SXSW Interactive Preview: The definitive ranking of SWAG items


SXSW Interactive is coming up. This will be my eighth time there. One of the most fun aspects of SXSW Interactive is the trade show. For two or three days, starting at 3pm, the conference halls in Austin Convention Center is turned into a giant labyrinth of stands full of exciting startups looking to make an impact, existing tech giants struggling to be relevant and random state/country endorsed business groups trying to entice all the bright minded millennials to work in that region. I shit you not, there’s an Iowa contingent going there this year. Do you like silence? Fields? Tech? If all three check yes, then Iowa is the place for you.

With so many options, the one crucial question everyone who ponies up the cash has to ultimately ask themselves is this: How do I get the attention of the crowd?

The answer is usually SWAG.

Everyone gives out swag at SXSW (I think SWAG stands for Something We All Get) and as much as we all hate to admit, free stuff is pretty awesome.

However, there are different levels of free stuff. What’s good? what’s ultimately worthless? I’m glad you are as intrigued as I am about this, so here is a list of SWAG at SXSW from worst to best.

Guest List or Fast Track Access to Your Party
Seriously, no one gives a shit about your party later that evening featuring some random indie rock band from Oklahoma so stop using invites as an enticement.

I’m sure all the cleaners at the hotels have a great collection of startup endorsed ballpoint pens by now.

The concept is great, however most people now have nice high quality ear buds so the thought of using some cheap branded earbuds at any point of my life outside of absolute emergencies is almost non-existent.

I used to think these were cool, but realistically, unless you live in the South of the US, koozies are not a high necessity of life. I live in Canada; when I leave my beer outside, it freezes.

Beer Bottle openers
Although I am quite averse to koozies, beer openers represent a functional item that is often applicable in life. It’s also one of those things you frequently lose. Sometimes they are cleverly done, like Bates Motel:

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 8.40.17 PM

Good party material, can help in a pinch and often in a funky color. While the material is often cheap, I do appreciate me some color shades once in a while.

Surprisingly useful, t-shirts are probably the most popular items at any booth. The key is to get a good design and don’t have the logo of your company featured prominently. I think half my closet is free t-shirts. I don’t know what that says about me. Probably a lot.

Baseball caps
If subtly made, baseball caps are great way to promote your brand and provide protection from the sun. Look at that dropbox hat? No one probably even knows what that logo is.

Amazing swag because you can also use it at SXSW. I think to this date, I have only encountered two companies that gave up flasks – SESAC and Spin. Good one.

Nalgene Water Bottles
An even more amazing swag because these are companies that care. Dehydration is a serious thing at SXSW, with the hot sun, hot weather and the long days. Any companies that hydrates people definitely have something on their mind.

Mobile batteries
By and large the kings of SWAG. The constant problem everyone has at any festival is power. This is most definitely the best swag you can get and it’ll get you a lot of love, so what are you waiting for?

At the end of the day, it just highlights how tough it is to get attention at a conference of this magnitude. Good luck to all.

Posted on by Ricky in South By Southwest

About Ricky

Britpop lovin Chinaman, consumer of all things irrelevant. Toronto Raptors fan.

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