Marketers need to start thinking harder about schwag for the sake of the environment, as well as their brands.
The sheer amount of conference bag stuff always boggles the mind, particularly at evens as massive as SXSW. Of course, the sponsor fees behind stuffing all this stuff into those totes goes a long way toward making these events possible.
SXSW sent out a pre-event e-mail to participants with pointers on making the event greener, pointing out opportunities for recycling and other efforts conference-goers could take toward reducing – somewhat – the event’s carbon footprint.
But boy, is my bag full. And it’s full of stuff that doesn’t need to be there. I’ll single out Microsoft as an example (because they’re big enough to take it, but are hardly the only offender).
Microsoft’s extremely cool Silverlight plug-in is a topline SXSW sponsor. That doesn’t excuse including a Silverlight CD, encased in a hefty plastic box, in each of tens of thousands of bags. Not when this slim little plug-in is readily available as a fast, free download from the Web.
It’s not just a matter of waste (calling to mind AOL’s well-publicized earlier excesses), it’s also become a matter of branding (particularly in an environment and a city as socially conscious as SXSW and Austin). Microsoft paid a pretty penny to manufacture all those CDs, and more still to get them slipped into bags — so they could be slipped into the trash. An alternative might have been a simple sheet with information about the product and how to get it for free.
Result? Negative buzz. That’s bad for the brand, not just the environment.