Monday, October 15

Wearing Schwag

I actually had to look up how to spell this word:  schwag.  I've heard it so many times through the years, but I'm not sure I've ever seen it in writing.

According to Wikipedia, schwag means:  promotional items given to employees, visitors to trade shows, etc.  You know, those tacky fake polo shirts with a company's logo on them ... I've made many of them through the years!  And t-shirts, hats, pens, pads of paper, mugs, etc.  The list goes on, and if you are like me there's an office cabinet full of them.

Now you know I love branding, and you know I love logos.  But here's the problem ... this isn't fashion and it certainly isn't personal branding.  So just like my recent post about men NOT wearing flip flops, I must once again make a statement about wearing schwag.

There is a time and a place for schwag.  Like when exercising or cleaning the garage or sleeping or lazying around on a Sunday afternoon.  Or even, dare I say it, at a sales conference when everyone else is wearing it too.

Or if you are in college and you're wearing your school pride, then that's ok too.  When I visit Penn State, all I see is Penn State schwag and it's fun.

But to work?  On a night out?  On a Saturday afternoon spending time with family and friends?


Schwag is not clothing, and it's not fashion.  It's meant for a specific purpose which is not to be paired with a pair of khakis and worn to the office or on a date.

Please guys, have a little personal style.  Pay a little attention to your personal brand ... no schwag please.

What's your experience?  Jim.

Jim Joseph
President, Cohn & Wolfe NA
Author, The Experience Effect series
Professor, NYU


  1. For most of my life, Jim, I followed my dad's mantra as a guy who sold TV advertising: I'm not putting your logo anywhere unless I'm getting paid for it. He applied that to clothing manufacturing logos as well, as did I.

    Then when Yellow, where I worked, launched a big branded clothing effort, I started to wear logoed clothes (first at sales conferences), but then daily because, as I finally realized, they WERE paying me to wear the brand. Ultimately, the orange color became a transition point as I moved it from logoed clothes to the color only as part of my personal brand.

    We don't have Brainzooming apparel yet. We may someday, but not right now. Fortunately, the orange color alone gets business conversations going with people as they ask about the color, even without a logo.

  2. Now that I love .... if it's a company statement and part of a branding strategy, that's awesome. And you know I always love a signature branding color. And I also think that when you are in customer service, having a uniform look is great. Again, when schwag is part of a strategic branding initiative, then I'm all in. Jim.