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Swag. Giveaways. Premiums. Tchotchkes (pronounced as "Chach-Keys"). Call them what you may, promotional merchandise is used globally to promote brands, products, and corporate identity. A Brief History'?¦ The first known promotional products in the US were commemorative buttons dating back to the election of George Washington in 1789. During the early 19th century, there were advertising calendars, rulers, and wooden specialties, but there wasn't an organized industry for the creation and distribution of promotional items until later in the 19th century. Jasper Meeks, a printer in Coshocton, Ohio, is considered by many to be the originator of the industry when he convinced a local shoe store to supply book bags imprinted with the store name to local schools. From there, Meeks went on to print bags for marbles, buggy whips, card cases, fans, calendars, cloth caps, aprons, and even hats for horses. Premiums Today'?¦ Today, almost anything can be branded with a company's name, logo, and URL and used for promotion. Common items include t-shirts, hats, key chains, thumb drives, bumper stickers, pens, mugs, or mouse pads. Most promotional items are relatively small and inexpensive, worthless and more or less disposable, but can also range to higher-end items. Celebrities at gifting suites for film festivals and award shows are often given expensive items such as jewelry, clothing, and electronics. The Best Premium I Ever Received'?¦ The reason I am writing this blog post is to tell you about the best premium I have ever received ' one that likely cost under a dollar. But first ' a little background'?¦ Lately, for no reason in particular, I have been experiencing strong cravings for prosciutto and mozzarella sandwiches. Occasionally I'll add on some sun dried tomatoes, olive oil and vinegar and more often than not the finishing touch is fresh, crisp basil. About 2 months ago I was walking in a busy area in Boston and stumbled upon a promotion in progress. The brand was a globally known packaged goods company and their set-up was pretty impressive. After checking it out a bit further and actually even partaking one of the activities, a Brand Ambassador approached me and handed me a premium. Usually when people try to hand me things on the street I politely decline, but not this time'?¦ I couldn't tell at first what it was exactly that she handed me. It almost felt like a container of Ramen Noodles®. Upon further inspection I realized that she just handed me a 'Grow You Own Basil Plant.'? That's right, you heard me. Contained in a medium-sized cardboard cup was a tightly packed soil cake, a package of basil seeds and an instruction sheet. I quickly brought the premium back to the office, opened it up and followed the instructions. About a month later, this is what my premium has turned into: I've named her Whitney and she's been experiencing unprecedented growth as of late. Will I use her in my next prosciutto and mozzarella sando? Probably not. I'm too emotionally invested. She is hands down the best premium I have ever received, so kudos to you, globally-known packaged goods company! You've managed to give me something cool, branded, useful, and educational for about a buck and you've inspired me to think even further outside the box when it comes to producing premiums for my clients.