So you want to send branded swag for your next hybrid event? Smart choice.
Hybrid or virtual event gift boxes are the future of experiential marketing. You want people to engage with your brand, right? What better way to spark an emotional connection and leave a lasting impression than sending a personalized gift box?
In this guide, we’ll talk more about the power of virtual event gifts and how they can invite event attendees to interact with your audience in a memorable way. But most importantly, we’ll discuss all the steps you need to take to plan and send your very own hybrid event swag box.
You can’t just throw promotional items into a box and call it an event gift. The best practices listed in this guide will help you create a solid strategy for a successful hybrid event and brand experience.
Let’s start with the basics.
A hybrid or virtual event gift box is a collection of gifts, giveaways, or promotional items that can be sent to your virtual attendees before the event, or given out to your in-person audience during the event. The goal is to connect both your in-person and remote attendees to create a more cohesive, connected and memorable experience for everyone involved.
Hybrid event swag can be sent in special, custom-designed boxes or in a standard shipping box. But the idea is to get attendees excited and engaged about your event before it even begins. The result is improved brand awareness and a more exciting experience for your prospects, customers, and event attendees.
One of the biggest challenges we saw with the rise of virtual events was a lack of engagement. Hybrid events combine the benefits of a virtual experience with the bold impact of an in-person event. Together it creates a compelling event experience that helps attendees interact with your brand in a personal way.
The challenge is connecting both audiences in a real and memorable way. Sending swag boxes can bridge that gap. A gift sent straight to the home will make your audience members feel valued and appreciated. The unboxing of a custom swag box filled with items carefully chosen to delight your attendees will lead to an excitement around your event that no other form of marketing can accomplish. Attendees will share their experiences with others, and before you know it you’ll have a team of loyal ambassadors activating your brand.
This is what hybrid events are all about.
We can talk all day about how a swag box will lead to better engagement, awareness, and an overall better event experience. But where’s the proof?
Before we take a look at an example, let’s discuss the data. Here are some fast facts that prove the overall impact of sending gift boxes in the mail.
Drawing just from the general direct mail statistics, it can be concluded that sending gift boxes to the home can lead to a more successful marketing campaign in general. But when we’re talking about hybrid event swag boxes specifically, it’s helpful to see how gifting has worked for a real organization hosting their own hybrid or virtual event. Luckily we have a pretty compelling story from one of our own clients.
This is the story of The Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) and their first ever virtual event. Though their event didn’t have an in-person component to it, this story shows the power a hybrid or virtual event gift box can have.
CSTA was on a mission to host their first-ever virtual event. Here’s what they needed:
Working with our team at DMG, CSTA came up with a virtual event swag box strategy that included the shipment of 2,000 personalized gift boxes to the homes of their attendees before the event. These boxes were carefully designed with personas in mind and products tailored to their attendees.
Here’s a look at the results:
These are just the highlights. Read CSTA’s full story here. It might give you some additional insight on how to recreate a campaign like theirs for your own hybrid or virtual event.
Now that we know a little bit more about what a virtual event swag box is and how it can make a brand impact, it’s time to look inward and figure out what sending a swag box looks like for your company and brand. In the following section, we’ve outlined all the steps and areas to think about when planning your own strategy. These steps will help you decide if sending gifts is the right thing for your event, and if so, how exactly to go about doing it.
Before you start planning anything, it’s important to determine if you have enough time. You might have an awesome idea that we’d love to help you execute, but if there’s not enough time to capitalize on it we don’t want to waste your time.
Event swag require a lot of planning ahead. Best practice is to have your box arrive before the event. We recommend having it arrive three days in advance. This will build hype and get people talking before participating on event day.
But this means planning at least seven-eight weeks ahead of time. This gives you time to choose your box’s actual contents and plan and/or design the packaging. It also builds in enough time for the production and fulfillment process. The process of drop shipping boxes takes more time than hand-delivering a typical giveaway. By giving yourself plenty of time, you’ll ensure you won’t miss out on any gift options and create opportunities for engagement before, during, and after the event itself for attendees.
The more time you budget, the better. It will ensure your project goes seamlessly and alleviate unnecessary stress to the planning process.
If you’ve got enough time to play with, then it’s time to start thinking about your budget. By determining what your budget for your event is as a whole, you’ll have a better idea of how much you have to spend on your gift boxes. This knowledge will help you decide on things like packaging, product selection, sponsors, and even the number of gift boxes you want to send out.
When hashing out your budget, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Are you saving your organization any money by hosting a virtual event in lieu of a live event? Or are you renting out a smaller venue because you have less in-person attendees at your event? Chances are yes. When you cross off the expenses of a venue, equipment, and refreshments, you’ll find there are extra funds that can be invested into event promotion and marketing. Virtual or hybrid event swag boxes do both.
Consider how much you want to budget for the swag items you’ll put in your gift boxes. Remember, it’s about quality over quantity. We typically recommend not overwhelming the recipient with products but choosing around 3-8 items for each box. Focus on one high-quality gift, and keep the others at a lesser price point. Consider budgeting between $30-50 a box for products.
How much do you have to spend on shipping? This will help you determine the number of products in your box and the size and weight these products should be. When selecting items, you'll want to make sure you pick things that won't cost a ton to ship.
How much do you have to spend on packaging? There’s a lot of different options when it comes to customization. But these come at a cost. We’ll talk more about the benefits of custom packaging below, but it’s helpful to map out what makes sense for your company. If you have a large event, the ROI of a custom box makes sense. But if your event is smaller, it might make more sense to stick with a standard mailer.
How many people do you want to send these boxes to? Keep in mind the number of people on your recipient list, and decide if you have the budget to send to everyone on your list or if you want to keep it to a select few. Maybe the most valuable prospects or the first X number of attendees to register for your event. This knowledge will also help when you order gifts. Many products have certain minimums. If you have a smaller contact list, you'll want to stay away from products with larger minimums.
Now that you have your budget in mind, it’s time to decide whether you want to invest in a custom gift box and packaging or a standard mailer or somewhere in between. There are definite pros and cons to all three. We’ll break them down for you below, so you can decide what works best for your event and business.
Custom gift boxes look pretty cool. There’s no doubt about it. But is it really worth it? Packaging is pretty powerful, and a custom gift box can set you up to get the most out of your event box and delight event attendees to the fullest extent.
According to logistics provider Dotcom Distribution, 50 percent of consumers say that premium packaging makes them more excited about opening a package.
We define premium packaging as going beyond the traditional brown box and including quality materials, custom designs, and eye-catching colors. Keep in mind that this is how we wrap traditional gifts, so why shouldn’t we use the same mentality when sending swag boxes through the mail? Custom packaging will make your gift feel like a gift.
If your budget is smaller, another option is a mailer box with a custom label, sticker, or tape. This allows you to still benefit from some custom branding but save a bit of money on packaging.
You can order your mailer box in a color that coincides with your brand and logo. The label is flexible and can be designed to reflect your messaging and theme as a company. Consider adding messaging that encourages recipients to share their gifts on social media with a specific hashtag. We've had clients, like CSTA for example, follow this advice and see an insane amount of social media engagement because of it. It's another way to boost engagement with your gift recipients while encouraging user-generated content for your brand.
There are situations where it’s just not wise for your budget to go the custom route. And that’s okay - as long as you’re making the smart choice for your company. For custom boxes to be worth the price, we recommend ordering at least 100. Though you can purchase as few as 12 custom boxes, if your list is that small, a standard white box might be a better investment.
If you have a pretty large list of recipients, then custom is the way to go. When you’re deciding the overall amount you’ll need, keep in mind custom boxes are typically sold in increments of a dozen.
Let's not forget about the packaging that goes inside the box. To add to the gift-like experience of your event gift box, we recommend using crinkle paper. It adds an extra layer of excitement when unboxing. Plus, it’s designed to protect fragile gifts that might need extra padding.
It's better than packing peanuts because it still adds an element of cheer to your gift while serving the dual purpose of protection. You can choose from various colors to make sure you have a look that fits with your virtual or hybrid event theme.
What about box size? Every hybrid event swag box is different and will depend on the products you choose. But we do have recommendations based on what we’ve seen work. Keeping in mind that the average swag box has between 2-6 items inside, we recommend choosing between the following three sizes:
Now it’s time to talk about products. To truly maximize the success of your gift boxes, the products you choose have to be intentional. Think of items that attendees will be able to use during your event. This will help create a sense of community and unity around your brand. Also consider items that attendees will find use for after the event. This will extend the life of your promotional gifts, and ensure the maximum amount of impressions for your brand.
Typically we recommend including the following inside a hybrid event box:
If you're looking for more inspiration, we put together a list of our favorite 8 giveaways to fit inside your virtual event swag box. All of these items are small enough to easily ship, useful during a virtual event, and effective at creating event excitement and engagement.
We talked about the importance of a custom box, but what should your design look like, and how do you go about creating it? Don’t worry; you don’t need to be a Photoshop expert to see your vision come to life. That’s what our team at DMG is here for. Our designers come fueled with ideas to maximize the success of your box.
We’ve even created four custom swag box designs to help you get started. Access them here.
If you don’t already have one, start by coming up with a theme for your event. This will give you guidance and direction for your box’s design. Your theme should remain brand consistent, making it clear to your event prospects who is responsible for hosting the event.
To ensure brand cohesion consider the following:
Next, come up with messaging that coincides with this theme. A branded hashtag or phrase can easily be designed on your box. This also helps with social media engagement, giving people a central place to post content related to your box.
Keep your event messaging personalized and inspirational. Create a tagline that’s strong and powerful, and will inspire your audience to take some sort of action. Here are some ideas:
Reference this list to help spark more ideas.
Come up with a special event logo to incorporate on your box. This should incorporate your brand’s primary logo in some way, but also have its own identity. This gives your event a purpose beyond your brand. Don’t just try and fit the event’s message and theme into your company’s logo. By branding your event with a separate, yet still cohesive identity, you’ll give your participants a cause that is easier to connect to. You’ll find this will lead to more excitement about your event and engagement with your brand.
Pro Tip: When designing your event logo, don’t go overboard. Logos with too many angles or lines might not print the way you hope on promotional products. Lines and colors can become blurred or bleed into each other. So keep your design simple and straightforward for best results.
When thinking about your box design, consider whether you want to include event sponsors. This is a great way to help finance your custom box while giving other companies a chance to interact with your brand and advertise their own. Open up the opportunity to relevant companies or brands to feature their logos on your box. This can easily be tied together with an event theme and designed into a cohesive look and feel.
Give them the option of branding on the outside for maximum visibility, or on the inside for a smaller price tag. You also might consider whether a sponsor would be interested in sponsoring a particular item inside the box itself.
Got an idea of what you want your box to look like? Great! Our team can do the rest. Our graphic designers will work with you to develop a virtual or hybrid event swag box design that gets people excited about your event while showcasing your brand in the best light. Here’s a look at the work we did for our client, CSTA.
Your box is designed and packed, and ready to ship. Now it’s time to get it to your recipients. This process can feel a little overwhelming, which is the benefit of working with our team. We do it all for you, from packing to shipping, all you have to do is give us the addresses.
But, if you are thinking of doing it yourself, here’s what you’ll need to consider.
Does your company already have a shipping account? If not, you’ll have to figure out what shipping carrier to go with. FedEx, UPS and USPS all have different shipping standards, so it’s important to figure out your carrier before you start packing and labeling your hybrid event swag boxes.
Do you have all the addresses of your attendees? If not, do you have a way to get them? One easy way to collect all contact information you need is to require it on the event registration form. This makes the process seamless and saves you from having to track down missing addresses one by one.
Once you have all your addresses, you’ll need to print out your labels and put them on your hybrid event swag boxes. You’ll want to make sure they are printed and formatted correctly, based on your carriers standards. Most of the major carriers (UPS, FedEx and USPS) offer a way to print shipping labels online.
Don’t forget about packing all your products into the boxes. Presentation is an important part of the overall appeal of hybrid event swag boxes. Plus, you want to make sure your gifts are safe inside your packaging. Consider how much packaging you need, make sure everything fits into your boxes, and that everything is properly sealed.
Finally, drop off your packages at the shipment center. Remember, you want these boxes to arrive a few days before the event. Keep this in mind when you decide on the shipment date.
Again, don’t feel overwhelmed by the details of shipping and fulfillment. Our team is here to take care of the small details and make sure your gifts arrive in one piece on time. So let us do the hard work for you and keep your focus on the other critical aspects of planning a virtual or hybrid event.
Though your gift box can contain a wide variety of different products, we most often see the following product categories:
We recommend choosing 3-8 items for your box. Some clients choose to swap out or add in a branded apparel item. Reference this list for more ideas.
The goal is to send your hybrid event swag boxes to virtual attendees ahead of your event. We always recommend planning at least seven to eight weeks ahead of time. This gives you ample amount of time to choose the box’s content, plan or design the packaging, and complete the products and fulfillment process.
Yes, we can ship boxes overseas, but it depends on the products you choose. Some items (i.e. food, batteries, etc.) are not able to be shipped internationally.
It’s also important to note that if your product is able to be shipped overseas, you must use your own shipping account to do so.
It depends on the size and weight of the box. Usually, shipping costs range anywhere between $15-$17 per box.
Shipping is dependent on the size and weight of the box. That’s why we always recommend choosing products that are lightweight and small enough to maximize your shipping budget.
When sending hybrid event swag boxes, you’ll want to budget a total of around $30-$50 a box. This includes shipping and fulfillment fees, as well as the price of products. With a budget this size, it leaves space to be creative with your products and put together a really thoughtful box. Keep in mind that fulfillment and drop shipping fees will cost you around $25 of that budget.
When planning a virtual or hybrid event, don’t lose sight of the ultimate goal of sending a swag box. It’s all about creating that human connection and bridging the connection gap that forms when events have a digital component.
The final bit of advice we can give you to help establish that emotional connection between your brand and the person receiving it is to keep in mind these three things:
If you need help accomplishing these three critical pieces of hybrid event swag boxes, our team is standing by. The event boxes and strategies we put together for clients are focused on making your brand more relatable, approachable, and human. With a strategic vision guided by your personas and organizational goals, we’ll help you send hybrid event gift boxes that attract, convert and delight your event attendees, prospects, and customers.