According to the BPMA 70% of all marketers use promotional products as part of their promotional activity. The reason is the amount of exposure that can be gained from the spend – according to the American Advertising Speciality Institute, who looked at the cost of placing a brand in front of an audience, the  ‘cost-per-impression for a t-shirt is 0.005 cents. A prime-time television ad? Per impression, it runs at 0.019 cents. The argument is that the return on investment of promotional goods is as high as high as it gets.

So how do you decide what to spend your money on? We believe there are a number of consideration

  1. Who is you audience?
  2. What are you trying to say?
  3. Retention of the product
  4. How will you distribute the products?
  5. Budget

The final one, budget, is often the thing that drives the choice for many marketers, but we would argue that whilst the real world economics have an influence, this should not be the primary driver – 10,000 cheap plastic pens is not always the answer! I, like many others, have a draw full – and as I write this I could not name you one company from the 20-30 pens currently in my desk draw. I do know the name of the company that gave me the ‘Cross’ pen that I use regularly though.

But let’s examine the other principle factors

1. Who is Your Audience? 

Like everything in marketing the customer, or prospect, should always be at the centre of your thinking. Choosing a product should be based on the customer and what would appeal to them rather than your own personal preferences. I am a cyclist, so a saddle cover is a great gift – but if I weren’t a cyclist this would be a complete waste of money.

This sounds so obvious but when you examine the sort of promotional gifts you have been given recently – ask yourself how often you have given them away or put straight in the bin.  A high volume cheap gift that goes straight in the bin is very expensive.

2. What Are You Trying to Say?

So what is the purpose of your giveaway? The promotional product is given so that the receiver remembers your name and your brand in the future. To achieve this the product must be branded with your logo but also think about putting the website or phone number on – acts as a much better call to action.

The product also says something about your brand – the brand you have has certain values for example are you:

  • Corporate, trusted and confidential partner
  • Young, trendy and exciting
  • Fashionable, classy and aspirational
  • Value for money
  • Technical, forward thinking and cutting edge

Once you can vocalise the brand values you are well on the way to choosing a product – clearly the technical cutting edge brand would be better suited to a power pack product rather than a mug!

3. Retention 

Possibly the most important aspect of the promotional product is the concept of retention. Unlike a Google ad or email, the promotional product presents the opportunity of being retained for a long time with the consequent re-enforcement of brand.

The secret to retention is how useful the product is – clearly a different audience has a different view on usefulness – the more useful and ubiquitous the product is the higher the likely retention. Products like lanyards often used at exhibitions have very little use thereafter, will you really retain the large paper carrier bag?

4. How Will You Distribute the Product?

Your choice should bear in mind the distribution method – think how you intend to use the product. If it is intended to be sent as part of a mailing then weight and size matter a lot. If it is handed out at an exhibition then weight is important, but less so. If the product is handed out by sales representatives then this becomes less important.

5. Budget

Finally there is budget – clearly important but hopefully by now you will appreciate that this should never be the overriding driver


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