15 Dec 2015

Transparent Business Cards – and other Invaluable Marketing Swag

In marketing, the age old phrase ‘Location, location, location’, should be replaced with, ‘Promotion, promotion, promotion’. Marketing gimmicks, like transparent business cards, were once a folly, a delicious, superlative luxury that simply existed to show you had the ideas, and the money, to make be impressive. That luxury, like so many other things, is now a necessity. In the war on promotion, being unique is the only way forward.

One way to be unique is to employ the use of an age old tactic that has worked in the highest circles of successful marketing:


In the 1990’s ‘swag bags’ were a must at any promotional event – from trade shows right up to large company seminars. You would not get round a trade show without being laden down with furry bugs that sat on your monitor, window stickers or branded pencils and other goodies that seemed to be the main reason to stop by any booth. The bigger the swag, the more popular you were.

A recession and the shift to online marketing has drastically trimmed down the amount of promotional material now offered at trade shows, even down to appearing in a trade show at all, but swag hasn’t disappeared altogether. The Oscars, for instance, has an annual swag bag, and this year each bag totalled $168,000 USD of goodies in it.

What was in the swag bag? Here’s a list of some of the highlights:

The 2015 Oscar Nominee Swag Bag

Antiperspirant: $5.49

Each swag bag holder will receive a bottle of Dove Dry Spray antiperspirant and Dove Men+Care antiperspirant.

Lip gloss: $36

The swag bag will contain a bottle of Flickable’s vegan-friendly lip gloss.

Lollipops: $68

This six-pack of herbal tea-based lollipops from Dosha Pops incorporates 24 karat edible gold leaf.

Travel pillow: $69

The Oscar nominees and host can rest easy on the trip back home with an innovative travel pillow from NapAnywhere.

Ambrosia Apples: $75

This new variety of apple is known for its low acid content and sweet flavor.

Condiments: $280

Rouge Maple is providing an assortment of organic maple syrup, salad dressings, jellies and mustard, as well as an apron to keep all that sticky stuff off those gowns and tuxedos.

Accessories: $300

Female nominees will receive a trio of bracelets from Jan Lewis Designs, and the men will receive silk ties.

Personal Training: $900

Celebrity trainer Alexis Seletzky is offering up 10 sessions of personal training.

Skincare: $1,200

Gift bag recipients can stay forever young with a host of products from Wellness 360, including a hair stimulant and skin serum.

Liposuction Wearable: $4,068

The stars can avoid going under the knife with a non-invasive liposuction wearable device from Ventura Lipo-Light.

Home spa system: $5,060

Steamist is providing a home spa system that delivers the ultimate steam bathing experience.

Italian luxury hotel package: $11,500

The Nominees and host can enjoy a three-night stay at the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria, the Villa Armena in Tuscany and the Grand Hotel Tremezzo in Lake Como. Maybe George Clooney will have them over for cocktails.

Glamping: $12,500

This luxury camping trip from TerraVelo Tours includes surfing, hot air balloon rides and horseback riding.

Lifestyle makeover: $14,239

Reset Yourself is offering the recipients supplements, hair mineral analysis, a kitchen/pantry detox, expert meditation consultation and more to help them maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Luxury rail trip: $14,594

The Oscar swag bag recipients can enjoy a luxury rail trip through the Canadian Rockies from Rocky Mountaineer.

Horoscope reading: $20,000

The founder of Enigma Life, Olessia Kantor, will fly out to meet each Oscar nominee and host to deliver their 2015 horoscopes. Kantor will also teach mind control techniques and conduct dream analysis.

You can see that there is a complete range of items in there, and it must be big business or it would not be done every year.

Any swag bag is extremely appealing as everyone loves ‘free stuff’, but the more unusual it is, the more it is coveted. Transparent business cards are a perfect example of being unique and flexible for a swag bag. It can be a tag, instructions or a business card. It doesn’t need any extra ‘bling’ as it is expressive on its own. Promotional material may have taken a back seat to online marketing banners, but it still holds a strong place in many peoples shopping priorities.

You may not have $168,000 to spend per swag bag for your company, so what alternatives are there? Let’s take a look at what you can do to advertise, entice and invite people to view your offerings.


Offer free trials, exclusive downloads or access to paid for research in a digital swag bag. Create it with others in your commercial circles and get them to add free transparent business cards, digital information and special offers in your digital swag bag. One big advantage of the digital swag bag is that you can put in offers that last for longer than the event does. You could put in a monthly special off that they have to create an account for, a revolving landing page that changes each month that they can share, or link it your monthly social media campaigns and drive traffic to all your active sites.


One way to increase the PR, and one of the reasons there is fierce competition to get in to an Oscars Swag bag, is to make something that will ignite the interest of the press. It only takes one item to catch the interest of the media – but don’t try to be too controversial.

A new brand wanting to make it big called Bright Stars distributed “giggle pills” at a 2014 BlogHer conference. Conference attendees were not amused. They considered the swag insensitive and way over the top.


According to the Event Manager Blog, avoid giving away random things, as random goods are a wasted opportunity. T shirts, mugs, koozies and pens are all old hat and are not appealing and will not be desirable. Think about function, such as a thumb drive, mini white board or USB desk hub. Give your bag a purpose and make sure that everything in it leads to that purpose.

Make it a mixture of physical goods, and offers via your website to drive extra traffic to your online marketing. Digital swag can be shared with no loss to the giver, so if it’s attractive enough and you have a good call to action, your swag will reach more than the person who receives it.


Think of things that are unique, like a transparent business card – in a branded transparent business card holder. What about a branded trash can or desk basketball set? Screen protectors with a great tagline or a branded phone cover also go down well as they are practical and useable.

Give them out in a puzzle box, wooden crate or insulated lunch bag. Print your digital swag on a branded match book to ‘Set your ideas on fire’, create a carabineer in the shape of your product, create a clip on cup holder for their desk – whatever you think of, swag success starts with the unusual.

How often do you get the chance to reach out to your audience with a stuffed monkey?

Grab one opportunity while it lasts…