Trade Show TalesBlog

Your Guide to Trade Show Giveaways (with Examples!)

January 22nd, 2022 COMMENTS
Trade Show Promotional Incentives
Promotional Incentives

Trade show giveaways carefully folded into a marketing campaign are an investment in your business. If used wisely, they will spread the word about your company long after the trade show, event, or exhibition has ended. If you are considering adding incentives to your marketing strategy, you are in luck. The incentives industry is a multi-billion-dollar business with a vast range of products that can be printed, embossed, programmed, or custom-made to enhance and bring attention to your trade show exhibit.

What are Trade Show Giveaways?

Whether you use the term “premium incentives,” “promotional products,” or “trade show giveaways,” the goal should be the same. You want to capture the attention of potential clients AND be remembered for all the right reasons.

So, what are the right reasons? Everyone loves a freebie, and giveaways are a proven method for attracting people at a show. However, “If you think of them as trade show giveaways,” according to Rama Beerfas, owner of Lev Promotions“They will have as much value to your recipients as they do to you. If you reframe them as promotional incentives or gifts, you’ll start to realize that a target branded incentive can bring you closer to achieving your goals and providing measurable results.”

Many companies start by searching the web for incentive ideas. Which isn’t a bad way to explore what’s available. However, the choices can be overwhelming. Is that really a wise use of your time? Spending hours searching for the perfect ink pen? Don’t make that mistake! Work with a promotional incentives expert who will ask you the right questions and narrow down your choices. It’s what they do. And it won’t cost you any more.

Trade Show Giveaways

The Four Primary Categories of Incentives 

  • Apparel (T-shirts, hats, golf shirts, etc.)
  • Office Supplies (pens, calendars, clocks, mousepads, mugs, etc.)
  • Fun Stuff (toys, gag gifts, electronics, etc.)
  • Perishables (candy, mints, food and beverage, etc.)

Identifying Your Trade Show Giveaway Strategy

With thousands of possible options, choosing the right one(s) is less about a Top 10 list and more about achieving your marketing goals and sales results. Start by identifying:

  • Your Target Audience
  • Your Budget
  • Your Quantity (it’s not about having something for everyone)
  • Your Theme (and/or the theme of the show)
  • Your Branding
  • Your Strategy


If you’re looking to do what’s hot/trendy/cool/new, then you’re probably going to be one of many on the show floor handing out the same item. Incentives trends are a moving target, and suppliers are nimble at finding and promoting the latest gadget. It may be a charging pad this season and earbuds the next season.

The 4 “Make It” Rules to Incentives

  1. Make It Non-breakable. There’s nothing worse than getting a cool incentive only to have it break within days.  
  2. Make It Lightweight.  You don’t want them to abandon it mid-day just to lighten the load.
  3. Make It Compact. It can’t be bulky since it often has to pack in checked luggage.
  4. Make It TSA Friendly. Nothing is worse than seeing your promotional products in the trash can just outside the airport security checkpoint.

What Makes Good Marketing Merchandise?

You want items that appeal to your specific target market and that are tied into your overall marketing message. Your target market may be active adults. However, if your marketing focus is summer wear, a fall or winter incentive like beanies won’t make sense… even if you would REALLY LOVE to have a branded beanie.

The perfect marketing merchandise for one company (or even one campaign) may be completely inappropriate for another.

Consider Having BEST – BETTER – GOOD Options:

  • BEST is for your top prospects and best clients
  • BETTER is for your good prospects, good existing clients and maybe even staff
  • GOOD is for attendees who are qualified, but not really a hot prospect.


So how do you make the incentive feel like a gift rather than a giveaway? Store the nicer or higher value items out-of-sight, like in a counter, kiosk, or pedestal. Once you’ve qualified the prospect, then present them with a special gift, one they know not everyone else is getting. Perception matters!  

10 Branded Product Ideas/Trends to Consider 

1. 3M Post-It products designed for outdoor or wet settings. Great for the construction and manufacturing industries.

trade show giveaway ideas

2. Custom or packaged gifts that can be handed out or shipped to recipients.

3. Create a custom gift kit with a bit more flair, start with the packaging.

4. Personalize a branded product to the next level.

trade show giveaway ideas

5. Full-Color imprints are perfect for complicated logos or photo-quality imprints

6. Go au Naturel – Green thumb gifts increase indoor oxygen, add color, and can provide herbs for the kitchen.

eco friendly marketing merchandise

7. Bring your lunch to work.

8. Retro-inspired items are always a hit.

retro inspired trade show giveaways

9. Travel Items to make your trip easier, more comfortable, and safer.

travel themed marketing merchandise

10. Your pre-show mailers will be more memorable if you make them “bulky”.

Business Promotional Items to Avoid

  • Anything that may be perceived as in questionable taste: (e.g., a knife in many Asian cultures signifies cutting ties).
  • Anything that is against the law or shows a lack of understanding of social customs: (e.g., chewing gum in Singapore).
  • See the “4 Make It” Rules previously mentioned.
  • Anything that is of poor quality or has a poor/incorrect imprint on it. The quality of the item will reflect on your brand.
  • Anything that demonstrates a poor understanding of your target market: (e.g., a $1.50 tape measure given to contractors).

Your Partner for Trade Show Giveaways

Premium incentives can be an effective trade show or event marketing tool when connected to your company, product, or campaign. There are thousands of choices in incentive items, and the choices change all the time.

Your consultant can guide you through the process of selecting appropriate incentives. In some cases, it is as simple as a pen or pad. In other cases, you may want multiple items linked to your overall marketing message. Incentives can be fun, effective, and expensive.

A special thanks to Rama Beerfas at Lev Promotions for sharing her invaluable advice about promotional incentives. 

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