Promotional merchandise, promotional items, promotional products, promotional gifts, or advertising gifts, sometimes nicknamed swag or schwag, are articles of merchandise (often branded with a logo or slogan) used in marketing and communication programs. They are given away to promote a company, corporate image, brand, or event at trade shows, conferences, and as part of guerrilla marketing campaigns.
Jasper Meeks, a printer in Coshocton, Ohio, is considered by many to be the originator of the industry when he convinced a local shoe store to supply book bags imprinted with the store name to local schools.
In 1904, 12 manufacturers of promotional items got together to found the first trade association for the industry. That organization is now known as the Promotional Products Association International or PPAI, which currently has more than 10,000 global members.
The UK and Ireland promotional merchandise industry formally emerged as corporate marketing became more sophisticated during the late 1950s. Before this companies may have provided occasional gifts, but there was no recognised promotional merchandise industry.
In the 1990s new catalogue services emerged for distributors from various sources. In the nineties there was also the creation of ‘Catalogue Groups’ who offered a unique catalogue to a limited geographical group of promotional merchandise distributor companies.