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Smart exhibiting: How to choose the perfect promotional product for your business

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Posted by , 26th June 2018

The perfect promotional product: Promotional gifts are the low-budget, secret weapon of influencers according to Anna Carter, author of this exhibiting post

The benefits of promotional gifts and understanding why they are so effective for building and cementing sales

How marketeers can take advantage of consumers’ innumeracy

Before I speak to you about how to choose the right promo product for your company, I want to start by discussing why they are so effective.

1. They enhance brand loyalty

Considered the bread and butter of keeping businesses alive, brand loyalty is vital.

What better way to engage with potential or current clients and customers than offering a free gift?

It’s been proven in studies, promotional gifts can increase the chances of your customer choosing to do business with you over your competitors:

  • Fact 1: Before receiving a promotional product, 55% of people had done business with the advertiser. After giving out promotional products, 85% of people did business with the advertiser
  • Fact 2: 53% of the time, promotional products create a more favourable impression.
  • Fact 390% of people who received a free gift said they were more likely to buy more frequently from the company offering the gift.
2. Promotional products help build long-term relationships

Similar to brand loyalty, strong and meaningful relationships with your customers or clients will benefit your business in the long-run.

When people realize you’re genuinely trying to build a good relationship, they’re more likely to recommend you to their friends, family, or colleagues.

Promotional gifts can be an effective way to increase engagement and build long-lasting relationships.

  • 6 out of 10 people keep promotional products for up to two years
  • 89% of consumers can remember the advertiser of a promotional product they’d received in the past 2 years
  • Promotional products generate 500% more referrals from satisfied customers than appeal letters
3. The right gifts turn customers into ambassadors for your business

Again, building on brand loyalty, if people are constantly exposed to your brand’s name, logo, and slogan, you’ll become more recognizable.

Fact: 53% of consumers use promotional products at least once a week or more!

If you’re giving away a useful product your, one that your customers want to use, and it has your logo on it, every use is increasing awareness of your brand.

And the best part?

ASI found 15% of consumers throw away their promotional product when they’ve finished with it. Whereas 67% of people will pass the product on to someone else–increasing cost per impression.

But your exposure doesn’t stop there.

People talk.

And getting customers to say nice things about you is as effective as traditional advertising. Giving away free, useful products is possibly the easiest and best way to get people talking positively about your company.

An article in the Journal of Marketing discovered people who got free products talked about it 20% more, whereas coupons and rebates didn’t make a difference.

4. Stand out from the crowd

The majority of businesses fall victim to boring, mundane practices when it comes to showcasing their brand to customers.

It’s true, business cards serve a purpose. But, think for a moment, when was the last time you received one? Where is it now?

Yeah, me neither.

Unless you’re really creative with your business card, they don’t have the ‘wow, cool’ factor.

Providing your customer with a well-thought-out promotional product that’s useful for their day-to-day life tells them that you care. Most importantly for you, it reminds them you exist.

Fact: More than 50% of consumers keep a promotional product anywhere from 1 year to 4 years+! Compare that to a Facebook ad they see once and it’s gone in a second.

5. Budget-friendly

If you’re a small business owner, or you’re working with a limited budget for advertising and marketing, promotional products can be your saviour.

Promotional products like coffee mugs or custom USB drives are cheap to invest in but are also useful everyday tools. This means that your clients’ use and display of them will be higher.

And remember, when most people are done with their gift, they’ll pass it on. This means, that unlike TV ads or billboards, where messaging is tied to a deadline, your budget-friendly promotional product has a much longer lifespan.

This study shows promotional products have a lower cost-per-impression in the United States than prime-time television advertising, national magazine advertising and newspaper ads, and a similar CPI to spot radio and Internet advertising.

The perfect promotional product: Promotional gifts are the low-budget, secret weapon of influencers according to Anna Carter, author of this exhibiting post

6. Gifts feel great

People don’t like ads. Ads are selling. Whereas gifts, gifts feel great.

Fact: 48% of consumers would like to receive promotional products more often.

Free gifts are more desirable than discounts–even if the discount helps to save money or get more value from their purchase.

An article titled, “Something Doesn’t Add Up”, in The Economist, discussed a study conducted by the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. They found consumers much prefer receiving something for free over getting something cheaper.


Well… it’s a little underwhelming. Most of us suck at fractions.

Take this study conducted by the Journal of Marketing for example.

Participants had a choice of getting 33% more coffee or 33% off the regular price of coffee. More people wanted an extra 33% over the discount. Even though the discount is a better deal in terms of cost per ounce.

They found out people thought a 33% increase in quantity was the same as a 33% discount. Whereas, actually, the discount is equal to getting 50% more.

Here’s the thing, and why promotional products work so great:

As a species, we’re driven by emotions; preferring to gain rather than lose.

People view a discount as reducing the amount they have to gain. But getting something for free is seen as a gain.

7. Boost your sales

It doesn’t make sense, but promotional events (i.e Free Comic Book Day) are huge money makers. Even though logic dictates giving away free stuff should cost your company money.

And it comes down to something called “The Reciprocity Principle.” The feeling that you need to do something because of what someone else has done for you.

Randy Garner, a professor of behavioural science, states the reciprocal feeling can occur even though we never requested a favour in the first place.

Let’s take a look at 7-Eleven’s Free Slurpee Day as an example.

You’d expect people to come in, get their free Slurpee and walk out. But, that’s not what actually happens.

You see, most people walk in, try the sample size, decide they want a bigger Slurpee that’s not part of the giveaway.

According to USA Today, their Slurpee sales skyrocketed by 38%, even though they gave away 4.5million free drinks.

8. Personalisation increases use and awareness

If you’ve done your research, know your customer base and what makes them tick, you can add a personal dimension to your marketing message.

Personalization can help customers develop a passion for your brand, values, and products.

Take Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign which was run in the UK as an example:

It consisted of including personalised names on Coke bottles. This was a simple but highly effective way to create a personal relationship with consumers. They were encouraged to contact Coke to request their name to be printed onto a bottle.

The result? Coca-Cola stated that more than 730,000 glass bottles were personalized via their e-commerce store.

9. Generate leads

The infographic below, created by WearePromtionalProducts, shows when promotional products are used as an advertising medium, they have a 50.7% call to action success rate. This response rate out-performs TV and radio advertising.

The perfect promotional product: Promotional gifts are the low-budget, secret weapon of influencers according to Anna Carter, author of this exhibiting post

10. Boost employee morale

Often overlooked, promotional products can also offer excellent internal value.

By offering gifts to your staff, you’ll boost their morale and loyalty because it reminds them that they are valued within the company.

You could consider creating an awards program suiting your work-culture, employees, and corporate goals. This can help increase morale and energy, especially in a sales environment.

The benefits are clear

There’s no denying the benefits of promotional products. Get it right, and you’ll build relationships and drive more sales.

But get it wrong, and you’re in for a PR nightmare.

How to choose the right promo product for your brand

The power of promotional products is real:

L.J. Market Research found 52% of participants did business with a company who offered a promotional item.

But if you want to get the most value from your promo spend, you’ll need to execute the process of choosing and distributing them properly.

Let’s take a look at how you can do that.

1. Do Your Research and Know Your Audience

The goods or services you sell are designed to solve the pains and problems of your target market.

Your solutions for easing or removing these problems come from research.

The same approach is needed when it comes to choosing promotional products. Without research of any kind, you’ll risk failure. Here are some key things you should consider when researching your market in order to choose the right promotional product:

  • Is there a promotional product you could choose that relates to your companies product or service?
  • What promotional items do your competitors offer?
  • How can you improve on your competitors’ promotional product offers?
  • What do your target customers have in common? (age, geographic location, hobbies, etc.)?

Whether this is a particular campaign, initiative, or event, it’s vital you understand your audience before choosing your promotional product.

If you offer an item they’re actually interested in, you’ll gain the most brand recognition and are more likely to see a positive ROI.

Here’s a great example:

The perfect promotional product: Promotional gifts are the low-budget, secret weapon of influencers according to Anna Carter, author of this exhibiting post

Vantage Detergent(a Brazilian company), handed out free packets of stain remover in the shape of a ketchup stain to restaurants and bars around São Paulo.

The packet read, “Stains. Hard to avoid, easy to remove. Vantage stain remover.”

100,000 packets were gone in 3 days with many of the customers taking the packets home as souvenirs.

2. Stay Aligned With Your Brand’s Image

Consistency is key when you’re promoting your company.


Because you’ll stop people from becoming confused about what you offer and reinforce why it’s great to do business with you.

If you’re a family-friendly company, a controversial promotional product probably won’t align with your overall messaging. If your company has a slogan or consistent message, highlight it.

Take a look at what New Zealand television channel TV3 did when promoting the start of a (then) new TV show, Prison Break.

They needed to reach a wide range of people, so needed their promotional product to align with their brand rather than targeting a specific audience.

Here’s what they did:

The perfect promotional product: Promotional gifts are the low-budget, secret weapon of influencers according to Anna Carter, author of this exhibiting post

They embossed promotional soap bars with the Prison Break name and their network logo and placed them in public bathrooms all over the country.

Branded with a key on the underside, to portray the show’s theme and suggest the user is now able to “unlock” access to the new prison drama.

What happened? The first episode was the most-watched programme ever in its time slot.

3. Plan product lead time carefully

All promotional products are sold with lead times. This is the time it takes for your product to be manufactured and delivered to you.

It’s vital you take this into account. If you don’t look into this and plan accordingly, you might waste your time looking at promotional products that will never get to you in time for your campaign.

4. Think about distribution

Once you’ve determined who’s going to receive your promotion, you need to figure out how they’re going to receive it.

And your method of distribution needs to match your product.

Here’s what I mean:

If you’re giving out branded apparel, let’s say a sweatshirt, it might not be the best idea to give this away at a tradeshow–especially if it’s the middle of summer.

Think about it.

People are getting tons of free stuff at trade shows, do you really think they’re going to be happy carrying around a bulky product all day? They might not even have room in their luggage.

Obviously, if the situation calls for it, a sweatshirt at a trade show might be perfect for your brand. This is all about judging your situation.

If you’re running a direct mail campaign, calendars, magnets, USB drives, or other flat, lightweight items are ideal.

The bottom line: You want to get your promotional product in your audience’s hands without causing them any issues.

5. Work to a measurable objective

I’m going to take a guess and say you’re not giving away a product just because you want to. You will have an objective in mind for this activity and spend.

And if you don’t, I recommend you decide on a goal and make it measurable and include a call to action.

Whether you are trying to engage your audience on social media or aiming to gather a specific number of leads, a measurable goal will tell you how successful your campaign actually was.

It’s an unfortunate fact of life: not every campaign is going to be successful.

Having a measurable objective allows you to improve future campaigns by fixing mistakes or optimizing things that worked.

If you can’t measure it, you can’t optimize it.

You could print QR codes, twitter handles, or hashtags on your product to help funnel your audience to your website or social media channels.

Let’s take a look at an example: 7-Eleven Mustache Slurpee Straws

The perfect promotional product: Promotional gifts are the low-budget, secret weapon of influencers according to Anna Carter, author of this exhibiting post

7-Eleven took their social media to the next level with their Mustache Slurpee Strawpromotion. The mustache gifts were available in four different styles to please everyone’s ‘stache preference’, and the campaign was created to benefit from the #selfie fad.

The promotional campaign was a huge success, with users posting countless images on their social media accounts, generating over 1.5 million impressions.

6. Focus on personalized usability

Your number one goal is to enhance your brand’s image. So you don’t want to just give something away for the sake of it.

If your promotional product is seen as useful it’s much more likely to be retained and used.

69% of consumers would pick up a promo produced they deemed useful, and 77% say a promotional products usefulness is the best reason to keep it.

Rather than focusing on what everyone else says is a good promotional item, look at what your audience wants and what they will deem “useful.”

It all comes back to the first point: Know Your Audience.

If you’re sponsoring a sports event, handing out flash drives probably won’t be a great idea. Handing out towels with your logo, on the other hand, is much more likely to work to your brand-building advantage.

But, how many blog posts have you read telling you how great towels are as a promotional product? Not many. You should focus away from what others are doing and focus on your audience and campaign.

And ultimately, ask yourself this question: Will my audience find this promo product useful?

If your answer is yes, you’re heading in the right direction.

7. Quality or Quantity?

It’s a common question asked.

Look, the main selling point for quantity is you can distribute more promotional items for less money. And yes, sometimes this works.

If low-cost items like stickers, pens, and paper products make sense for your audience, it might be something you want to go for.

But remember this…

… your promotional products reflect your brand.

If you give away cheap products that quickly break, your audience is going to associate you with being cheap and low-quality.

It’s better to look at promotional products as a way to enhance your image and a way to connect with your audience. Not to give out as many as possible with your logo on it.

We know from the statistics we discussed, there’s big potential for your audience to hold onto your product and then pass it on if it’s good.

So in my opinion, it’s always better to go quality over quantity.

The power of promotional gifts

Yes, promotional products are proven to be a cost-effective tactic to drive consumers to your business, build recognition, and brand loyalty.

But, that’s not to say promotional products will suffice as your whole marketing strategy. Rather, they should be used to compliment it.

Get your promotional product right and you’ll gain a competitive advantage over your competition.

About the Author

Richard Roberts has a background in sales and marketing and started CustomLogoCases to fill a gap in the market for a specialist manufacturer/supplier of quality custom cases and covers at reasonable prices. The business can now provide cases at multiple price points depending on the target market and end use. Current clients include Mercedes Benz, Hyatt, Unilever and Saatchi & Saatchi.

Posted in Giveaways & Incentives  /  Trade show advice  /  Trade show marketing  /  Trade show sales

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