How to Win at Smart, Painless Onboarding with Swag in 2022

15 min read
Nehad Zein
Nehad Zein
Guest Writer

Published: March 09, 2021

As a brand, you have two major groups of stakeholders to take care of. The first are your employees, and the second are your customers. Your business thrives when these two groups are happy and satisfied throughout onboarding.

And swag can help take a decent onboarding experience to a high quality onboarding program.

Chances are you’ve already got a full-fledged onboarding process for your employees (hopefully complemented by swag!) that every new hire goes through. 

But do you have an onboarding system for customers? 

If not, you need one. This handy guide we put together will show you why, how to get started with swag for both groups, and everything else you need to jump in feet first.

Word of warning: Before we dive into the specifics of using swag with either group, know that swag cannot help you fix a broken onboarding process. Nor can it single-handedly comprise your entire onboarding process. Before introducing swag into the equation, you need to design an efficient and effective onboarding process for both your employees and customers.

The fun part (swag!) comes later. A good onboarding process will provide a great welcome and this enables you to set expectations for future interactions, convey company culture and build reputation. That’s where swag can help you achieve these smarter, better, and faster with far less headache.

So, first up. To justify the investment in creating and nurturing a great onboarding process, ask the question: What does onboarding mean for my business? 

Usually, it’s someone consciously choosing to be a part of your brand. They identify with your company and would like to make it a part of their lives. Once you realize that your customers and employees are willingly choosing to be associated with your brand, it becomes much easier to justify investing in and designing an effective onboarding process. And when you have an effective process carved out, simply use swag to maximize its effectiveness! It’s a winning strategy. We promise 😉

So let’s dive in.

Onboarding Swag for Employees 

Why do I need an employee onboarding process?
How do I go about building an onboarding process?
Where does swag fit into the process?
What else do I need to consider?

Why do I need an employee onboarding process?

Let’s start with the basics. Onboarding a new employee is the process of integrating them with the company; namely, its culture, norms, and practices. It also includes empowering them with the tools and knowledge needed to become a productive team member. Fact is, whether you’ve got a strategic process in place or not, onboarding still happens. The difference is whether your new employee comes out feeling confident and excited to get going… or insecure, confused, and feeling like an afterthought.

The time any new employee takes to fully settle into their new job can be roughly termed as an onboarding period. And you’re always better off strategizing it. HR and staff experts recommend designing a process that lasts for about a year after joining to ensure higher employee retention and job satisfaction. 

You need a process in place because:

  • It allows you to control the first impression.
  • It can lead to higher employee retention.
  • It can lead to more productivity.
  • It can help your new team members settle in faster and easier.
  • It improves perception of company culture.

These are just a few reasons. Once you start implementing and subsequently tweaking your process, you’ll recognize a lot more benefits and advantages, many of which will be unique to your brand.

How do I go about building an onboarding process?

Depending on your brand and the culture you’re looking to foster, the approach will differ. Answering the following questions would be a great place to start:

  • When does onboarding start?
  • How long will it last?
  • What impression should my/our new hires walk away with at the end of their first day?
  • What do new hires need to know about the culture and work environment?
  • What role will HR play in the process? What about direct managers and co-workers?
  • What kind of goals do I/we want new employees to achieve?
  • How will I/we gather feedback on the program and measure its success?

If you’d like to dive deeper, check out these guides:

Where does swag fit into the process?

The easiest answer is, anywhere you choose! Swag can be easily integrated into any part of your onboarding process and leveraged to amplify your process. 

But since swag is our speciality and onboarding is an extremely popular use case for our customers, here’s where we think it works best.

Option 1: Gift swag on the first day. 

Remember how you felt nervous and unsettled on your first day at a new school or college? You probably felt that way on the first day of your job too. We think that giving a good welcome is one of the best things you can do for any new hire. Using swag here allows you to effortlessly communicate stuff like what they can expect from the company and co-workers. Swag can also be utilized to give out essentials such as coffee mugs, stickers, notebooks, t-shirts and anything they’ll need to do work well. Plus, everyone loves getting stuff. With swag, you can be sure that your new hire will walk away with a memorable first day. Here’s how our client Hopin welcomes new hires.

Option 2: Use swag to recognize achievements and support high-performance culture

Appreciate your latest hires whenever they achieve something significant with high quality reward swag. They’ve only recently joined the company and using swag can help them realise that they’ll get recognised and appreciated for the work they put in. Besides, the swag itself can work as a great motivator, further increasing their productivity.
Take a look at how Cision rewards top performers.

Option 3: Give them swag on their first anniversary 

Show them that your brand values loyalty by giving them some phenomenal swag once they hit the one year mark with you. By this point, they’re fully settled in and work is routine. A year in, traditional onboarding often transitions to employee retention and satisfaction. At the very least, handing out swag every year will help to keep them feeling positive and satisfied about the decision to continue working with you.

What else do I need to consider?

Swag is a great onboarding aid. However, you can still get it wrong or end up using it less effectively. Here are a few pointers to help you maximise your ROI on onboarding swag.

  • Choose useful, high-quality stuff

As a rule of thumb, the swag you choose should last as long as the receiver remains your employee and it should be items they’re happy to use during that tenure. A simple filter is to not give anything that you wouldn’t use yourself. That way, you know your swag packs are winners. The other, easier way is to enlist the help of our Swag Experts. They’ll help you choose and put together a winning swag pack quickly and easily. Want inspiration? Check out what Benchling gives their new hires!

  • Rethink swag when hiring for higher positions

If you’re hiring for a leadership or management role, choose swag that’s different from what you usually give out to new hires. Chances are, you hire for these positions less often and since a lot of your company’s future is staked on them, you’re better off designing a new swag strategy for them. Bonus points if you can make a unique one for each new such hire.  

  • Sometimes swag isn’t effective

Swag works best when everything else is going well. But it can also work to provide a better overall perspective if one or two aspects of an employee’s work life isn’t exactly the best. However, swag is ineffective if you use it in situations where there’s a major problem that first needs to be addressed. Think on the lines of an unsatisfactory salary package or a toxic work environment. Using swag in such scenarios is pointless. 

  • Productive vs Leisure Swag

Whether to choose productive swag or leisure swag is a question our swag experts get a lot. When choosing swag for onboarding, stick to productive for first day swag. You can choose to go the leisure route when giving out reward swag or anniversary swag. However, your dollars will work best with a combination of both leisure and productivity items in a swag pack. TaxJar used this formula to onboard remote hires in 2020.

  • Swag can enhance a great culture but not create it by itself

Swag can help build and promote a great work culture but it is not a replacement to a holistic work environment. That’s because culture starts with your people, aka your employees. When your employees align with the values and principles your brand stands for, you’ve got a great culture. Swag can help you massively enhance this culture by providing a tactile element to it. However, trying to leverage swag to build a culture from scratch is often a pretty long shot. 

  • Personalization always wins

If you’re handing out any swag at all, remember to go the extra mile and add a personalized card in your packs! It’s a small gesture that works wonders. Your receiver will greatly appreciate the extra effort and personalization is the open shortcut to creating a phenomenal swag pack. Always, always personalize.

In short, employee onboarding swag helps you win! Ready to get started with some swag inspiration? Check out a few featured swag packs below!


The New Kid Pack

THE CREW SAYS: Perfect for new hires who’ve recently graduated from college. They’re excited and nervous at the same time. It’s their first real job and they definitely want to show off the new brand they’re a part of. Why not make it easy for them with this swag pack?

SWAG HIGHLIGHTS: Custom Stickers, Orso Mug, Essentials Charging Cable, Bella+Canvas Tee, Moo Greeting Card

RECOMMENDED FOR: New Hires, Interns, College Graduates, Rotational Programs, Company Culture Swag, Welcome Surprise Swag


The Fresh Techie Pack

THE CREW SAYS: A tech swag pack to welcome your new techie. Thoughtfully stuffed with items they’ll appreciate more as the days pass.

SWAG HIGHLIGHTS: Jerzees Snow Heather French Terry Hoodie, JBL Headphones, Spot Pro Bluetooth Tracker, Rubberized Powerbank, Moo Greeting Cards

RECOMMENDED FOR: Tech Lovers, Engineering and Dev Teams, Employee Culture Swag


The Nouveau Executive Pack

THE CREW SAYS: A phenomenal welcome for your brand new leadership! If they’ve got a bar in their office, this swag pack is perfect for ending the day on a fun note.

SWAG HIGHLIGHTS: Custom Labeled Bottle of Wine (or their favorite beverage!), 1pt Fusion Bar Bottle Kit, Veho M-series Mr7 Retro Wireless Speaker, AirPods Pro, Foil Moo Insert Cards

RECOMMENDED FOR: Leadership Team, Raising a Toast, New Chapters and Beginnings, Culture Moment, Company Welcome

Onboarding Swag for Customers

Swag is great for marketing
Swag is great for building reputation
Swag can help you set expectations
Swag can help right wrongs
Swag can easily help maintain long customer relationships

Your customers are your biggest stakeholders. They’re the ones who decide whether your business should remain in business. And if you’re selling high value items, having an onboarding swag strategy is a no-brainer. But regardless of the value of the products you sell, there’s a swag strategy for you. 

Onboarding Swag for customers is worth it! And these strategies will tell you why.

Swag is great for marketing

Remember the toy in McDonald’s Happy Meals? It’s a great example of customer swag. The toy is hugely responsible for the success of the Happy Meal and the marketing generated from simply including it with the food has led to it being the most important meal of the day after Breakfast for McDonald’s Corp. And in today’s age of internet and social media, the chances are good that your amazing customer swag will inevitably get featured online. So as things stand, any customer swag is also onboarding swag. Check out how Nasdaq got featured online with swag.

Swag is great for building reputation

This is especially true if you’re selling high value products. The quality of your swag will set the tone for what people can expect from your brand. It’s powerful because of two things. 

  1. First, it’s free and you’re not directly making a profit of it. The quality and thought you put into a freebie speaks volumes about who you are as a brand. 
  2. Secondly, your competitors probably aren’t doing it. The fact that you’re going the extra mile and including a high-quality freebie again contributes positively to the perception of your brand.

Swag can help you set expectations

This is particularly beneficial for customers who want some reassurance, especially if it’ll be difficult for them to change to another company later (think B2B scenarios). The nature and quality of your swag helps them identify the values you operate by and understand how much attention you pay to the details. There’s often a lot of money at stake and you can bet they’re going to research a good bit to be assured that their new supplier/partner is solid. Here’s how AdOutreach gets this right.

Swag as an apology (and memorable boost) to your customer support experience

A lot of brands do this but it’s most often witnessed in the hospitality industry. When a restaurant messes up your meal or a hotel messes up your room, they sometimes compensate by giving you free credits that you can redeem later or even gift others. 

Even if you’re not in the food service or hospitality industry, there’s no reason your brand can’t get creative and apply the same idea! If a customer has a negative experience, make an apology and win them back with some redemption swag. At the very least, your customers will appreciate you owning the problem and trying to right a wrong. While it may seem like this doesn’t come under onboarding swag, it sure does when it’s a first time customer you mess up with. 

Swag can easily help maintain long customer relationships

Here the strategy is similar to using swag in employee onboarding. When you’re signing up as a supplier or if you’re a brand that wants to foster customer loyalty, design a strategic onboarding process that keeps customers in the loop. 

Start off with introductory swag and then give out occasional swag so that your brand is continually refreshed in the minds of your customers. It’s a winning strategy that luxury brands have been indulging in since before “customer experience” became a buzzword. 

In short, customer swag helps you stand out! Those are all the strategies you can use to incorporate swag into your customer onboarding process. At SwagUp, we love to inspire. So here are a few swag packs for you to browse through.


The Brand Champion Pack

THE CREW SAYS:  A sweet and simple pack designed to thank your newest customers and empower them to become brand champions.

SWAG HIGHLIGHTS: Marine Layer Signature Crew Tee, Holographic Stickers, Moo Luxe Postcard 4” x 6”

RECOMMENDED FOR: New Customers, Brand Community, Customer Loyalty, Brand Awareness, Word of Mouth, Social Media 


The Rockstar Pack

THE CREW SAYS: A client onboarding pack designed for big clients. It’s all about adding stuff that’s shareable and this pack does a good job at it. Include any other onboarding brand peripherals to this pack and kill two birds with one stone.

SWAG HIGHLIGHTS: After Five Gourmet Tray, Eliqs Custom Mineral Water, Giant Custom Tumbler Tower Game, Moo Insert Card 

RECOMMENDED FOR: Celebration Swag, Community, Custom Branded Swag, Fun and Unique Swag Items, Remote Swag, Culture Swag


The Customer Appreciation Pack

THE CREW SAYS: Gratitude has never been cozier. Show how much you appreciate their business with this super comfy swag pack.

SWAG HIGHLIGHTS: Rumpl Original Puffy Blanket, Slow North Neck Wrap, Natural Market Tote Bag, Raaka Chocolate, Moo Insert Card

RECOMMENDED FOR: Foodies, Lifestyle Swag, WFH and WFA Swag, Customer Loyalty, Customer Appreciation, Swag for Humans, Cozy Swag, Health and Wellness


When choosing onboarding swag, it’s easy to think only for the short term. This could make it more difficult to design effective swag packs in the future. A quick hack to overcome this is to put together an online company swag store where both employees and customers can shop at. 

This way, you’ll only choose swag that can be put up on the store, automatically forcing you to think long term. And you also get to directly profit off the swag you’d normally give away for free. Stay tuned to the SwagUp blog for a guide on putting up a brilliant Swag Store.

P.S. Planning, strategizing and storing swag can become very demanding. With SwagUp, you can skip all the hassle via Zapier to help you automate your swag fulfilment. Zapier’s automation coupled with Swagup’s end-to-end fulfilment system means that giving out great swag is as easy as it gets. 

With minimal investments, you can have a winning swag strategy that effortlessly works for you. Talk to a Swag Expert to get your swag strategy up and running!

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