a coffee fiend? Include a sample from a local roaster. Is she a hard-core hiker? Provide a branded dry-bag that will always come in handy. Find out what they enjoy and what they might need during their stay. Discuss whether having items arrive before the journey works better for them. Ask if they actually want anything at all. (To this last point, some influencers we queried suggested they’d rather have the option to refuse a swag bag entirely, in order to save on any environmental waste.)
Every influencer is different, but in these days of heightened environmental consciousness, all would prefer not to have to leave any swag bags contents behind. By considering our points above, you can figure out what will be most meaningful. That way, you don’t waste money, more stuff can stay out of the trash, and your influencer can have a great experience.
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