Don’t you just hate it when you get one of those free pens that goes dry in a few uses? How about a t-shirt you can see through after four washes? How do you feel about a company that proudly puts their name on a brand new piece of junk and hands it to you? They thought it was going to help them build their brand and increase customer loyalty, but now you are having negative feelings toward that company. How did this happen?

Misplaced Metrics

We think many producers are asking the wrong questions and adding up the wrong numbers. For instance, instead of asking, “How many uses will the pen or t-shirt get?” or, “How many more times will the particular swag item be seen and used?”,  and, instead of asking, “Will the quality and longevity of my branded company swag result in more impressions over a longer period?” they are simply asking, “ How much am I paying for each individual piece of swag?”

This cost-centric myopia condemns brands to cheap promotional giveaways that are ultimately counterproductive. They are not even asking the most thoughtful question, “How many wears (and therefore impressions) am I going to get for my investment?”

Quality Logo Items

At Barefoot Wines, we looked for the best t-shirts we could find. We knew that if the shirts were really high quality, people would wear them over and over again – and thereby advertise our brand more often. Plus, they would identify the quality of the t-shirt with the quality of our brand. The more they would wear our t-shirt, the more brand loyal they would become. After all, they would be sporting a big footprint on their chest!

We did the same thing with our other promotional giveaways, like hats, pens, and corkscrews. Much of that swag is still out there walking around, advertising the brand. We have seen it!

Then we hired an Ivy League grad who knew all the latest buzz words for stuff that’s been around for decades. He took one look at our costs for quality promotional items and immediately read us the riot act. “You guys are wasting a ton of money on swag! I can save you a bundle!” he said. He went out and brought us back samples of T-shirts that cost $5 each. We said, “But the cost per use of this $5 T-shirt is too high!” and added, “On a $5 T-shirt, if you get only 5 uses due to poor quality, that’s a buck a use. If you pay $10 for a higher quality T-shirt and get 50 uses, that’s only 20 cents per use.” He hadn’t thought about the “cost per use.” And he didn’t last long with us either!

Trade Shows

Trade shows are a great place to make a good impression. This is your chance to send prospects home with promotional giveaways printed with your company logo. Choose them carefully so folks won’t throw them away. Think about what you really want out of these promotional items, use! You want your prospects to use your swag over and over, and you want them to use it in public so others will see your logo.

Once the word got out at the trade show that we had quality logo items as our promotional giveaways, our table was mobbed. That got us the crowd we wanted to sell to. So, it’s not just the uses, it’s the attraction as well.

Trade shows typically have hundreds of booths and your is just one of them, but when attendees see others with cool stuff, they ask, “Where did you get that?” We used to ask people to put on our T-shirts right then and there so we had walking ads throughout the show, drawing attention to our brand and our booth.

One of the best promotional items we have seen lately is for smart phones. People want cool accessories that protect, hold, and allow improved grip on their phones. They are used all the time and others see the accessories and the company logo.


Don’t put your logo on a cheap piece of merchandise. It’s not all about the cost, it’s the uses that you are after! Customers are loyal to companies that provide high-end swag. They identify the quality of the swag with the quality of your products or services. So, send a strong message with your durable company swag! Don’t let your swag be a drag!


Who We Are

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) & Shelf Smarts courses to help consumer product brand builders achieve success. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular business site at

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact