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Swag Rules

A framework for creating momentum.

Swag is not a thing — it’s a strategy.

And, the goal of this strategy is not to build brand awareness or position a product. Swag is a momentum strategy and it starts with three elements:

· Alignment — your swag strategy is an extension of your mission, vision and values (not your logo).

· Approach — an impactful swag strategy means taking a relationship approach (think holiday gifting for your close family) instead of company-first.

· Consistency — if you ideate about content weekly, ideate about swag weekly. The point is that swag deserves as much time, care and cadence as anything else you do.

So, how do you build a swag strategy that generates incredible momentum?

Here’s the Swag Rules framework:

I want to share a proven framework that has been refined over the past six years for companies of any size to leverage.

· Foster creativity — in my organization, we have bi-weekly show-and-tell sessions where you can bring anything cool that you have seen, experienced or heard about. It’s not about swag, but it gets creativity flowing org-wide. We also have a #creativeinspo Slack channel (again, it’s not about swag, but it is about what’s out there that is moving us).

· Develop the right mindset — swag isn’t about how you can mobilize a bunch of things to be mailed. I think about swag as showing gratitude. How can I show gratitude to this person or group for what they mean to me and to the company?

A good way to be consistent with gratitude is to schedule time and budget for it. My team has access and budget for Thnks.com so they can quickly show their gratitude — which makes it an easy transition to “how can we show our customers/employees/prospects/board/etc. that we care?”

· Start small — as you can probably tell, we invest in swag. So, as with any investment, we test and learn. This usually means starting with something 1:1 versus 1:many and getting feedback on it as we would any product. This also means that conversation is key — the person you are talking to could unlock the next big idea for you (!) so really connect by noticing what’s in their meeting background, asking non-agenda questions (we typically start calls with ice breakers) and truly conversing.

· Support the story — it’s essential that what you send out into the world, whatever form it takes, supports your brand story. This is the main reason why you can build brand momentum without having to major on corporate items. When we started doing custom skateboards (more on that later), it supported our primary message of new thinking (get on board with new thinking — get it :)?).

The Swag Rules framework in action:

· A few months ago, Jeffery Kendall (Chairman and CEO of Nymbus) and I were having a “discovery” call with a potential customer and we noticed a skateboard on his bookshelf. We immediately starting texting each other about why the heck this person would have a really fancy looking skateboard in his home office…so, we asked. Turns out, he used to be a pretty major skateboarder and still does it from time to time outside their corporate headquarters.

· We moved on to other topics, but as soon as the call ended, Jeffery and I were like “we need to send him a custom skateboard.” Since he is also a BIG fan of his local city, we decided to make the first design the Atlanta skyline. From there, it grew into our 2021 holiday gift where we commissioned 24 unique decks designed for each person. We now use Nymbus skateboards for our employee recognition program. And, going back to supporting the story, the skateboards served as the basis for us reaching out to Tony Hawk for our Beyond Banking series.

Corey LeBlanc, Co-Founder of Locality Bank and Tony Hawk

What’s Next?

We are out there with custom shoes, Legos, bespoke beer and a few other ideas. I’ll do another post on Swag Rules with more examples of the framework in action and you can follow along on LinkedIn here and here.


Had a few requests for advice on how to convince management teams to adopt this strategy and/or include their employees. Here’s my take:

Highly branded companies deliver 2x the return compared to the S&P 500. One of the most effective ways to become a highly branded company is to reward employees. The average number of followers on LinkedIn is 70 per person, so think about what posts from employees would mean in terms of brand impressions.



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Allison Netzer

Allison Netzer

Allison Netzer is a CMO, Boy Mom and one of the Top 25 Women Leaders in Fintech. She writes on brand, marketing and strategy for financial services and beyond.