Quality buttons will win over your audience, but poor quality will turn them away.

If you've got a big event to go to, being prepared with promotional swag is always a good idea, right? No, not unless you have great quality goods to offer. If you don't have anything that anybody wants, you're just wasting your energy. And time. And money.

If your stuff stinks, then you might be making one of these 12 fundamental mistakes. Let's nip these in the butt so our swag kicks butt!

1. Offering a Bad Quality Product

Don't you know that trying to sell junk isn't going to do anything for your company's image or brand? The most you can expect to do with shoddy merchandise is give it away for free, but if it's particularly poor quality, even that's not going to do you any favors.

2. Offering a Tacky Product

I still remember the days when people used to use bright greens, cyans and magentas as primary colors on their websites. Ugh! My eyes burn just thinking about it.

Look, no one wants to wear or hold onto swag that doesn't look any good or match anything or has a slogan on it that's too aggressive or too suggestive. You don't want to sell anyone something that's going to get them a good slap upside the head any time they get together with their buddies!

3. Offering an Offensive Product

Isn't this the same as point two? Well fine, but there are definitely ways of offending people with inappropriate imagery and verbiage other than what has already been suggested. Sex comes to mind. We'll leave the rest to your dirty imagination.

Seems like people are maybe a little less shocked by the antics of youth past (what haven't you already seen on YouTube), but that doesn't mean there aren't more ways of invoking offense. Avoid them like the plague.

4. Offering a Useless Product

You know where most flyers go, right? In the trash! Look, it's not that people don't want to help out, but they're not going to give you the time of day if they're busy, distracted or flat-out not interested in what you're promoting.

So don't bother making merchandise that nobody has any practical use for. If they can't wear it, if they can't put it up on a shelf, if they can't put it on their keychain, if they can't balance it on their girlfriend's head, if it serves absolutely no practical purpose, then you've just wasted your money and time.

5. Offering a Product That's Too Goofy

You can be funny, and then you can cross lines that you'll never be able to retreat back to. You can be silly, but you can also be way off-the-wall. You can be quirky, but you can also alienate and estrange population earth.

It's a fine line to be sure, and sometimes goofy is a good thing, but if you're not sure if anyone is going to get what you're saying or portraying, at least run it by some people that aren't your water-cooler buddies or yes-men before approving the proofs.

6. Offering a Product That's Too Grim

You can be too goofy, but you can also be too serious. People like to have fun, remember? Don't unload all of your emotional baggage and puke out your depressing life story on the promo merch you create. We all know that life sometimes deals you a hand you don't like. So don't become a hand model!

7. Offering a Product That's Too Scary

Believe it or not, the popular Sci-Fi series, Star Was, has produced its fair share of scary merchandise, from French-kissing Jar Jar lollipops to tape-humping C-3POs. If your swag elicits a "WTF!?" reaction, make sure it's not because it's too gory, scary or just plain frightening.

Sometimes it's fun to see people jump, but if you can't sell it, it's not worth going off the deep end for.

8. Mixing too many Mediums

Have you not heard of the horrors of design by committee!? If you try to put together something that everyone wants, you wind up creating an atrocity that everybody's radically neutral about.

Quite simply, this is what happens when you don't have a clearly defined goal or plan at the outset. Put your thinking caps on and really mull it over before you settle on a design.

9. Making Paperwork Errors

Depending on what kind of swag you're making, you may be presented with a variety of esthetic options. Make sure to take some time to peruse the choices on the documents or web forms before you rage-check all the boxes. Otherwise, you'll end up getting silk Frisbees and vinyl coffee mugs.

Okay, fine, they probably don't have that. But failing to pay attention to quantity, optional add-ons and material could be disastrous.

10. Making Last Minute Orders

If you put it off for too long, you're not going to have your shiny new swag in time for the big CD release party or movie premiere or trade show or corporate event you're preparing for. If you can't deliver on your promises, you'd better have a pretty good excuse. Otherwise, look out for those flying tomatoes.

11. Forgetting to Proof

Before you approve the designs, you should ensure that they reflect what you and your team intended to create in the first place. If you don't, you could wind up like the poor guys in point one. Or two. Or four. Wow, this could really put you in the toilet.

12. Forgetting to Budget

If this didn't actually happen, there would be no need to talk about it. Yep, some goofs forget to set aside enough money for the swag they've invested so much time and effort into. Keep a piggybank on your desk if that's what it takes, but don't catch yourself penniless when it comes time to pay!

Image by Nan Palmero

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