Essential Swag Every Startup Needs

Marketers and event coordinators will tell you that your startup needs to stand out with unique corporate merchandise that employees and customers alike want and need. However, regardless of the size of your budget or the creativity of your marketing team, there are some swag essentials that every company absolutely should have. Employees and customers expect to be able to get them, either in your corporate store or as a free perk for doing business.

Fortunately, most of these swag essentials are inexpensive and easy to obtain. Here is a quick list of some branded swag you always need to have on hand:

T-shirts and Sweatshirts

Even if you only create apparel for your employees to wear, T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and other wearables are critical components of any swag line. While it might be tempting to slap your company logo on a shirt and be done with it, it could be more rewarding to think more critically about the aesthetics of the design on the shirt and how your designs might change through the years. If you don’t want to hire a graphic designer for your swag, you might hold a contest among staff for designing the T-shirts, and you might also include details like the year, employees’ names and perhaps inside jokes.

It is important that you strive for total inclusivity when it comes to your startup’s apparel swag, especially if you expect to sell T-shirts and the like to customers and clients outside your staff. This means you should have inclusive sizing, which includes sizes 0 to 22, or XS to 2X, and you might consider offering different cuts of clothing to accommodate different body shapes, as well. For example, many women cannot wear unisex shirts, despite the name, and require T-shirts designed for curvier bodies. This is a small gesture that doesn’t radically increase your costs but does positively build your brand image.

Mugs, Tumblers and Water Bottles

Another swag staple is the reusable drink container. Everyone needs liquids throughout the day, and having branded mugs, custom tumblers, water bottles and even wine or shot glasses will give your company extra opportunities to increase visibility. As with T-shirts and other apparel, you should think creatively about the designs instead of automatically opting for your regular logo.

Unlike T-shirts, which serve to broadcast an incredibly simplified message to every passerby, water bottles and other drink containers give you more real estate for smaller text. You might include a large logo or branded design, but you can also print more information about your startup, like its mission statement, a list of current employees, client testimonials and more. This gives the users of your drink containers something to read while they sip and boosts the marketing content of your swag.

Tote Bags and Shopping Bags

There is a reason the humble tote bag is always included in a company’s swag lineup: It is dead useful. Most people always need more tote bags; they are essential in every line of work, in travel, in fitness, in shopping and just in regular, everyday life. As more people try to move away from using plastic grocery bags, tote bags are becoming even more vital to have around, so employees, customers and almost everyone will be eager to get their hands on this branded swag.

If you are so inclined, you might expand this swag line to include other types of convenient carrying cases, like backpacks, laptop bags, briefcases and more. Whether you do this will depend slightly on your brand, your services and your values. For example, if your startup is tech-focused, offering a branded laptop bag to employees makes sense; then again, if your startup is more concerned with the great outdoors, a hiking backpack might be fun and useful. Aside from the essentials on this list, you should approach all branded swag opportunities with your company in mind.

Stickers, Pins and Patches

Small items like stickers, pins and patches give your employees and customers more freedom with how they show pride in your startup. They can adorn their already-branded gear with extra swag, they can swag-out their own belongings, or they can even add swag to unexpected places like street signs — though you might not want to encourage vandalism. You could consider releasing “special edition” stickers and pins, which employees and customers might try to collect, or you could offer a steady stream of this inexpensive swag available for free to anyone.


Finally, every company needs its own branded pens. Every office space needs an abundance of pens, and having branded pens in your storage room will ensure that your startup’s name filters out into the world. Pens come in a wide range of styles, so you can have masses of cheap pens to give out willy-nilly and a few special pens for particularly productive employees or uniquely valued customers.

Your startup needs swag — but exactly what swag it needs is up to you. Most every company should have these basic swag items on offer to employees and customers, but you should definitely personalize your swag to make it special for those who use it.