Will the cheapest product via the cheapest vendor benefit your brand?

Did you know there are over 33,000 promotional product distributors in the United States? As brands invest in swag to connect with their crowd and differentiate themselves from their competitors, that number will only grow.

This doesn’t freak us out one bit. We’ve been around the fish bowl and have seen commerce in action. Like all things good and worthy, the best stuff rises to the top.


We’ve heard countless stories from our clients about swag orders gone horribly wrong. Deadlines whooshing by. Opening boxes the day of a huge trade show and discovering the imprint is wrong. Shoddy products. Poor communication. (Or zero communication.) When you shop on price alone, you’re courting your next headache.

Why? Because all distributors are not created equal.

Let’s break it down and rumble a bit with the truth.

Many promotional product distributors are part-timers working out of their garage or from a dining room table.

Price is their only point of distinction. Not insanely good service. Not unconventional creativity. It’s all about being a few cents lower than everyone else.

Lowest-price distributors typically don’t make the effort to form solid relationships with their factories.

Why? Because establishing relationships takes a certain level of commitment. It involves in-person meetings, building a reputation of thoroughness and reliability over time, and demonstrating loyalty.

Few distributors place an importance on furthering their knowledge through classes, seminars and industry journals.

Because they do not invest in their education about the promotional products industry, many distributors stay stuck at the starting gate… competing on price alone. Our industry is constantly changing. New products, trends and imprinting techniques pop up at a moment’s notice. Important rules and regulations emerge and shift.

We are reminded of an incident from 2018 that should give every brand pause before considering the lowest price bidder as their swag partner.

A city put out an RFP for a product that would be used by people of all ages, including children. They chose to go with the lowest bidder. The item was produced, shipped and distributed. It was soon discovered that it was not in compliance with CPSIA regulations. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act is a federal law regulating children’s products and toys. Any product designed and intended for a child 12 years and under (including products with packaging, promotions or advertising that displays their product as appropriate for children 12 and under) falls under the Act.

Every promotional product falling within these parameters must have a “Children’s Proof Certificate” certifying the product complies with all safety regulations. This requires mandatory testing of any items that might be used by children.

In this case, the distributor cut and ignored rules. The result? A massive recall of the item and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines (as well as an embarrassing scandal for the city to clean up).

Dedicated distributors stay on top of the rules and laws that govern our industry. They take classes. They read business journals cover to cover. And they only work with factories that are 100% CPSIA compliant. No exceptions.

It’s common for catchpenny distributors to skip out on liability coverage.

If an order turns disastrous, such as a CPSIA compliance issue and resulting recall like the scenario above, it’s easier for a lowest-price distributor to close up shop and disappear for a while than to invest in a “when things go off-the-rails” insurance policy. They’ll wipe their hands of your situation only to emerge a few months later with a new company name.

“We’ll beat anyone’s price” distributors rarely take the time to understand your crowd, your brand or your needs.

They are order takers. There are no conversations about “why this item may be a better fit for your crowd” or “I saw this and thought it’d be perfect for your promotion next month.”



When people receive branded swag, it should make them feel happy. Otherwise, what’s the point? A cheap “meh” water bottle (with a wonky cap that always leaks) is one of the first items tossed into the Goodwill box in the garage. Swag should be thoughtful. Purposeful. Inspiring. You want your crowd to shout, “I love this!” every time you hand them something.

Put yourself in your crowd’s shoes. What would it feel like for someone to hand you a pen that falls apart as soon as you click it? Would you feel valued? Most likely, you’d chuck the pen in the garbage can and make a quick mental note “Oh, yeah… that’s the brand with the crappy pens.”

Good swag is so much more than simply slapping your logo on cheap stuff and hoping it stays out of garbage cans. It’s about forging an emotional connection with your crowd.

And junk won’t cut it.

Better than saving a few cents, the true value that comes from partnering with a company like Buzztag is that we provide the creative muscle needed to dream up ideas that will make your crowd happy. We’re all about possibilities and over-delivering on our promises.

Our clients sleep better at night knowing their order is in good hands. Peace of mind matters, especially when there are so many moving parts. We’re more than just a promotional products partner. We’re helpers, supporters, connectors and daymakers.

Ready to be seen and be remembered for all the right reasons?

Let’s chat!