Good Tchotchke (or is it Schmata?)

Yesterday, my wife, daughter, dog and I went apple picking.  This is an annual tradition, which I have written about before.  The reason I am gratuitously posting this picture of my beautiful daughter, Bishop; our beautiful dog, Gloria; set against a beautiful autumn sky; taken by my beautiful wife, Cindy; is because of the decidedly UN-beautiful jacket I am wearing. 

Here is a detail of the logo on the breast:

It’s for a company called Thiessen Team that provides underground mining supplies like drill bits, drilling fluid, etc.

Here’s the thing – that jacket is over 20 years old.  I won it playing in a golf tournament sponsored by Westmin Resources’ underground mine in Myra Falls, BC, when I worked there in 1990.  I was just a management consultant, but since I went 4,200 feet underground for 12 hours at a stretch with the REAL miners, they humoured me.  The jacket was donated as a tournament prize by one of the mine’s main suppliers, Thiessen.

I long ago stopped wearing it as a “real” jacket, and its use was curtailed to cold-weather messy-work.  That’s why, if you look closely, you will see paint stains on it.  I was wearing it yesterday because I had spent the morning shoving wet leaves into recycling bags.  But I still have it, still wear it, and (occasionally) display it in public.

Sadly, many logoed items that are given away at trade shows and other events (like golf tournaments) are a WASTE OF MONEY because they are designed to be consumed and/or discarded immediately.  One that I have the most contempt for are logoed food items like miniature candy bars.  The people to whom these are given are reminded of your company for exactly one bite.

This jacket has reminded me of Thiessen Team for 20 years.  Admittedly, I am not likely to buy any hardrock mining drill bits any time soon, but what if the recipient of this prize back in 1990 was now a mine foreman, or manager, or purchaser?  You can bet that he/she would at least consider  Thiessen for their next purchase.  So if that jacket cost $40 (wholesale) in 1990, how much potential sales might it have generated by now?

So, (free advice coming, and you know what that’s worth) if you are considering give-aways, think of something with long-term usefulness.  One example I like are those little alligator clip photo-holders (seen at right).  I have one on my desk right now. 

Some things that people might THINK are good ideas, rarely work.  Pens, for instance.  Sure, in theory, a pen is something someone will keep and use for weeks or months, but your average North American already has dozens of pens, and usually has a favourite one, and you aren’t likely to usurp that title.  “Stress balls” are another popular tchochtke, but who is going to leave one sitting on their desk?

Given that my post is about the effectiveness of a jacket, my next bit of advice may surprise you:  do NOT give away T-shirts.  They are so ubiquitous, and their design so un-inspired, that they end up being garage rags.  The very rare circumstance where they will work, is if you ALREADY have a “tribe” of supporters, who will gleefully wear your colours.  If you must give away clothing, make it something useful or valuable.  Like a jacket.  Or even underwear – you’ll lose the “broadcast’ value, but at least the wearer will think of you once a week or so.  And before you laugh too hard, remember my earlier advice:  if you are marketing to the right person, they’re the only person you have to worry about reminding…


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