Not another monogrammed pen!

Tchotchkes. They come in all shapes and sizes and, depending on perceived utility when received, trigger everything from delight to a three-point attempt for the nearest wastebasket.

Tchotchkes. They come in all shapes and sizes and, depending on perceived utility when received, trigger everything from delight to a three-point attempt for the nearest wastebasket.

Over time you see a lot and you throw away even more. But what about the ones you end up keeping? This is the stuff that stays on your desk, or even at home and provides hours – nay, years – of value and entertainment. Strategy asked several marketers to tell us their stories of the best of the best in tchotchkes.

Pat Button, VP of sales and marketing for Toronto-based Samsung Canada, recalls a tchotchke that a marketing agency sent to him in January. He received a fancy blue cardboard tube containing a mysterious glass bowl and some teaser messages that explained a little bit about the company. It advised him to hang on to the bowl because he would be ‘needing it’ the next week.

‘I didn’t know what it would be,’ says Button. ‘I thought, ‘This is kind of funny. It’s not a pipe bomb, so I’m OK.”

He kept the package and the following week another one arrived, this one containing a bottle of spring water, an exotic fish, fish food and more messaging from the sender pointing out that they evidently knew how to captivate an audience.

While Samsung didn’t require the company’s services at the time, it was a memorable introduction. Button kept the fish. ‘My kids called it Doby,’ he says. ‘Took me two months to kill it.’

Considerably longer lived is the full-size gumball machine Stephen Smith, director of marketing at video graphics board maker ATI Technologies, received six years ago. Though he has to re-stock it himself, it’s a keeper.

‘It’s special because the whole team uses it. It takes money and then I get all the cash out. It’s my retirement fund,’ he says, before musing, ‘I’m going to have to sell a lot of gumballs.’

He’s also currently enjoying a motorized, remote control toy Hummer (branded with a logo for the Markham, Ont.-based company’s Radeon video card, of course) sent to him just this month. ‘I was playing with that around the office so that was a good one.’

But he says most of the things he gets are useless and stupid. ‘I get a lot of this stuff. That’s the problem. So it’s hard for anything to stick out.’

Nancy Cottenden, director of PR at Rogers Cable in Toronto, says she’s received countless tchotchkes but gives particular kudos to both W Network and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. She says the way to her heart is to send something she’ll never forget and that she can actually use.

A bra will do. That’s what W Network bought for her last Christmas when it sent along a $70 (!) gift certificate from Melmira Bra Boutique in Toronto, entitling her to be custom fitted in the support of her choice.

And last year the Breast Cancer Foundation sent her a bookmark with the pink ribbon stickers the organization uses to encourage women to do regular breast self-examinations. Each month, you remove one sticker and put it on a calendar as a reminder to yourself.

‘I thought it was an effective way to have people take action,’ says Cottenden. ‘Because it actually made me do something. And if it’s as easy as sticking a sticker on a calendar, why wouldn’t I just check myself?’

She laughs and adds, ‘I’m not trying to tell you I’ve got a boob fetish going.’