The maze of 125 exhibitors at the NAILBA 34 Exhibition Hall stretched down a long, winding path. Carriers, independent agencies, marketing agencies, software companies and even office solutions companies were among some of the exhibitors present.

The ways these companies attract attendees to their booths gets more creative every year. From offering an open beer bar to live animals and the always fun spin-the-wheel games, some exhibitors spared no expense when it came to offering a good time, while educating attendees, selling their products and becoming a memorable brand in the minds of independent agents (their consumers).

Here are some of the coolest swag items we found during our tour of the exhibition floor at the J.W. Marriott Grand Lakes in Orlando, Florida.

lifecare

LifeCare Funding:

Smart marketing people keep finding cute ways to make sure that their brand is top of mind for their consumers. Enter the lobster (that you can’t eat) “stress ball” … er … thing … animal shape. It caught our attention because it was the only lobster on the whole exhibition floor. Oh, and they also had pens. Tons of pens.

naifa

NAIFA

Speaking of cute, NAIFA’s booth caught our attention with these little post-it notebooks with the NAIFA logo. They also had hysterically laughing stress balls guaranteed to get you smiling.

nailba

Superior Mobile Medics

Yes, we fell for the old “Oh look, is that a tiny red converse shoe keychain?!” Not only did Superior have these really cool keychains (photo, above left); they also had a bonus: a cardboard cutout that you could take a picture with and then share on social media (photo, above right). It’s an interesting way to interact with clients on social and link it back to an event.

walrus

Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.

The marketing and branding masterminds at Arthur J. Gallagher really took a page out of the book of The Beatles, it would seem. I am the walrus, we are all the walrus, which means that we are all really in this together (in insurance and on Earth at large). (They had cute walrus plush toys with their logo on a blue handkerchief tied around their tiny necks.) They also had a whistle-flashlight-keychain.

nationwide

Nationwide

As I took these pictures at the Nationwide booth, a gentleman approached the table and instantly sung the jingle “Nationwide is on your side,” which prompted my response, “That jingle works!” (And I bet that you are humming the jingle right now. Right? Right??)

Nationwide had a bald eagle plush toy, which is in their logo, branded candy and cellphone charging sticks, a useful item that seemed to be the “it” swag item this year. They also had wine bottle stoppers that their booth representative said were made from old doorknobs. Great way to upcycle!

protective

Protective

While Protective wasn’t the only booth with cookies, they were the only ones with perfectly branded sugar cookies and one of the coolest booths I’ve seen in a long time.

john h

John Hancock

A table displayed all of the prizes and at one corner, stood the “wheel of fortune.” All you had to do was interact with one of the exhibitors at the booth, answer a question correctly, and then you got a chance to spin the wheel and win cool prizes, like an Apple gift card, a Starbucks gift card, or a pedometer, which is what I won, among other prizes. (Disclaimer: I’m still not quite sure why the exhibitor put that $10 bill on the table as I was taking the photo.)

alm

ALM Media

LifeHealthPro.com’s parent company, ALM, had a booth with a wheel of fortune – with awesome prizes like an Apple Watch – and cellphone charging sticks. 

alm

advantmed

AdvantMed

All you had to do was take a closer look at some of these booths and you could literally strike gold … well, maybe in the form of a brand new iPad Air! That’s what AdvantMed was offering in return for your business card. Sadly, I had left all of mine in my hotel room …

w and s

W & S Financial Group Distributors

Want to win an autographed Cris Collinsworth football? Then head down to the W & S Financial Group Distributors booth and leave your business card in the drawing bowl, after chatting with the nice gentlemen there. (FYI: Cris Collinsworth was an NFL football player for the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1980s, and is now an NBC football analyst.)

legal and general

Legal & General

Walking by this booth was sort of a challenge because there were many people surrounding it. Luckily, their videographer actually sought me out, asking: “Do you want to appear in our movie?” With a polite, “No, thank you. I don’t like the camera,” we started a conversation about what she was doing at the booth, which featured a small red carpet, a video camera and a cool chair. She said that they were asking attendees to explain what they think are the biggest challenges the insurance industry is facing on camera, with the slogan: How do customers see you?

crl

Clinical Reference Laboratory

Step right up to get your boots or shoes shined! This is one booth that was playing homage to the lost art of shoe shining. It’s a great way to offer a service, get a conversation started and leave feeling happy with very shiny shoes.

aig

AIG

AIG had a cool way to get you to visit their booth: They placed two enormous banners by the pool that said “Text GoAIG to this number.” But it was their booth itself that really caught my attention.

They had a huge area with a water bar – no alcohol here, just flavored water – and a huge touchscreen with the game of Memory, where you have cards facing down and you turn them one by one to find the matching pair. Being great at the game of Memory, I decided to play. It was a fun way to interact with people and gave me a chance to talk to the nice ladies at the booth.

metlife

MetLife

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere, even if it’s 12:00pm EST. That seems to be what MetLife was thinking by offering a free beer bar (and cute Snoopy toys.) Of course, beer is a great conversation starter, so good going MetLife!

genworth

Genworth

There’s nothing more comforting than talking over a cup of coffee … except maybe free (amazing) coffee.

And that’s what Genworth decided to do: Offer a huge espresso bar with the words “Let’s talk” in the background.

omaha

Mutual of Omaha

There were animals everywhere this year, but most of them were stuffed or plastic. Mutual of Omaha decided to one-up everyone else and bring live animals to their booth. While I’m not sure if the animals spent the whole day with their keeper taking pictures with attendees, I did manage to see a three-foot-long “baby” alligator … or was it a crocodile?

Well, to be honest, I didn’t want to get too close to the live reptile because of its tiny sharp teeth and all. But he did seem to enjoy the attention.

Check out more of coverage of NAILBA 34 here.

See also:

14 of the most recognizable retirement brands

7 branding mistakes to avoid