Eco is one of the major trends in swag like this eco-friendly flash drive.

The thought of “new trends” is almost ironic, because, really what’s old is new, and what’s new is still new, and in some cases all you need to do is convince your eager buyers that this is irrevocably true (careful though; if you pull something out of the 70s archives, you’re bound to be considered avant-garde). Combine the best elements of the 80s, 90s, and 2000s fashions and you’re probably right on the money. If you can actually pinpoint the “best” fashions from each era, then you sir, or ma’am, have a better eye for it than I (get it?).

Because, frankly, people are confused. You’ve probably noticed how the fluorescents are back, and nobody is really fighting it. The faded Levi’s from the 90s would just be “tacky”, but fanny packs are acceptable. What in god’s name is going on?

Well, there isn’t much sense in trying to figure it out. Whatever sells, you need to have a healthy supply of it. Just don’t go too far outside of the loosely, inadequately defined cage of stylish and you should be fine.


And you thought social awareness was a 90s trend. As meteors continue to bombard our planet, ice caps melt, rising tides swallow up mother earth and Bruce Willis gets launched into space one more time, people are gradually buying into the idea that we should be a little more environmentally conscious. Oh the lies the movies tell.

So yeah, it’s true. People would rather punch you in the face than buy your plastic water bottle. Reusable water bottles? That’s cool. Plastic? You must be a hell-spawn from… hell.

Eco-friendly is one of the trends we’re seeing in promotional design these days. Dinosaurs are leaving massive carbon footprints and social responsibility is a hot topic around the aliens. Sorry, I should really turn the movie channel off while I’m writing.

Ahem. So, what constitutes eco-friendly? Basically just stuff that can be reused or biodegraded. Packrats are going to have a hard time going to trade shows and events, because in their hearts they know they’re just going to be collecting more stuff that they’re even less likely to throw away. Good thing it’s easy on the planet.

Retro Swag

This is probably the most chronologically confused generation of all time. We can’t really come up with anything new, so we’re starting to rehash bad 80s fashions, “tame” them down, and call them new. Meanwhile, a lot of Gen Y doesn’t even remember the 80s, so for them it’s the hip new thing. Suffice it to say that history repeats itself, though in this case – as I mentioned earlier – it’s mixed in with many other fashions that were trending in the 90s and 2000s too.

Remember fluorescent clothing? Yeah, that’s back. Remember fanny packs? Oh god, fanny packs. Were those things ever cool? Next you’re going to tell me Richard Simmons, leg warmers and leotards are resurging. I, for one, would rather not think about it, but you can’t put it past them.

So anyway, if you can be retro and clever at the same time, and still fashionable, you might be on to something.


This pretty much goes hand-in-hand with being eco-friendly, right? It’s sort of like how you used to get decorative trinkets from your grandma every Christmas and wondered if her pension really wasn’t enough or if she just kept pulling stuff out of a box from the dark room in the basement. Either way, it was always useless crap you didn’t want.

So, functionality is finally the “in” thing and we’re all happier for it. We like stuff we can actually use and even reuse.

Eye-Burning Colors

Sigh. The brights are back and our eyes are begging for rest. It’s not enough that we subject ourselves to seven hours at a desk and a bright computer monitor. We stare at our mobile devices in traffic and then proceed to watch five hours of TV at home (on average).

In case you didn’t already know, neon was a trend from the 80s and as things progressed, even the Ninja Turtles were “lit up” if you get my meaning. But, you know, it’s nice to see that more companies are allowing for “personality” in the workplace.

Unusual Materials

You’ve probably seen a few of Lady Gaga’s most outrageous outfits, like her meat dress or bubble dress. If you thought that unusual material was just a fringe trend or a passing thing, you were wrong. Partly because of the whole green movement, many companies are beginning to experiment with different poo; sometimes literally.

Don’t be too surprised to see promo swag made out of bamboo, coconut, neoprene, recycled tires, jute and stucco in days to come. Okay, I made that last one up, but who knows? It could happen.


Not surprisingly, we’re starting to see more mobile related swag out there, from smartphone cases to tablet holders. People carry that stuff around all the time, so it only makes sense to furnish those precious electronics with protective condoms.

Mobile marketing is also an interesting avenue to explore for additional promotion.

Social Networking

The popularity of social media has even reached the merch world. You can definitely expect it to come into wider usage with promotional merchandise, be it #hashtags, URLs, or product tags with social links on them (made from recycled paper of course).

Just make sure you are aware of any legality around using other people’s trademarked logos, or you could find yourself behind bars for several years. And nobody wants to be a bartender for that long.

What other trends have you noticed, oh wise reader? What materials should we be using to construct promo swag? Leave your thoughts in comment form below.

Image by Vadim Molchnikov

About the Author

Darrell Meadows

He's a design enthusiast and merchandising guru. When he's not creating custom merch, he enjoys fishing and surfing.

Favorite quote:
"Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self, so therefore, trust the physician and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility." -Kahlil Gibran

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