So much swag and so little room in your suitcase. (What a first-world problem to have.) Anyone who has ever attended a business conference knows the drill. You get a grab-bag, stuff it with stuff, and maybe — just maybe — you’ll use one or two pieces of the various promotional items you accumulate throughout the event. At SXSW, one of the largest conferences in the U.S., the swag flows like water.
Since you can’t take it home with you, what should you do with all that stuff? Medallia, a Silicon Valley-based tech company, had the answer: Give it to the homeless.
Throughout the conference, which ended March 16, representatives from Medallia, along with Austin’s Foundation for the Homeless, placed themselves in strategic spots asking for attendee’s unwanted swag. They promoted their efforts via Twitter using the hashtag #SwagDonationSXSW. And it didn’t take long for the swag to come swaggering in. According to a post by Andrew Nunnelly on Medallia’s blog, the swag drive was as a massive success. From hats to backbags to USB drives to food to waterbottles and too many t-shirts to count, conference attendees were quick to rid themselves of their swag to help the homeless. In total, nearly 50 pounds of swag was collected.
“It’s not easy to catch people’s attention at SXSW — there’s simply so much to do and so much to see — but it was clear that the wastefulness of traditional marketing swag immediately resonated with nearly everyone who saw our volunteers,” Nunnelly wrote. “They knew what they had collected from brand booths and street teams was destined for a dark corner of their closets at best, or the landfill at worse. By having volunteers ready to take the swag off their hands though, we provided them with an entirely new (and impactful) ‘best’ option.”
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Nunnelly writes that the goal of the company’s initiative was not only to collect much-needed items to distribute to the community, but also to raise awareness of the issue of homelessness in Austin. According to the city’s website, more than 2,300 people are on the streets in any given night and about 900 individuals in the city are considered chronically homeless.
But we think there’s an even bigger message behind this idea. We already know that Americans are obsessed with stuff. Why? Most of us don’t need any of it. But there are many people who do. As SXSW attendees return to their respective cities across the country and around the world, take a look at your swag bag. Do you really need it? If not, pay it forward by donating it to your local homeless shelter. Let’s keep #SwagDonationSXSW going. Now that’s what we call swagger.