Diversity and inclusion (D&I) are more important than ever. All companies and organizations that matter are weaving D&I into every facet of their operations.
Is branded swag an avenue through which to foster inclusivity?
In this post, we’ll go over:
- What inclusion is and why it’s so important
- 5 ways to use branded swag to nurture an inclusive culture
- What to do and what to avoid so your inclusive swag is on point
Now, let’s jump in.
What Is Inclusivity & Why Does Everyone Talk About It?
Diversity and inclusion have always been an integral part of social justice activism.
But if you’re just hearing about them now, don’t worry. Many organizations and stakeholders are waking up to their importance.
Diversity refers to how many people of different backgrounds belong to an organization. People of different races, gender identities, ages, and so on.
Inclusivity is a more complex concept since it’s hard to directly measure. It includes the kind of culture and environment that a company is fostering—both inside itself and in the messaging it sends out to wider society.
Do people of different backgrounds feel respected and heard? Are they all treated equally from the time of onboarding a new hire to advancement opportunities?
These are just some of the questions that D&I asks.
Here’s a simple definition to take to heart:
The goal of D&I is to make sure that the organization is composed of diverse individuals and to foster an environment in which all employees feel respected, supported, heard, and valued.
Why is it all so important?
First of all, it’s just good for society. We can all agree that discrimination is bad, and cultivating D&I is a way to counter it.
But, there are also business considerations. A recent study by the Harvard Business Review found that more diverse companies do better in innovation efforts and financial performance when they enter new markets.
Additionally, social justice is something that younger generations truly care about. For them, work isn’t just about making money. It’s also about feeling like they belong and contributing to something important.
Finally, a lot of venture capital investors and governments have begun including D&I criteria in their ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) scoring metrics.
All this means that if you want to be a successful company that attracts the best talent and retains it, you need to be inclusive. The same goes for being seen as a socially responsible corporation and getting investment.
You can look at examples such as Burger King’s “Impossible Whopper” campaign that promoted the inclusion of vegetarians as a successful example of applied D&I.
A recent ad by Gillette also promoted inclusivity. In it, a father teaches his transgender son how to shave, showcasing the diversity of the gender spectrum.
We know what inclusivity is all about now, but how should we apply it to branded swag? Read the next section to find out.
5 Ways to Foster Inclusivity in Your Branded Swag
Your branded swag is essentially an ad for your company that people take home and then use.
Research by the Advertising Specialty Institute has shown that promotional items are typically in use for around a year. Compare that to a simple PPC ad campaign and it is clear why physical items remain relevant in the digital era.
Now, let’s combine the two very good things. Inclusivity on one side, and all the benefits of swag on the other.
Here are five ways in which you can foster inclusion in your swag.
1. Always keep your swag recipient in mind when creating your branded products
This one should probably go without saying.
When you’re designing your product, whether it’s conference swag or promotional items for your employees, always keep the recipient in mind.
What do your employees, customers, and potential partners like?
If the swag is for your employees, consider sending out an anonymous survey offering several options to choose from.
For outside audiences, look to inspiration from competitors and see how the recipients react. Expos and conferences are great for this since you can see in real time what people are keeping and what they’re tossing away.
2. Create thoughtful and meaningful branded products
The era of sending out useless trinkets with your logo stamped on them is over.
Good riddance to bad rubbish, we say.
Your branded swag should say something and be meaningful to the persons receiving them.
Think about your company’s values and how they will be reflected in the item.
Do you want to be seen as an organization that cares about the environment? Reusable water bottles are a great idea.
Similarly, you want to think about swag that is related to diverse events. Pride-themed items or something celebrating Juneteenth.
3. Listen to your audience
Let’s not mince words. Diversity and inclusion can be touchy at the best of times.
So, when you start planning your next swag giveaway, you must listen to its intended audience.
The last thing you want is to get burned by giving out items that are culturally insensitive or offensive in some other way.
A great way to avoid this in the era of Twitter canceling is to involve a diverse team in the design and choice of your swag products.
Any feedback you get afterward is valuable too and will help you do better.
4. Widen your audience by creating more branded objects
Keeping your branded items to just a few types has inclusivity implications.
Consider that some items, such as stress balls, may be useless to people with limited mobility or other disabilities.
So, consider beefing up your swag catalog with branded items that anyone can use. Chargers, tote bags, and flash drives are excellent gift items because they are so useful to pretty much everyone.
Finding and picking the best swag company with a lot of options is key to having a diverse and versatile swag bag.
5. Make any clothing items gender-neutral
According to many D&I consultants, offering men’s and women’s apparel as swag is a subtle way to exclude those with non-binary gender identities.
Instead of having a male and female version at your next T-shirt fundraiser, just get them from a vendor that has unisex options.
It’s not only more inclusive but practical too since you won’t have to worry about the gender ratio of your audience.
The same goes for any other product. It’s time to ditch the gender-coded blues and pinks and go for designs that are gender-neutral and can be enjoyed by anyone.
Up next; what to do if you want to create inclusive swag products.
Ready to Create Inclusive Products?
With both inclusivity and physical promotional items being so important to a company’s brand, there’s no reason not to combine the two.
Offering thoughtful, diverse, and inclusive swag is a must these days.
Doing so boosts a company’s social responsibility profile and positions it as a company that cares about its employees, customers, and other stakeholders.