Don’t Make Squiggliepoo: Trade Show Marketing Ideas with the Experts from Jakprints




1. useless marketing detritus, usually handed out at conventions or trade shows

Synonyms: junk, tchotchke, futile doodads

You’ve put in the time and effort to get your company space at the big trade show – good job. Next, you’re prepared a checklist of must haves for convention success:

  • Booth – check
  • Chairs – check
  • Branded tri-folds – check
  • Business cards – check
  • Product samples – check
  • Key chain ice scrapers with your company logo on it – …why?

Take a quick survey of your desk right now. How many promotional stress balls do you have emblazoned with random company logos? Are your keys currently attached to any functionless keychains? Breweries know what’s up, my Bell’s key chain is a bottle opener.)

Don't Print Keychain

If you’re like most people, coming home from a convention is when the Great Unloading Ceremony takes place; when you – unceremoniously – toss all the useless garbage you’ve accumulated. So why even make this type of item? Is “trash” the thought you want associated with your brand? We both know you’re better than garbage!

At Jakprints, we are all about having cool booth stuff to give away. We do a number of large shows every year (SXSW, HOW Design, etc.) and as printers we have tried it all with the best of intentions (and some of it has been marketing chaff, sorry plastic Inky).

Don't Print Inky

You want your brand to add value to a customer’s convention experience, and in turn have them associate you with that value. Doing this is simple, give them something they can use right away.  At shows, we have started giving away our pocket notes, so that attendees had something to write on that looked way cooler than a normal pad. When they got home, instead of our marketing handout being tossed in the trash, it stuck around with all of their valuable show notes in it. Now, every time they go back to look at something they committed to paper, they’re also reminded of our brand. So far, these little books have been the most successful item we’ve handed out — more so than some of the design kits or sticker packs (don’t worry, we love our sticker too much to stop passing those out). Judging by the way pocket notes fly off our tables, they should be a convention staple for us for a long time to come.

unbranded pocket note sample
| unbranded pocket note sample |

We’ve got it made with these little books because they promote our brand and show off one of our favorite products at the same time. We realize not everyone has this opportunity, but as a rule of thumb, try to get your swag as close to the product or service that you offer while still keeping the item useful. Cleveland graphic design firm Go Media gives it’s new clients a branded Moleskine. It relates to their business, as many designers use it to sketch their ideas, but is also useful to any business owner.

Everyone has a stockpile of branded bank pens on their desk or lost somewhere between the drivers seat in your car and a cup holder full or change and other miscellaneous items. However, in either your house, or your parents (depending on your generation), I bet you will find at least 1 calculator with a bank logo on it. While no one really associates banks with writing, back in the day, balancing a checkbook required a calculator (so I am told) which made it useful and easy to link it to a bank.

Checkbook open to pay bills

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So for your next convention checklist, keep in mind the best way to be remembered is to provide value. Don’t get too gimmicky and be lumped in with all the other cheap, off the rack companies. Stand out with useful giveaways and watch your hard work pay off with increased leads from your next show.