Can Trade Show Giveaways Be Sustainable?

promo products

The sustainability trend is increasingly impacting a significant component of trade shows: promotional products. Denise Taschereau, co-founder and CEO of Vancouver-based Fairware, whose clients include Patagonia, Aveda, and Nature's Path Foods, identifies three current sustainability trends within the company's client base.

• Product safety: "We are getting more questions about lead, [phthalates], and BPA, and I think it's because it's been in the news more, where products don't meet North American safety standards."

• Local provenance:  "Over the past 10 years, there has been a bit of a resurgence in local with people wanting 'Made in USA' or 'Made in Canada,' or even made in their own community."

• The story: "The larger trend we're seeing is that marketers are recognizing merchandising as a part of strategy. I think that buyers are getting more sophisticated, and they're looking for the story. What's the story of this product? What's the story it's helping to tell? What's the story of the supply chain, or of the material?"

For a women's empowerment conference organized by a global nonprofit, Fairware suggested having the bags made by a social enterprise employing disadvantaged women, with this narrative replicated on the hangtag and in the conference brochure. For Nature's Path at the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, CA, they made the media bags out of recycled grain bags that initially held the natural grains for the company's signature organic cereal. Ideally, the promotional merchandise becomes the product narrative.

"We've taken these grain bags, we've cleaned them, we've cut them, and we've made these gorgeous tote bags for the media kits," Taschereau said. "That's so rich with story. The brands that we're seeing within our portfolio that are driving the change are working with us to develop products and source products that animate their brand story. They don't just replicate a logo on a product; they really help drive brand difference in the marketplace."

You can learn more about sustainable trends by attending Smart Monday powered by MPI at IMEX America in Las Vegas on Oct. 12.

Source: MPI and IMEX America