Brief History of Schwag

By Nathaniel Baratta

If you like free things, which studies suggest most people do, then chances are that you have “schwag” sitting somewhere in your home. Schwag, not to be confused with swag, is free promotional material with company logos, mission statements, and or mascots just to name a few, emblazoned somewhere on the item. Schwag is ubiquitous in todays culture. Prominent examples include McDonalds Happy Meal toys, t-shirts shot from cannons, and every pen you didn’t buy.

The use of schwag goes back centuries. In fact, President George Washington had his own schwag during his presidential campaign in 1789. Then candidate Washington had metal coat buttons with his initials created and passed out to the general public at campaign stops. Rumor has it that he nearly commissioned the baking of cakes with his face on them.

Schwag is an easy way to disseminates your name or brand and can be more cost effective than other strategies like TV, radio and print ads. Schwag is a popular marketing tactic and everyone seems to love it.