Swag is a common word used to describe branded merchandise that is given away for free as a form of advertising and has some sort of creative association with your organization. It can be anything from a t-shirt to a rub on tattoo. But what about organizations that sell their swag? Why is it that some organizations can sell branded merchandise and some can't?
One difference can be in the user base, the followers. If you operate a blog, not-for profit organization or lead some other form of community or movement in which people genuinely have an emotional attachment or interest then you have an opportunity to sell products branded with your organizations name or logo.
This is where the term cult brand came from. There are certain organizations that are able to create die-hard loyalty among their followers by giving them a group identity, purpose or feeling. To the true followers of the brand it's about a lifestyle or self-expression and not just the products or services of the organization.
If this type of organization sells products, those products can quickly become a kind of "social souvenir" to the followers / customers. Suddenly it's not so much about the product as much as it is about being part of the views or lifestyle that the organization represents. Selling the product also has the added benefit of forcing buyers to rationalize their purchase. This process, called post-purchase cognitive dissonance, reinforces the earlier decision to buy and increases the chance that the product will be promoted, ie wearing the t-shirt in public.
So by selling a form of "social souvenir" you're creating a whole new offering, and message multiplier, which is just as valuable as your main product or service. People want to fit in and feel like they are part of a group – they want to stand for something. The "social souvenir" allows them to define themselves, and positions them as adding value in discussions among their other social networks.
According to the Sports Business Journal, the 17,000 fans in attendance of Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) 110 held in Sydney Australia in February 2010 spent approximately $ 540,000 on UFC merchandise alone. This is an outrageous statistic. Out of 17,000 people in attendance they sold 540,000 dollars in merchandise! That means that each of those 17,000 people purchased an average of thirty-two dollars in merchandise. The UFC definitely has a dedicated following if you ask me.
I came across a football blog the other day that sells a temporary tattoo of their blogs crest. I have no idea how many of these they sell but I can tell that they have a large active community of readers that are passionate about football and take pride in being part of this online community and that's all they need. This community is happy to support the organization and it makes them feel good to wear the merchandise.
If you have a following of people that feel passionately about your cause, maybe you should be selling some form of "social souvenir". Not only will it make you some extra money to support outreach to your growing community but you will also help your community members tell your story on your behalf.