I’ve been in this business a long time and have heard the products I sell called all sorts of names; some reflect a fondness for promotional products; others disdain. There’s “tchotchkes” (originally a Slavic word for toys), stuff, junk, novelties, trinkets, giveaways, handouts, premiums, incentives and arts and treasures. O.K., the term “arts and treasures” was coined by someone I worked with in this business so there was some bias attached to that one!
Where did this perception that promotional products are simply junk that companies buy for recipients to
throw away come from? My best guess is the many companies that buy branded items to hand out do so without much forethought and spend as little money as possible. One day the person in charge of trade shows remembers he needs 1,000 of something to hand out next week so he calls his promo rep and orders something cheap and completely unrelated to the event. Many companies at trade shows put a big basket of cheap pens, candy, buttons or something else at the front of their booth and as a result people grab handfuls as they walk by. Businesses I’ve worked with over the years are more likely to buy a lot of something cheap vs. a lesser quantity of a quality, useful item.
But here’s the rub: promotional products are one of the most favored forms of advertising available today. According to a study on trade shows by Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), 76% of attendees have a favorable attitude toward a company that gives them a branded item and almost 72% remember the name of the company that gave them that product. Put yourself in the position of a trade show attendee: if given a useful promotional product with a perceived value of $5.00 (it may have only cost the exhibitor half that) or a pen worth a quarter, which company would you most likely have a more favorable attitude toward? That’s not to say pens aren’t a worthwhile investment since they account for almost 9% of total promotional products sales, but how many pens can one person use?
Another key to the success of promotional products is their longevity. How often are you going to use a TV commercial? That’s ridiculous you say, you watch it a few times on TV and it’s gone. And that’s the point! You can’t play with a TV spot at your desk, you can’t wear it or use it at home and you certainly can’t take it to the gym with you every day. But a promotional product you can and studies have shown the average promo product is kept between 10 months and a year. If a gym bag is used three times a week over the course of a year (that’s 156 times) and the cost was $7.00, your cost per impression of the recipient seeing your brand is about a nickel. Not a bad return on investment for a tchotchke.
It’s much easier to track the cost per impression (CPI) of traditional media (TV, radio, newspaper) and even much of the online advertising venues, but that doesn’t make it a better form of advertising. You wouldn’t buy a TV or radio campaign without making sure the station or stations you were using met your target demographics, had a good CPI and the spots were creative and informative. It’s easy to wait until the last-minute to purchase your promotional products, spend as little as possible and then gripe about it being a waste of money. In doing that you are feeding the myth that promotional products are in fact trinkets and trash.
Next time you need some branded products for a trade show, customer gift, new product introduction, gift with purchase, sales leave behind or thank you, take a moment to answer these basic questions:
- Who is my target audience? Young, old, men, women, what’s their income bracket, what do they do for a living, are they prospects or customers, qualified buyers or tire kickers.
- How are we using the product? Is it at a trade show where you have a combination of customers and prospects? Is it to motivate people to do something? Is it to introduce a new product, new logo or new tag line? Do you want the item to be used in the office or in the home?
- How are we giving them out? Will you be giving them individually to customers, prospects, employees? Are you using them in a direct mail piece? Is it for the masses or for a targeted group of people
- What’s your budget? Most of the time promotional products are the last thing anyone thinks about which is why they are typically bought at the last-minute and need to be cheap because the budget is gone. By making them a more integral part of any campaign with proper planning, I would almost guarantee that you’d be pleasantly surprised with results that will help you see the power of promotional products.
Buying branded products for your company without thought or planning will perpetuate the myth of trinkets and trash and be a waste of money better used elsewhere. But taking time to plan ahead and invest some thought into the questions above will not only bring you better results, but make the branded products you buy truly arts and treasures, at least in the minds of your recipients.