Your Promotional Products should serve a purpose and not simply be a give-away. Simply take a look around your office. I’ll bet you’ve got at least one promotional product somewhere. A pen, a bottle opener, a coffee mug, a tote bag or imprinted jacket—something imprinted with the name of a business, nonprofit organization, or school.
With a 75% likelihood, it’s a safe bet on my part. In a 2009 survey by PPAI Research, 3 out of 4 consumers reported having at least one promotional product in their workspace. In fact, nearly 6 in 10 claimed they had between two and eleven products, or more.
This year, the U.S. promotional products industry is estimated to be a $17.4 billion market. To give some perspective to this figure, American wineries have annual revenues of $14 billion, breakfast cereal manufacturers have revenues of $12 billion, and movie ticket sales are approximately $10 billion. Americans will spend more on Promotional Products this year than they do on amusement parks and arcades, more than on dry cleaning, and more than on coffee shops…including Starbucks.
Swag sells. But, why? And more importantly, can it really do much to promote your brand?
For starters, the range of promotional products goes far beyond their “tchotchke” reputation. Sure, you can put your logo on a stress ball or plastic clappers, but you could also give out silver-tipped wine stoppers, a quality leather portfolio, or a name-brand golf polo, to give just a few options. Just as with TV and radio ads, some promo articles are more tasteful than others, and to us the purpose and usefulness of a product should far outweigh the “latest & greatest” aspect. You might be surprised to learn that, in 2010, 31% of promotional sales were of wearable items like shirts, jackets, and hats; 7% were of drinkware; and less than 2% were of toys and games.
Next, it must be noted that promotional products are easily accessible and affordable. Not every enterprise can afford a radio spot or a television ad, but a budget of several hundred dollars could easily get you started into the promotional products game—and promo items are persistent marketing, designed to last and deliver your message repeatedly, over time. More importantly, these items are perceived as gifts. When was the last time someone thanked you for your TV, Newspaper, magazine or Radio ad?
PPAI found that when it comes to collecting promotional items at tradeshows and other events, that 25% of respondents would pick up the item, regardless of what it was. Freebies also trigger what researchers call the reciprocity effect—the conditioned cultural response to return the kindness of a gift, which is great for a guerilla type marketing plans or programs—which can manifest itself in better response rates, repeat business, and referrals.
However, this varies greatly depending on your business and the “purpose” of attending tradeshows. We like to take this a step further by learning what our clients are looking to achieve from attending tradeshows, then create a program or process that uses a product that has that specific purpose in mind. This sort of thing increases the power of the product and helps the client achieve a specific result.
…We often ask, “Do you really need 1,000 stress balls, or are you looking to convert prospects into clients, increase sales or promote a new product?”…
Finally, promotional items are almost always delivered in person. In an environment that puts a premium on one-to-one marketing and interaction and engagement with customers, promotional products are a way to connect directly with your target audience.
So, as you can see, promotional products provide an affordable way to more directly connect you with your target market rather than a blanket ad to the masses who may or may not even see it or respond to it if they do.
Here are four tips for making sure you score with your promotional products:
Focus on utility first
Your item’s success as a marketing tool depends on whether its recipient will actually use it. A polo shirt that languishes in your customer’s drawer is not serving your brand. Neither is that stuffed animal you thought was so cute—and your client gave to Goodwill. Remember who your gift is destined for, and choose something that will work well and is useful to them. Ask yourself, would my target recipient ever buy this item for him or herself? The crowd at a beer-tasting event is more likely to happily stick a bottle-opener keychain in their pocket than get excited about a mouse pad. This may seem obvious, but is all too often overlooked.
Invest in staying power
Don’t hold back when it comes to investing in your item’s durability. One of the best things about promotional products is their potential for persistent communication. For example, a 29-cent pen likely has an ink cartridge that will run out in about three months. However, an 80-cent pen may be designed to last a year and be guaranteed to write if not used for several months. The last thing you want is for your prospect to need their pen and it not write. The last thing they will see is your brand as they toss it out in frustration. In addition, the marginal cost difference is trifling compared to your overall marketing spend—and you would quadruple the amount of time that pen will be working for you.
Don’t overspend on promotional products
You don’t need to pick an expensive item either. Aim for quality instead. Your gift itself—not the giveaway’s retail value—is what triggers the reciprocity effect. If you want to get your brand before large numbers of people, a small, high-quality item, purchased in bulk, can be a marketing bargain. And, as with many other sectors, it pays to comparison shop. The undecorated products available on the market are often identical from one distributor to the next; many times, they come from the exact same manufacturers. But their prices can vary tremendously.
Make your message meaningful
A coffee mug is just a coffee mug, until it has your brand and message on it. Make sure whatever you put on your item conveys the most important information. If your business relies on direct contact with customers, include your phone number or email. If your nonprofit relies on donors’ identification with your mission, choose a slogan that reminds them every day. And while it’s always great if your item aligns with your work, remember, utility comes first. Give a gift your customer will genuinely appreciate and use, and your message will speak for itself.
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