Widgets Magazine

State of the Industry Swag

For the last few years, a group of industry professionals and I have had an ongoing, informal discussion on the state of the industry. For my part, I gauged the health of our industry by the swag given out by manufacturers at InfoComm.
In general, some good swag could be had this year at InfoComm but much like in the greater economy, if you dig a little deeper you can see some of the differences between the big exhibitors that seem to be coasting along on reputation, the smaller ones that hand out token swag to keep their name in your mind, and the ones who no longer offer swag for attendees. That being said, a few exhibitors seem going the extra mile to attract people to their booth and make contacts.
Traditionally, exhibitors have used swag to draw people to their booths. Two years ago this included t-shirts that were the talk of the show such as the Blue Jeans,Aeo ,AeuCoexist,Aeu t-shirt, spelled with the logos of the major VTC and UC brands – they ran out of shirts by Thursday. Years ago Sony had their booth set up like a movie theater and gave out full movie size candy as swag. During the mid-2000,Aeos it was more typical to get that sort of very nice swag. The economy was booming and companies felt richer.
Since the recession of 2008 and the subsequent lukewarm recovery, things have been observably different. Now the biggest up-front booth at the show, Crestron, gives out small tins of mints along with the new trend of slightly larger prizes given out contest-style. Only a few years ago I could get a wardrobe,Aeos worth of t-shirts during my time on the show floor. This year I got a few; granted more than last year, but nevertheless only a few.
This year I proved that with a small amount of effort you could have gotten a decent haul from exhibitors. Some of the items were very nice but not as easy to get. There were many contests for good swag, but even those were down from previous years. In 2014, and especially in 2013, there were drawings for iPads all over the floor while this year I only saw a couple of drawings for GoPro cameras and one iPad. I heard about a drawing for a backpack from Crestron but never got details.
VIP swag is a new and growing segment on the floor. This is either something reserved for big dealers or, at the very least, for people who made appointments prior to the show. Some good examples were Aten,Aeos really nice battery backup and Kramer,Aeos Bluetooth speaker. -*I,Aeom of a mixed mind on this trend. While it,Aeos nice to show appreciation to the larger dealers, those dealers get a ton of love already in the form of lower pricing, better support and free classes. Smaller dealers who specialize on a particular line often make a larger sacrifice to do so than the big guys but may only have a fraction of the total volume to show for it.
What does it all mean? First, it is very expensive to even exhibit at InfoComm, so companies who do are already making a large investment, even before having some swag to give to attendees, making it understandable that in the smaller booths there is usually a pen or something other simple branded item. I actually rely on this to continue my streak of having not bought a pen for work in years.
Looking at the manufacturers with larger booths, who have budgets for this sort of thing, I still see some trepidation in the swag arena leading to having to hunt much more aggressively for it than in years past. Part of this is in response to so called ,Aeutrick-or-treaters,Aeu who don,Aeot actually care about the company or its products and won,Aeot be credible leads for future sales. While I can see the point of discouraging these individuals, it also eliminates the word of mouth that swag can generate at the show to drive people to your booth.
What it means to me is that exhibitors are still not completely confident in the payoff of swag. Some of the bigger companies don,Aeot really need it since they are so embedded into the systems integration industry. Smaller companies simply can,Aeot afford it after the costs that go with exhibiting (show floor space, gear shipping, hotel, airfare, etc.). Everyone puts their best face forward at InfoComm but if you look closely at how swag is handled you can sometimes judge the relative health of the exhibitors.
Some of this is tempered with booth size, since those big booths cost a small mint, but in general the take away from the great InfoComm Swag Hunt of 2015 was that not everyone is doing well. The economic surveys that we receive from InfoComm indicate that the industry is on an upturn; however the swag being offered demonstrates that manufacturers still don’t have the highest confidence in forthcoming business to the degree that they are willing to invest in the added cost of designing, manufacturing and later storing large quantities of merchandise.
Traditional companies are trying to find their way in a new IT-based world while emerging companies are struggling against the longest peacetime recovery from recession since WWII. I,Aeom not sure what it means for the future, but for now I think we should remain cautious. There are a ton of variables out there that could affect the state of the industry and they haven,Aeot come close to resolving yet.

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