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Donkin's World: What's In Your Goody Bag?

"The goody bag has become the symbol of media froth, of style over substance,'' says Richard Donkin.

What’s in the goody bag? You can’t go to any PR event, reception or seminar these days without coming away with a goody bag. The goody bag has become the symbol of media froth, of style over substance. The lady may well wear Prada, but look at that blush-pink carrier in her manicured mitt and you will see she’s a walking billboard for whatever brand has laid on the canapés and champers.

She grips her goody bag with hope outweighing expectation. But she takes the bag all the same and she wonders. The sharpest marketing people seal their bags with a branded sticker, playing on our love of the secret concealed in the unopened box. Tutankhamun’s treasure it ain’t, but the principle is just the same.

The goody bag is like a piece of geological strata in market thinking, and just like geological strata, some of its contents are looking rather dated. Take the CD-rom, for example. I don’t even have a CD-player on my Mac, never mind the will or the time to play the expensively-made clip. What a waste, but we’re all suckers for the sell-in-a-bag.

So let’s indulge in that Howard Carter moment, break the seal and expose the “wonderful things” inside. We close our eyes and dip a grubby hand in to the bran tub of desire, plucking out the first treasure - a rubber stress ball. Yes, rubber stress balls can be nice. They’re tactile and tend to hang around on the desk, getting moved around with the paper-weights. Paper weights are so last decade – far too heavy and suggestive that the recipient might have a desk strewn with paper. Well that’s quite possible because the weight will be needed to keep a lid on the bumf – that’s the press release and the costly brochure, printed on best-quality paper and card.

What’s this now? Oh, it’s a stick-pin - almost got lost; cheap, mass-produced but if it goes on a jacket lapel it could stay there for months. If the product is appropriate, it could be a reasonable investment. Is there a memory stick? Oh, we like our branded memory sticks on their branded ribbons. They get hung on a hook in a cupboard and forgotten about, worth it for the irony alone. The calling card – OK, we expect that, goes on the pile with all the other calling cards and sometimes get sorted. Just occasionally a number might be transferred to a phone – result!

I guess we can live with the perfumed candle, the branded-pen (with about 10 seconds supply of ink); and the branded key ring (sometimes married to the memory stick) can be useful. But do we really need the adventure multi-tool? And is the bottle-stop decision-maker going to be vital for corporate strategic planning? Short answer: probably.

But there’s something else we like more than any of this stuff, something, probably the only thing, that makes the goody bag worthwhile: we're talking about the chocs. And we’re not talking about Terry’s All Gold here but something preferably hand made and rolled on the thigh of Juliette Binoche, at least in our dreams. No chocs, no good. And a goody bag that isn’t any good at all, is hardly worth the name.

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