September 26

15 Gen Z Swag Ideas for Your Students


As a father of up-and-coming college students, I try to be mindful of desirable Gen Z swag.

School-branded products have been a marketing staple for generations. But what might have been hot-ticket items for millennials, like lanyards or carabiner clips, are a bit dated now.

Both virtual swag and products of a more practical nature have become popular with Gen Z post-COVID.

Yet, while Gen Z may be a digital generation, branded apparel and other physical items are still en vogue among students. Here are 15 Gen Z swag ideas for your college or university!

1. Sustainable Gen Z Swag

The environment is a hot topic among Gen Z students, so your school will definitely earn bonus points if you push repurposed merchandise.

With quite a few recycled clothing brands to choose from, it’s easier to promote sustainable apparel consciously.

But recycled swag isn’t restricted to clothing. Check out this bamboo wireless charging pad and this lightweight pouch.

Some schools are going above and beyond by considering additional impacts their swag might have on the environment.

For example, the folks at Yale University have made a concerted effort to steer clear of certain items or textiles that may introduce excess waste or water usage. Yale t-shirts Assuming your school doesn’t have an in-house department driving sustainability, consider contacting Tactive. They’re experts in unique branding solutions, including sustainable products.

Many of your Gen Z students will recognize your efforts, whatever path you may choose for a sustainable merchandise strategy.

2. Fanny Packs

Neon color palettes and frizzy hair may have been left in the Saved By the Bell era, but a classic staple from the 90s has made a raging comeback: fanny packs.

They’ve gone through a bit of a rebrand, called “belt bags” by some outlets. But, regardless of the name, they’re a hit among Gen Z. man wearing bucket hat and belt bag

Small and portable, fanny packs and belt bags are great substitutes for the classic backpack giveaway.

3. Bucket Hats

Everything old is new again!

A bucket hat may have been your grandfather’s cover of choice when hitting his favorite fishing pond back in the day. Now, Gen Z has made it mainstream.

Branded bucket hats are a new twist on the classic baseball cap promotion. And, like fanny packs, they’re gender neutral!

Male and female students alike will love mixing and matching your bucket hats with their school outfits.

4. Glasses

Not all Gen Z swag looks like it popped out of a time machine.

Some fashion accessories, like sunglasses, are still a big hit. Students will enjoy wearing your branded glasses around campus and at outdoor events.

Here’s the best part: custom sunglasses are incredibly cheap to produce, so your marketing team should have no issue getting this item financed.

Also, consider marketing blue light-blocking computer glasses as a more practical approach for your students stuck in front of a screen all day. Computer glasses go hand-in-hand with promoting student health in a digital world.

5. Phone Grips

Phone grips, like Popsockets, are a solid alternative to other cellular accessories, like chargers or cases.

Unlike other phone extras, a grip is universal. Also, students who use phone grips will always keep them with their phones. So, they’ll show them off everywhere!

Grips aren’t for everyone, but they’re a fun, practical way to show off school spirit.

6. Stress Putty

Cheap and easily customizable, stress putty and stress balls are great for students who need extra nerve stimulation during midterms!

Whether you design them in school colors or slap a picture of your mascot on the packaging, these anxiety relievers will look great on any desk.

7. Waterbottles and Mugs

Did you know that bottled water is the beverage of choice for Gen Z?

Of course, plastic one-use bottles are a classic culprit in excess consumer waste.

Another great product that the folks at Tactiv directed me to was this stainless steel water bottle by Miir. Not only is it sustainable, but part of the proceeds are donated directly to a nonprofit charity.

The bottle even has a QR code that lets you see where your proceeds are going! This product checks off several boxes for sustainable philanthropy while keeping your Gen Z students connected to a cause through innovative tech.

8. Neoprene Pouches

Your students won’t want to carry your custom bottles everywhere, so why not give them a handy holder?

Neoprene pouches are insulated, weather-resistant, and – most importantly – stylish!

They’re a convenient carrier for small personal items. Like phone grips, branded neoprene holders will likely go wherever your students go, meaning your logo will get boosted visibility.

9. Earbuds

As the popularity of virtual learning grows, so too does the need for earbuds and headphones.

After all, Gen Z students must block out surrounding noise while listening to video lectures and audiobooks.

Branded audio peripherals are practical for giveaways that also promote student learning.

10. Local Goods and Services

Gen Z is all about driving business to local brands that match their ideals.

The pandemic also encouraged Gen Z shoppers to pursue a more intimate connection with local businesses.

Digital Gen Z Swag

Physical merchandise is great for traditional students, but manufacturing and distribution costs can take a toll, especially on smaller schools.

Fortunately, Gen Z students have completely plugged into digital.

Here are some virtual Gen Z swag ideas for forward-thinking higher ed marketers.

11. Social Media Filters

Frames and filters for platforms like Snapchat are a fun way for Gen Z students to customize school experiences they post online.

Check out this article that gives an inside view of the work behind the Boston College Snapchat Geofilters.

12. Personalized Shoutout

While physical products are excellent for showing off school spirit, they typically don’t carry the emotional weight of a personalized message.

Letters and emails are fine, but a video will take your delivery to the next level.

Consider using a service like spokenote to give your Gen Z students a unique experience they likely won’t forget.

13. Digital Passes

All of your Gen Z students will have a cellphone, so e-tickets are an easy and efficient means of rewarding them.

And as virtual events become more common, promoting e-tickets will become essential. You can also use them as a personalization opportunity!

14. Virtual Badges

In 2020, I talked about gamification’s role in marketing and recruitment.

As hype becomes reality, a virtual leaderboard could open up endless possibilities for recognizing student involvement at your institution.

Whether through virtual badges or some other vehicle, students will appreciate a public show of appreciation for their engagement and leadership.

15. Gift Cards and E-bucks

E-gift cards aren’t just for the distant cousin whose name you drew for Christmas – Gen Z loves them, too!

Your students will feel the love with digital credit to your school’s bookstore, on-campus coffee shop, or the hottest local restaurant.

A Desirable Product

Regardless of what items you choose to include with your Gen Z swag, what’s important is that you stay true to your brand.

Sometimes, a t-shirt is just a t-shirt. But it still plays a small part in making your students the heroes of your school’s story.

Curious to hear some more Gen Z swag ideas for your college or university? Drop us a line!

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Featured image by Raisa Kanareva via Adobe Stock
Man in bucket hat with belt bag image by Mediaphotos via Adobe Stock
Yale t-shirt image via

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