Wednesday, May 09, 2007
By Ryann Petit-Frere
BOSTON -- Some call it swag, loot, chatchkies or freebies -- but regardless of what they're called, giveaways are essential tools to get people to pay attention to the competing exhibitor messages at BIO '07 in Boston.
As always, stress balls, key chains, chocolate and all the pens and mints you can imagine were among the most common freebies at the event. However, it was the more unusual freebies that most effectively garnered attention from the 20,000 convention goers at the Boston Convention Center.
The belle of the BIO swag ball was a mug resembling a lab beaker given away by a real estate company from California. You could say this one-of-a-kind giveaway drove the scientists mad as a mob of outreached hands surrounded the exhibitor stand at the Tuesday evening BIO reception. This item was so popular that photographers mounted ladders to capture the frenzy.
Another popular freebie at the event included a free psychic reading offered by a staffing company from Massachusetts. Several people (most of them women) lined the walls of this booth many waiting over an hour to have their futures divulged by a young and attractive tarot card reader.
No freebie is more abundant at conventions than candy, but with something sweet available wherever you turn it's refreshing to be offered something healthy. Consistent with their commitment to healthy living, large baskets of apples and oranges attracted many to the booth of a New Jersey health care company specializing in diabetes care.
It's clear that BIO denizens love the "nerdified" version of regular things, especially if they’re free. Some popular items include a deck of biotech playing cards that featured subsectors of biotech on their face and a deck of baseball cards featuring star researchers in Kansas. (And their little dog Toto, too.)
Other collectable items included a mouse pad of the Periodic Chart of Amino Acids, the predictive Eight Ball, decorative pins made from school children in Kenya, pina colada protein shakes, and a pack of juggling balls.
Among the most popular items (and a front-runner for the most irritating freebie) was a set of magnetic stones that "sizzled" when they snapped together. Well distributed by a Boston law firm and a couple other exhibitors, by Tuesday evening these rocks could be heard at almost every corner turned in the exhibition hall. Although exhibitors were able to get these in the hands of more than 10 percent of the people present, name recognition was lost as no logos or names were engraved on the items.
In the end, it doesn't matter what you call it, but swag is essential. And it's those unique give aways that command attention and draw people near. That's the stuff we're going to put on our desk, show friends and give our kids as trophies of our travels.