Useful Vendor Swag


Inspired by a question from @jfrappier, here is a bunch of vendor swag I’ve received over the years that has actually proved useful. Hopefully this will help marketing at the various vendors to invest in useful swag and not pointless landfill.

The biggest issue with swag is its marginal utility: once you have one, getting another one isn’t that useful, for most things. The best swag has high marginal utility, or is truly unique and useful.

Useful Swag

This is swag that I actually use on a semi-regular basis.

  • Stickers! I love stickers. If you’d like to get some eigenmagic or PivotNine stickers, let me know and I’ll get some to you.
  • A messenger bag from Nutanix, embroidered with my Twitter handle. It means I know it’s mine, and it has lots of little compartments and spaces for stuff, plus it holds a surprising amount. Downside is it’s a messenger bag, so not the most comfortable bag to carry when full of gear. But it fits under the seat in airplanes.
  • A 5700 mAh Powertrip USB battery pack, from XtremIO. It plugs directly into US 110V power, which is useful when I’m in the States, but charges off USB as well. Handy for both my phone and audio recorder.
  • A multi-plug USB charger adapter thing from Oracle. I can swap the plug part between US and Australian (and other) powerpoints, and it has 4 USB ports. Handy!
  • An HP Bluetooth/USB speaker. I connect to it from my phone, and I can listen to podcasts when in the shower or cooking or otherwise occupied.
  • Solidfire cycling socks. They’re surprisingly comfy.
  • A Platform9 polarfleece jumper/pullover. Useful in winter. I wish the pockets had zippers.
  • Cuff links. I prefer French-cuff business shirts, which require cuff links. A little tricky to wear sometimes, lest I appear overly vendor-biased, so it depends on what I’m doing that day.
  • A micron 128 GB SATA SSD. Currently used as read-cache in front of a bunch of slow SATA drives in my lab.
  • A couple of Sandisk 400GB SAS SSDs. I spent $400 on an HBA to get them to work with my gear, so an expensive gift. I now use them as the main disks for a VM host in my lab.

Marginally Useful Swag

This sort of swag is sort-of useful, but not that useful. It’s best suited to people who are going to their first set of conferences or trade shows and haven’t accumulated much of this stuff yet.

  • Coffee mugs and vacuum flasks. I already have a lot of them, so yours probably won’t get used.
  • Vendor branded polo shirts. I don’t wear them to work any more, so this doesn’t get me free wardrobe, and I’m not going to wear a vendor branded collared shirt, especially if it has a button-down collar. Polo shirts aren’t useful at the gym, and I don’t play golf.
  • Vendor branded t-shirts. Gym wear, or working in the garden, and only if it fits reasonably well, which most don’t because I take a US small. Nice soft ones are fine for being a slob around the house, and I know some ladies who use them as sleepwear.
  • USB sticks. I have heaps of these, and while they’re useful for getting the presentation materials or other soft-copy quickly (particularly if I want to file a story with product photos) they mostly stay in a drawer or on my desk for occasional use. I tend to plonk a single ISO image on them for later use (DOS/memtest86+, Ubuntu BootRepair, Ubuntu server/desktop version whatever, that sort of thing).
  • 2200 mAh battery packs. Even less useful than USB sticks because electrons are fungible.

Not Useful Swag

  • Pens. I have a zillion. Most are not very good, but every now and then one of them writes quite nicely. And then it dies, and I don’t have a nice pen any more and can’t replace it. I like stability in my pen experience, and don’t like having to swap pens all the time.
  • Notepads. Some of them are very nice, but I have heaps I don’t use, and I tend to take my notes electronically anyway.
  • Baseball caps. My wife doesn’t let me wear them, as I don’t have the right head for them, apparently.
  • Hats that are not baseball caps. No. Just… no. Exception: If a vendor provided a top-hat for the conference party, that would be hilarious. But no, instead we get sad imitations of a fedora with all the connotations that come with it.
  • Bags. I’m super picky, and I already have a couple I regularly use. It’ll have to be a pretty special bag to replace my tried and tested bag.
  • Shot glasses. I don’t drink shots at home. I rarely drinks shots when I’m out. These sit in a cupboard collecting dust assuming my wife lets me keep them.

What’s your favourite swag?

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