Here at DFC, we pride ourselves on our ability to keep tabs on where our industry is headed next. We read articles, take webinars, and surf our competitors’ web sites. And, frequently, we leave the virtual world behind and head for conferences and seminars, held in various glamourous locations, (Vegas! Toronto! Rochester!) where we never fail to pick up tips and tricks.
Like any other public event, there are better and not-so-hot conferences. I mean, after all, it’s still work, and sometimes these things really make you feel like you’re punching the clock! However, no matter how well (or badly) the weekend is organized, you always end up taking something away with you — namely swag. Lots and lots of swag.
My office is crammed full of mementos from hundreds of vendors — from the sublime to the sublimely ridiculous. A recent clean-up unearthed a whole bunch, and I had such a great time fooling around with them, I thought I’d share the fun!
So this is the first in a series that I like to call “Swagfolio,” in which I review the random wonderful gifties that have graced my return carry-on baggage through the years. Though I’ve devised a rating system (a possible five points on four criteria), it’s not scientific at all — this is all a fun thought exercise in what makes a memorable business tchotchke. And believe me, some are really impressive!
Emulex magnet set
As soon as this item landed in my eager hands, I was immediately captivated by it. Basically a canister full of multicoloured rods, and another full of metal balls, this takes “Fun With Magnets” to a whole new level.
The colourful, basic components encourage soothing, tactile fooling around — and once your imagination takes hold, you can end up with pretty much anything. A graphite molecule! An alien invasion force! Tiny barbells for hermit crabs! The possibilities are endless! I can’t put them dowwwwn!
“Let’s give tech nuts knockoff Buckyballs. They’ll love it!”
CHILD APPROPRIATENESS: 5
H-to-the-L yes. Not for anyone under 3 though. Or, conversely, anyone with a pacemaker: there’s a whole lotta magnetization goin’ on.
INTEREST SUSTAINABILITY: 5
I have played with these things for an hour straight, and that’s saying a lot given my professional focus. Also great for absent-minded tooling on boring conference calls: you can explain away the clicks of the magnets as the government tapping your line!
SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION: 2
Emulex who? MAGNETS ARE COOL.
IBM Race Car USB Key
From the “What can we disguise another dang USB key as?” Files:
At first, I thought it was an X-Wing . I was sorely disappointed. It’s a rubberized race car that you can pull apart and jam into your computer to throw files on, just like the other 8,126 keys from other companies you’ve got kicking around. The race car has a slogan on its side: “IBM Software: The Fast Lane to ROI.” Okay, okay, we get it, very punny.
I suppose it is helpful, though, in that it doesn’t look anything like your other 8,126 freebie keys, so you’ll know at a glance that the pictures of your vacation you want to show to grandma are on the one shaped like a beep-beep-vroom-vroom.
BONUS: has keychain attachment; also works as passable pencil eraser (office tested).
They tried, really really hard. But it’s next to impossible to make a thumb drive sexy.
CHILD APPROPRIATENESS: 1
If you’re eight years old, and you have a burning need for portable data storage, you should get your priorities in order. Go start a lemonade stand or something.
INTEREST SUSTAINABILITY: 3
Giving them the benefit of the doubt — this category really does depend on what you put on the thing.
SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION: 5
Well played, IBM. Well played.
Set of four Iomega branded shot glasses
I have a warm spot in my heart for swag that acknowledges-slash-encourages you to drink to put up with your job. These glasses are made of fairly heavy-duty ceramic, so they could be for espresso — but come on, really. They are also opaque and solid black, perfect for sloshing in a mix of whatever-the-hell-the-IT-department-has-rolling-around-the-bottoms-of-their-desk-drawers, and not having to witness the unholy colour and texture as you pour it down the hatch. I’m also a fan of the justification-slogan printed on the side: “iPartner: shoot for success.” I thought the shot glasses were poorly thought out, but with a tagline like that, we’re lucky they weren’t handing out Uzis.
One trip to the local restaurant supply store, and you’re set.
CHILD APPROPRIATENESS: 4
Perfect for engaging your children in a game of “Mommy’s Quiet Time.” Or a tea party.
INTEREST SUSTAINABILITY: 2
One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.
Alcohol dependency: the gift that keeps on giving!
SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION: 1
If I can’t even remember what I was doing last night, I’m not gonna remember the company that helped make it happen.
Barrel-shaped calculator/picture frame/LED flashlight/pencil holder
I like this item for its sheer chutzpah, and attempt at elegance of design. However, there’s a big difference between trying and succeeding. If this item is a metaphor for how HP (its sponsoring company) works, it might be a problem — frankly, it’s trying to do too many things at once, and none of them well. The bare-bones-function calculator conked out long ago, as did the flashlight, and I can’t figure out how to dismantle either to replace the batteries. The school picture of your kid you’re supposed to slot into the frame is protected by a thin plastic film that will likely come apart by the time the little guy hits SK. I do enjoy the fact that the pencil holder is restricted to one side of the barrel, so you don’t have to empty it to open or close the whole thing. And it’s also hinged on this pretty neat mechanism of straps (I used to have a sunglasses case just like it) that allows you to open it from opposite sides. Hours of fun!
I’m cutting it a lot of slack for the ambition a four-in-one desk tool requires. Also, the hinge is very neat.
CHILD APPROPRIATENESS: 3
I’m sure that, inexplicably, small children will find this the greatest invention in Western history… until it snaps shut on their fingers.
INTEREST SUSTAINABILITY: 2
It’s designed to be a static desk-sitter. Every once in a while, I poke the flashlight button to see if it has magically regained its charge, but no luck so far.
SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION: 1
The HP logo is on the calculator; but closed, it’s a tasteful, unbranded, gunmetal grey. Lots of room for personalization with the picture frame too — if you can get it open.