"Did X and all I got is this lousy t-shirt"

This is a solid swag copy template that resonates with devs.

"I did X and all I got was this lousy Y"

Why this works imho is:

  • it is snarky
  • it is a little self-deprecating
  • it brags a bit about the work/expertise

Very solid start if you run out of ideas.

social posts

Big prize swag campaign from NannyML

Is it better to do one big prize or many small prizes?

This is a decision you have to make when thinking about running a swag campaign.

Turns out that a  small number of huge prizes can get you way better ROI on the same budget.

And NannyML has done it brilliantly here.

They are a monitoring tool and they give away monitoring setup.

This is something that actually can go viral. And it did.


Swag with CTAs from

How to get more ROI from your dev conference booth? -> Add obvious CTAs.

Yes, giveaway stuff.

Yes, make it nice and branded.

Yes, make it funny, shareable, and cool.

But give people an easy and obvious option to give back and support you and your goals.

I really liked how approached it at the recent MLOps World conference:

  • A simple folded paper info with CTAs right next to your giveaway
  • CTAs to GitHub stars, Linkedin, and Slack community

Just a nice little tactic but I bet it squeezed a bit more of that ROI juice that we all need in 2023 ;)


Coconut water giveaway from Datafold

Thinking about your next conference giveaway idea?

How about a coconut? Datafold did just that!

Coconut + logo burned on it + a person who can open them up


A memorable, shareable, fresh (literally), and wholesome conference experience.

And I bet it didn't cost an arm and a leg too.

It goes to show how creativity matters when planning those things.

Thinking about doing a similar thing in Poland... with potatoes of course ;)


Big Lego set giveaway from Sigma Computing

Instead of giving away hundreds of small things that people will forget give away one thing that leaves an impression.

And a huge LEGO set is a great candidate for that one big thing. There is a big overlap between devs and folks who love LEGOs. They are both builders after in their hearts.

Now, some important considerations:

  • Create a giveaway so that you can still get all your badge scanned, social mentions, GitHub stars KPIs
  • Make the prize visible to conference participants. Put it out there. Make it obvious.
  • Make participating relatively easy to complete.

You need to commit to it too.

Don't do 3 different things like that at a conference. Focus on one play like this at a time and try other cool ideas at another conference.

Folks from Sigma Computing ticked all these boxes.  Love it!


"It doesn't suck" shirt from Bare Bones

A classic "It doesn't suck" campaign.

Afaik, Barebones ran the first version of this campaign 20 years ago and it was a huge success.

It is so simple, it just speaks to that inner skeptic.

It doesn't say we are the best, we revolutionize software.

It says it doesn't suck.

That is way more believable and makes me think that there is a dev on the other side of that copy.

And there is something cool about this message that makes me want to wear it to the next conference.

Good stuff.


Swag donations

What if your next swag was a donation? That's what Cockroach Labs did.

Ok, so the typical way of doing swag at a conference is to give out t-shirts for badge scans.

And then folks either wear them or throw them away (or keep wearing them when they should have thrown them away but that is another story).

After the conference you take leftovers with you, ship them home or, you guessed it, throw them away.

A lot of throwing away for a badge scan if you ask me.

Cockroach Labs decided to do something completely different.

They donate a few $ to a great charity @Women Who Code for every badge scan they get.
I love it.

An extra benefit (and where the idea originated) is that with this, you can do virtual badge scans too.

developer experience

Promo T-shirt design from GitGuardian

There are a lot of boring vendor t-shirts at conferences.

And they get boring results.

I like this bold design from GitGuardian:

  • they go for anime which is loved by many devs
  • it feels and looks like an anime t-shirt, not a vendor t-shirt
  • they use their core message "Keep secrets out of your source code"