Do Promotional Products Work?

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Rob Boirun
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Rob Boirun
Rob Boirun
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Promotions Galore

You know all those caps, pens, coffee mugs, mouse pads and countless other promotional products you’re always handing out to employees, giving to customers and hauling with you to trade shows and other events? They can really add up – we don’t need to tell you that. Which begs the question: What do you say when somebody from accounting asks you in a budget meeting what all that stuff is for? And more importantly, whether it’s worth it?

Well, let’s see. First things first. According to Promotional Product International, here are the top eight reasons companies buy and distribute promotional products:

  1.  To promote goodwill and product image.
  2. To reinforce marketing of existing products, services and facilities.
  3. To recognize employee performance.
  4. To generate sales leads.
  5. To promote trade show traffic.
  6. To introduce new products, services and facilities.
  7. To stimulate employee sales performance.
  8. To stimulate employee productivity.

Those all make sense, right? Getting – and keeping – your name and logo out there is crucial for any company. And even the grouchiest employees are happy to wear free logo T-shirts. Even in the world of online business, there are many opportunities to touch clients and prospects with tangible expressions of your brand.

“Due to (their) useful nature,” Promotional Product International explains in a blog on its site, “promotional products tend to be kept and used, leading to voluntary repeated exposure, recognition and retention of the advertiser’s name and/or message.” And if the products aren’t kept, so much the better, says Arsham Mirshah, a co-founder and technical director of marketing at WebMechanix. Re-gifting just means more people are getting exposed to your company’s name.

“The more a promotional item is passed along, the greater total audience it sees, the smaller our cost per impression gets and the bigger our smiles become,” Mirshah writes in a blog post for American Marketing Association Baltimore. “It’s a known fact (thanks to the Advertising Specialty Institute) that 62 percent of those who receive a promotional product will give that item away before throwing it out.”

But enthusiasm for promotional products isn’t universal by any means. “In my 35 years of working as a food entrepreneur, promotional products benefit the vendor more than they do the small business owner (the one who purchases these products),” cautions consultant

Domenick Celentano. “Promotional products are only valid after other tools are in place,” he says in an post. “If you are attending The Fancy Food Show for example, yes … you should consider something as a leave-behind. But … try to make it relevant to your product.”


MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 18: A RaboDirect employee hands out promotional products to fans as they make their way into the round one Super Rugby match between the Melbourne Rebels and the Waratahs at AAMI Park on February 18, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

To Gift or Not to Gift

Wait. So do we get new T-shirts or not? Well, maybe. According to Promotional Products Association International, 83 percent of respondents in a recent poll said they like receiving products with advertising messages – only 2 percent didn’t. In fact, 48 percent said they’d like to get them more often.  Many companies are relying of promoting via advertising flags that help the products stand out and attract attention.

The extent to which promotional items are used within a particular industry can greatly affect their usefulness. They be a great way to improve customer loyalty and reorders by including them with products you ship, ostensibly as a “thank you” but actually as a way to remember who to call or which website to visit when the need arises again. That is no small thing! Rarely do online companies consider how valuable an offline presence can really be for staying top-of-mind and improving the lifetime value of a client relationship.

Promotions for Branding

So the answer, it seems, is to think of promotional products as part of a more comprehensive marketing strategy. Handing out schwag is one way – but only one – to get your name out there. And while getting your name out there is a great start, it’s just as important to make a name for yourself with good service, good delivery and good practices. Use your promotional products to remind clients and prospects of that, and they will certainly be doing their job for you.  Thanks to Richard Larson from the UK’s leading supplier of promotional gifts and promotional items for helping to contribute to this article.