Promotional Products: When Swag Goes Wrong
We all love swag. From T-shirts to stress balls, free stuff is fun except when it goes awry. Goldman Sachs recently sponsored an event and provided the guests with a swag bag that resulted in some unanticipated results.
The Harvard Women in Computer Science organized an event to increase the number of women involved in coding and computer science. The group could never have imagined the uproar that the choice of promotional products for the event would cause. When Goldman Sachs, the event’s main sponsor, provided cosmetic mirrors and nail files in a swag bag full of stuff at the WECode Conference, it sparked a debate that covered not only the appropriateness of promotional products, but also gender stereotyping and press bias.
The trouble started when The New York Times published an article entitled “Goldman Handed Out Cosmetic Mirrors and Nail Files at Women’s Coding Event.” The article featured a photograph posted to Instagram by an event attendee. It shows a pile of cosmetic mirrors provided by Goldman with the comment, “Not sure if this is #sexyfeminism or gender stereotyping.” The Times’ article ended up being about the gifts’ misstep, and not the conference.
When you take a look at the comments to the Times’ post, things get really interesting. The article provoked a robust response from Amy Yin, a representative of the event organizers, who expressed disappointment at a very one-sided story and surprise that the article didn’t give more prominence to its response to a request for a comment from the paper. Amy then went on to add another comment a few days later linking to an article published in the Harvard Crimson, which was highly critical of the reporting of the event.
The Crimson article criticizes The New York Times for using the event as a reason to criticize Goldman Sachs, rather than reporting on the efforts of the organizers and the sponsors to attract women into the field of computer sciences. Here are a few quotes that’ll give you a flavor of what was said:
Jeff is executive director of the Quality Certification Alliance (QCA). Prior to that, he was responsible for developing safe and compliant brand merchandise for Michelin. He has worked with brands in publishing, consumer products, broadcasting and film for over 30 years. Follow Jeff on Twitter, and QCA on Facebook.