Sew Your Own stickers are just one of the different items the team at IndieSew include in their customers’ product packages.

Photo courtesy of Allie Olson of Indiesew

If your creative business deals with physical inventory, sending the correct order as fast as possible is table stakes. Do this and you meet customers’ expectations.

There’s much to be gained, however, by exceeding expectations. Sending brand premiums along with shipments lets your brand’s personality shine and gives customers an unexpected thrill.

Premiums, a.k.a. swag, promotional products, branded merchandise, are items that feature your branding (colors, logo), tagline, and call to action (website, hashtag, phone number). Businesses give away brand premiums as an effective marketing tactic.

Probably the most ubiquitous promo product is the logo pen. (Rifle through your desk for examples of different branded writing implements.) But swag comes in many more flavors. A blog post from marketing software firm HubSpot highlights branded mobile device chargers, flip flops, and gummy bears as notable swag at conferences.

As a craft business owner, your ideal promo gifts can be even more creative and hyper-targeted for your tribe.

Why invest in brand premiums?

You may think, “Why should I spend my limited funds on stuff I’m going to give away?” It’s a fair question. Evaluating expenditures is part of running a profitable business.

Here’s a look at four head-turning benefits of promotional products:

1. They trigger the reciprocity effect

A Fast Company article titled “Does Swag Work?” points out that giveaway goodies spur recipients to return the favor in the form of increased response rates, repeat business, and referrals. If your average order is $25 and your branded premiums are significantly less per unit, that swag is a smart investment.

2. They inspire warm feelings

A study from the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI) asked 2,000 people: “When you receive a promotional product, how do you feel about the company that gave it to you?” The most-reported replies were: happy, grateful, and good. The next most-frequent replies were: appreciative, generous, awesome, great, and thankful. These are all words that every business wants associations with!

3. They have a long life

Eighty-one percent of consumers keep promotional products for more than a year, according to research from Promotional Products Association International (PPAI). Repeated exposure keeps your business top of mind — the best place to be for repeat business.

4. They maximize your marketing budget

Advertising effectiveness is measured in cost per impressions (CPI). Your CPI is what you pay for advertising, divided by how many times the ad is seen. Check out the following cost per one impression of various advertising mediums according to ASI research:

  • Newspaper: 3.2 cents
  • Prime-time TV: 2.5 cents
  • National magazines: 2.4 cents
  • Targeted mobile: 1.0 cents
  • Spot radio: 0.7 cents
  • Internet: 0.7 cents
  • Promotional products: 0.7 cents

How does CPI translate into marketing spending? One thousand impressions from swag will cost you $7. To compare, 1,000 impressions from a national magazine ad will cost you $32.

And while spot radio, internet, and promotional products share the same CPI (0.7 cents), ASI research shows that consumers hold swag as the most highly regarded form of advertising.

LA Finch Fabric will sometimes include one of their tote bags in customer orders. Their customers often post pictures of their packages and swag on social media.

The conclusion: promotional products can make a big impact for (relatively) little money.

Two craft business case studies on promotional products

I interviewed two sewing small businesses for insight on swag. Their experiences with promotional products easily can be applied to other craft operations.


Indiesew is an online sewing community that sells indie patterns and garment-sewing fabric. Founder Allie Olson said her business shipped swag with orders from the beginning.

“It was important to me that the customer understand and connect [to] our mission from their first experience with Indiesew,” Olson said via email. Stickers and garment labels with their “Sew Your Own” tagline, postcards, and fabric swatches have made their way into orders.

Olson said customers share photos of the labels sewn into their me-made clothes, as well as Indiesew stickers on cars, water bottles, and sewing machines. And Indiesew is often asked if they sell those branded items, “so I know they’re providing some value,” Olson said. She credits the fabric swatches with subsequent sales.

LA Finch Fabrics

LA Finch Fabrics sells high-quality apparel fabric online from Los Angeles’ Fashion District. Owner Josephine Maldonado said her business first sent notions, trims, and personalized thank you cards with orders. Today, LA Finch swag includes notions, lapel pins, tote bags, and stickers.

“Swag is an excellent marketing tool, as it creates excitement, social media mentions, and customer satisfaction,” Maldonado said via email. For LA Finch Fabrics, brand premiums helped increase web traffic and the percentage of repeat customers.

Maldonado emphasized the importance of taking care of customers and finding what makes you different as a business. Freebies make a lasting impression, she said. “If you ever visit the DoubleTree Hilton hotels, isn’t it the best when you receive free warm chocolate chip cookies at check-in? It’s the little things that make a difference and create loyalty.”

Branded premium best practices

If you’re interested in sending premiums with your orders, here are some best practices to keep in mind:

1. Think lightweight

When you add branded swag to your orders, ensure it adds minimal mass to packages and won’t break during shipment. Here are some small swag ideas that could work for many businesses:

  • Small Moleskine-style notebooks
  • Temporary tattoos (could be lots of fun on social media)
  • Small bottles of hand lotion
  • Individually-wrapped tea bags with custom labels
  • Seasonal items, such as lip balm in winter and sunscreen packets in summer
  • Pin-back buttons
  • Custom patches
  • Branded stationery
  • Candy
  • Little bars of soap (they’d make your package smell lovely)
  • Beverage koozies

2. Be consistent with branding

Use the same fonts, colors, and taglines across marketing materials. According to Olson, “it keeps your brand identifiable and creates cohesion, which instills trust.” She added that hiring a graphic designer if you don’t have design skills pays off in the long run.

3. Have goals

Know what you’re trying to achieve with promotional products — increased social buzz, repeat business, etc. — and who your customers are, Maldonado said. As you build a marketing budget, “ask yourself if the swag included makes sense,” she said.

4. Ask for what you want

In a previous job, I ordered swag for my employer. At first it was intimidating; there were too many options. What helped me get the right premiums was reviewing lots of swag samples and working with vendors who understood our brand and goals. Don’t be pressured to place an order until you’re convinced it’s right for you!

Promotional products can be a powerful and fun tool in your marketing toolbox. Delight customers with your brand and they will help you grow your creative business.

Swag Works: Add a Little Something Special to Your Packages
Erin Van Handel

Erin Van Handel


Erin Van Handel blogs about sewing at She’s an ex-journalist with a marketing M.B.A. and most recently worked as a marketing consultant.

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