Are Promotional Items Effective?

Logo and brand related words in word tag cloudIn September, Todd Wilms wrote a blog post announcing the death of the tchotchke.  When I first heard this, I thought that he meant that promotional items were no longer a viable marketing tool.

No, say it isn’t so?

My Tchotchke Past

When I worked in the marketing department of a major transportation company, I was dubbed Keeper of the Tchotchkes. Seriously. That was my unofficial title. I was tasked with purchasing promotional items with “high perceived value” on which to emblazon the company logo.  As Keeper of the Tchotchkes,  I held the key to a small warehouse full of colorful promotional items: Frisbees, water bottles, t-shirts made from recycled bottles, key chains, plastic I.D. holders, and, of course, the ubiquitous pen. It was tchotchke heaven.

Back then, the term “tchotchke” was synonymous with all promotional items. So, Wilms’ announcement was a bit of a shock.  Promotional items dead? Say it isn’t so! It was like hearing an old friend had passed away.

I was relieved to learn that Wilms was speaking of the cheap bling formerly given out at trade shows and conferences. The kind of stuff no one ever uses and is basically just kitsch with a logo (lipstick-disguised USB keys, for example). Well, thank goodness that stuff is on its way out.

But, if the cheap combo 3-in-1 corkscrew/flashlight/cheese grater is dead as a promotional item, does that mean promotional items in general are becoming extinct?

No it does not.

Just the other day, my insurance agent gave me a pen with her name and phone number printed the length of the shaft after a visit to go over my current coverage. Recently, my business card printer included a colorful refrigerator magnet with his business name and phone number in my last order. My local fitness club owner told me that he found that his logo imprinted t-shirts were very important to his branding strategy and were working to increase his visibility.

Promo Items Are Still Key

This evidence may be anecdotal, but there are a couple of studies conducted by the promotional products industry that support it.

According to a 2009 study from the Professional Products Association (PPAI), 94% of recipients of promotional items recalled the name of the advertiser and 76% of the respondents remembered the information they saw on a promotional product. The PPAI survey found that customers loved receiving promotional items and big ticket items left a more favorable impression of the company.

If a 2009 study seems too long ago. There is the 2013 Global Ad Impression Study, conducted by the Advertising Specialty Institute, the largest media and marketing organization serving the promotional products industry. The ASI surveyed 7,000 people world-wide. The study showed that 86% of people remembered the advertiser of logoed products and 54% thought more positively of the advertiser.

The ASI doesn’t present its survey in some boring paper. The ASI itself embraces our new interactive world and presents their 2013 survey in a YouTube video complete with catchy music. It seems that even the promotional industry uses social media to deliver its message.

Marketing in the New Millennium

Marketing for businesses has changed even for the promotional items industry. Today, we can reach more customers through the internet. This has customers craving a more interactive experience with business. If you want your business to prosper you have to blog, and be a player on sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Yes, promotional items are effective. They do boost brand recognition. However, they should be a small part of your overall marketing strategy. Today’s business owner must include social media as well as traditional forms of marketing.

If you do use promotional items in your business, remember to choose  items that will compliment your business and that customers will use and value. Top items are quality t-shirts, tote bags, pens, desk accessories, and pedometers.

So, the death knell for the kitschy tchotchke has rung, but the quality promotional item lives on.

Do you use promotional items as part of your overall brand strategy?  How do you use promotional items in your business? Do you find them effective?

About Tanya Adams

A Marcom professional for such companies as The American Film Institute, LACMTA, Kashi, and Barnes & Noble, Tanya Adams is a freelance marketing and education writer at tanyaadamswriter.com.

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