02 September 2012

Raft-Up: Branding Our Boat?

This month's Raft-Up topic is about "stuff." Well, okay: with more specificity, it's about stuff that has your boat's name on it (personalized hats or tshirts, for example) and stuff you give away to local folks when you're cruising. How are these two types of stuff connected? Honestly, we're kinda new to the whole cruising scene, so we're learning as we go. The personalized stuff is called SWAG, short for "stuff we all get." In the world of commerce, a company gives away SWAG to "build its brand" and promote business. Apparently, some cruisers give SWAG to people they meet in the foreign countries they visit.

We don't have any SWAG yet, but we do have a logo, a website, and a "boat card," which is the cruiser's version of a business card.

In our first year of crusing, visiting ports in the US, the Bahamas, Haiti, and Colombia, we have given our boat cards to many of the folks we've met along the way, hoping to keep in touch. We love our MJE "brand" - our boat name and the logo that Ean created - so we've been thinking about ordering some MJE "stuff." We met a couple who personalized their Tervis glasses - I was green with envy. Of course, you're not going to cruise around the world giving away your Tervis. Much of the personalized boat gear we've seen has been for the boat owners to keep, not give away. We've seen boat names on stationary, hats and all types of apparel, welcome mats, magnets, pens and pencils, pins, stickers, mugs, tote bags, beer bottle openers, koozies, and water bottles. Great stuff: I want it ALL! In fact, Ean set up a CafePress store and plastered our logo on everything. More "More Joy Everywhere" everywhere! But on the other hand, it is - undeniably - STUFF. When we were getting ready to go cruising, we worked so hard to get UNstuffed. I worry that loading up on SWAG would be a step in the wrong direction.

On the other other hand, if it's stuff that we're going to give away - if we're a brand, and we're giving away "MORE JOY EVERYWHERE!" how could there be anything wrong with that? Maybe some MJE pens? Everybody needs a pen, right? And we know that plastic bags are a blight upon the planet, so we're thinking that some JOYFUL re-usable grocery bags couldn't possibly be a bad thing.

But, really, does the world need more stuff?

But what about stuff that has an uplifting message on it?

I can think of a couple of times when we might have given away some "More Joy Everywhere." When we visited Haiti, a little boy paddled up to our boat, offering to sell us a hand-crafted snake, and Ean bought it for a dollar. I wish we could have given him a dollar AND AN MJE PEN. Here in Colombia, when our agent invited us to his home for lunch, I brought homemade peanut butter cookies. His wife Acela called them "cakes," and they were a big hit with his young grandson. I wish I could have brought the cakes in a nifty MJE bag.

But then I remember that neither the young Haitian boy nor Acela speak English. And that we're "building our brand" for no reason whatsoever.

So here's what I've decided. I want some personalized Tervis glasses.

But beyond that. "More Joy Everywhere" is what we want. The question is: how do we make it happen? Now that we are soon-to-be starting our second year of cruising, we've been kicking around some ideas about how we could do some good in the world. Maybe "building a brand" will make sense if it's for a worthy purpose. And if "building a brand" makes sense, we'll definitely need some SWAG.

I'm looking forward to reading how other cruisers feel about SWAG, and what experiences they've had giving gifts to local folks. Please comment below, and be sure to read the rest of the Raft-Up bloggers. September schedule is below.

2  Jane - here!
3  Behan on S/V Totem
4  Lynn on s/v Celebration
5  Karen on Toast Floats
6  Verena at Pacific Sailors
7  Diane on Maia Aboard

Click on the monkey's fist to read others bloggers on this topic.
The Monkey's Fist


  1. Jane,

    How about putting an invitation (English & Spanish) on the back of your B-card to e-mail you for copies of the pics of them you just took. Just write frame #s and when you e-mail pics, or give access rights to a online file transfer site, invite them to like you on Facebook, follow you on Twitter and Pinterest, find you on Flickr, and see you in action on YouTube.

    This will give you an ever-growing list for direct contacts too.

    Steve Thompson

    1. I like the way you think. Maybe French as well, since they're pretty hard over on it in French Polynesia, I hear.

      So far, the folks we've asked to get pics of are, we suspect, NOT LIKE US, as in, don't have a Facebook account, nor Internet access, probably not even a computer. But I think we might have to consider expanding our "model" selection.

      Have you got your cards, yet? I want one.

  2. I've seen the Tervis glasses,too, and wanted them. I agree, though, I think I can live without all the rest.

    1. Apparently, you need to have embroidery patches made to put in the Tervis glasses - just too complicated right now. But SOMEDAY, I'm going to have MORE JOY EVERYWHERE Tervis glasses, dangit!

  3. As the owner of BoatNameGear.com, I'd like to extend an offer to assist you procure said swag.

    While I can't currently help with the Tervis Tumblers, (which are great by the way,) I can help you out with some JOYFUL re-usable grocery bags, tote bags, and even pens.

  4. Love the post! I am a very new cruiser (we spent the summer in a couple of locations on the Chesapeake Bay, and head south for the winter, where we'll build the kitty for some Caribbean cruising, perhaps). Anyway, I work from the boat doing promotional marketing - basically, I SELL swag! I am in the process of designing a website for sailboat swag as well, so any input on items would be great. Contact me if you would like some bulk pricing (rather than Cafe Press, which can be pricier, depending on the qty you want). If anything, I'd love to just toss around ideas! You can email me at melodyleigh (at) gmail (dot) com if you feel so inclined!

  5. Actually, we are working on a side project (cause we need more to do), that might involve something a bit swaggish. What were have in mind are printable biodegradable garbage bags suitable for picking up trash along shorelines, parks, wherever.

    The catch is we wouldn't want them sent to us, but stored somewhere and/or printed on demand so they could be shipped out directly. We'd like to do this as a giveaway, so cost is, of course, a factor.

    Thoughts, anyone?

  6. Chico Bags are "brandable" - http://www.chicobag.com/