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how to use promotional products effectively

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Promotional products are one of the most widely used methods for getting the name of a business out into the marketplace. In fact, one study found that over half (50.5%) of people who receive promotional items did not forget the brand or product advertised, even after six months (BPMA).

In this guide, we'll take a look at the benefits that promo products can bring to your business, as well as how you can get the most out of them. We'll cover:

Why are promotional products important?

So, why is it that promotional products are so important? Well, they can offer a range of benefits to any business that use them, including promoting your brand, offering a good return on investment, and expanding your company's marketing options.

There are quite a few reasons why many brands consider promo items among the most beneficial marketing strategies to invest in, and we’ve listed a few of them below:

      • Getting your company name out there: One of the most prominent reasons that a company will undertake a marketing campaign is to increase the recognition of the brand. A well-thought-out, desirable promotional item with your logo and name on it can put your brand at the forefront of a potential client’s mind.
      • Extended advertorial exposure: If you provide a potential customer with a useful or innovative item that they are likely to use on a daily basis, there is an increased chance that they will keep hold of it for a longer period of time. This holds much more value than a fleeting TV or radio ad campaign, and also means that your brand will receive the maximum exposure for an extended period of time.
      • Workplace infiltration: There are also products like pens, mugs, and calendars that people are more likely to take into an office and use on their own desk or pass it on to someone else — another piece of information that was found by the research undertaken by the BPMA. Offices are great locations for products bearing your branding to be displayed as they will probably be looked at by more than one person.
      • Excellent value: Branded products provide a lot of value as they are cheap and give excellent exposure. There are items that can be branded to suit almost any budget, and they are almost always less expensive than other methods of advertising. Because of this, promotional products can be an incredibly valuable marketing tool for smaller businesses that are working within the confines of a more limited marketing budget, offering a much greater return on investment (ROI) than other forms of brand promotion.
      • An alternative to business cards: Business cards have long been a staple of passing on your or your brand’s contact details onto potential clients, but sometimes it is useful to be able to offer an alternative to freshen your marketing strategy up. A promo gift is much less likely to be cast aside, thrown away, or lost than a business card — especially if the item is useful or memorable.
      • Exploit repeat business: If your business is one that relies on repeat custom, you can take advantage of this by providing promotional items that play an important role in a customer returning. For example, a dental surgery could give away branded toothbrushes with their practice name and logo printed on them. This would increase the chance that patients would look at the branding when they brushed — keeping the health of their teeth at the forefront of their mind, leading to regular repeat business for the dentist.
      • Adding variety to your marketing campaign: Promotional products can bring variety to your company’s marketing campaign. While you may have a few staple marketing methods, such as emails, brochures, or well-placed adverts, promo items can give you the opportunity to get your brand into places that are beyond the range of these methods. That said, promotional products can simply inject some much-needed freshness into your campaign and prevent things from becoming stale.
      • Versatility: The great thing about merchandise is that it can be used by almost any company, no matter what business you’re in, in a multitude of different situations. Need some marketing materials to take to an event with the chance of building contacts or leads? Promotional items can do this job. Want to give a potential client something that they can take away from a meeting at your office that will help them to remember your company at a later date? You can do this with a promotional item or two. Ensuring that you are well-stocked with this kind of merchandise can really help out when you are in a marketing pinch, and they could definitely prove to be your go-to item when you are stuck for other ideas.

Why do promotional products work?

You could start with the most obvious idea: people like to get something for free. There’s something to be said for the feeling you get when you find a bargain or take advantage of an offer when you are out shopping, and receiving a free promotional item taps into the same feeling of value.

Studies carried out by behavioural economist Dan Ariely for his book Predictably Irrational (HarperCollins, 2008) show the effect a product deemed to be free can have on people’s behaviour. In one study, he used a cheaper sweet with a 1 cent price and a more luxurious sweet at 15 cent price, then offered them to several participants in the study. Almost three out of four opted for the more luxurious sweet due to the perceived value of its relatively low price versus its usual cost.

The results changed when the prices were lowered by 1 cent, with the luxurious sweet priced at 14 cents and the cheaper sweet available for free. Even though the price difference was the same, two thirds opted for the free sweet over the luxury sweet, despite the fact it was now available for even less than before. Ariely theorised that people were attracted to the free item over the more rational choice because the free item carried no risk at all, offering a win-win opportunity.

You can tap into this perceived value by offering free promotional products — people are likely to willingly take them, and if they are impressed with the quality and usefulness of the item, they will use them more to vindicate their decision, delivering extended exposure for your brand.

The same BPMA research mentioned previously found that 60% of people experienced a positive reaction when presented with promo merchandise, more than any other advertising medium. Additionally, 64% of people said that promotional products made them feel appreciated by the company — as opposed to 11% for TV, 9% for direct mail, 8% for online, and 8% for print adverts.

Where sitting through an advert on television (promo products’ closest rival) can often feel as if you have been subjected to the marketing of a brand, being given a promotional item can turn advertising into a positive experience through the pleasant feeling of being given something as a gift, even if the motivation is purely for marketing.

How to choose the right promotional products for your business

We’ve established that promotional products can do a lot for your brand’s image and getting your name out there, but there are still a few things that you should consider before ordering your branded items to ensure you're making the best decisions for your business.

Look for products that are useful

When looking for a product to attach your brand image to, always try to choose something that will prove to be useful to the recipient, as there is more chance that they will keep it for a prolonged period of time. Something that has novelty value may draw a few laughs, but an item of real value will put your brand at the forefront of the recipient’s mind in the long term.

Make sure that you have taken the time to identify your intended recipient — being aware of the needs of your target market will allow you to choose products that will be the most useful to them.

On the other hand, a useful product doesn’t always have to be designed for the long game — a well-chosen short-term item can leave an equally positive impression on a recipient. For example, at a careers fair or trade show, there is often an urgent need to be able to note down a company or person’s details, so a branded pen or notepad could go a long way towards helping someone who needs to use one right away. Not only would this create a great impression on the recipient, but they are liable to share your company’s well-thought-out stationery with others who are also need them — either through word of mouth or just through others seeing your items in use.

If you are planning on attending an event, think ahead about what could prove to be useful to the people who will be attending — branded umbrellas or hoodies at a festival, rechargeable power packs at a business event — and your company could be seen as a lifesaver.

Invest in products that represent your company well

If you are looking to take advantage of long-term exposure through your promotional items, make sure that you invest in products that will cast your company in a good light — cut-rate products that break easily will make your company look cheap and will probably be thrown away sooner.

While it may feel as if you are getting a great deal when ordering your promotional products, especially when you are able to order many units for a low price, it is always worth stopping and asking yourself if you would be better off investing in higher-quality products.

Another aspect you may wish to consider is whether the products you have chosen are in line with any brand messages you've communicated about sustainability. For instance, if you've committed to be a zero-waste company, it wouldn't be appropriate to be giving away lots of disposable plastic products. Instead, you may consider eco-friendly items that match your values and will help to cast your brand in a positive light.

What are the best promotional items to give away?

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There is a whole world of promotional products out there that you could apply to your branding, but that doesn’t mean that you should invest in all of them. There are some products that are versatile and can be used by almost any type of business for a multitude of events, but there are others that are more niche with a limited range of use.

We’ve listed a few of the most used and the most effective items below, along with a few of their strengths and who/where they may be suitable for.

Pens and pencils

© Darren E - licence

If there was ever a product that almost anyone could make use of, it is the trustworthy pen or pencil. It’s said that there are never any around when you really need them, so why not provide your potential clients with one branded with your company name and logo? Pens are versatile products because they can be taken to any event and still be one of the popular choices among visitors.

According to BPMA research, pens are the most prevalent promotional item to be found in people’s desks in their office, which shows that pens are very likely to be taken away and kept in a place of work. They are also one of the most memorable promotional items you can receive, with 47.1% of people indicating that they would be able to recall the company or message on a promo pen.

While writing instruments are the most common promotional item used by businesses, with 62% of people asked saying that they had been given one, this doesn’t mean you should avoid investing in them. They are one of the best go-to products, and every company should look to have a good stock as a baseline item in their promotional merchandise range.

Desk products

Promotional desk products have a similar appeal to pens and other writing instruments — they’re essential in office environments and are likely to be kept for quite a while due to their functionality. Popular branded objects include rulers, pencil sharpeners and erasers, coasters, and sticky notes, which are all items that no workstation is usually without.


Promotional keyrings are another item that are widely used by potential customers, with 33% of people responding to the BPMA survey indicating that they own a branded keyring. The main strength of this kind of product is that it is such an essential item that is available at a very low cost. Often people do not put a lot of thought into what their key chain has on it and will use the most convenient option available to keep all of their keys together.

It may sound like keyrings can be a throwaway item, but you can exploit this factor by providing a convenient branded key ring that is solid enough to last a while, allowing your logo to be displayed on a regularly used item in a potential customer’s life. Promotional keyrings can also be combined with useful items like LED torches, bottle openers, and tyre tread gauges that can increase the scope of their use even more.

Mugs and other drinkware

Mugs are an incredibly common sight around almost every workplace, and it’s all because people just can’t do without their cup of tea or coffee while they are on the job. This is great news for businesses looking to increase their brand awareness, as branded mugs are a great way to get your name into a place where it will be seen by many people on a daily basis. Mugs also have great longevity — shown in BPMA research that indicated that over 60% of people keep their promotional mugs for longer than a year.

Mugs aren’t the only drinkware that can be customised with your branding, with plenty of other options available. Promotional water bottles are quite popular, as many people like to have a glass of water alongside their tea or coffee to make sure that they stay hydrated. A high-quality water bottle is likely to be a promotional item that is used on a daily basis, offering similar advertising for your brand as a mug. There is also the possibility that they could be used outside the office for cycling, running or even at the gym.

Alongside mugs and water bottles, hip flasks, vacuum flasks, and travel mugs are also popular promo drinkware choices. All of these items are available at Custom Planet within our larger promotional products range.

Branded clothing

© Stacie - licence

Having your branding printed onto some promotional clothing is an effective way to get your company name out and about. There are several types of garment that are ideal for prominently displaying designs, like T-shirts, hoodies, and sweatshirts, and even more heavyweight garments like fleeces and jackets. Businesses generally invest in branded clothing for two main reasons: as uniform or promo wear for their staff, and as promotional items that can be given away to customers.

Clothing with your brand displayed on it can be the ideal choice for your company as a staff uniform. A uniform can bring the team together and help them to look smarter and more professional — it also doubles up as extra advertising for your company. If you have a more relaxed staff dress policy, go for a branded T-shirt or hoodie, or if you have a more formal dress policy you could opt for a customised shirt or polo shirt. If you don’t have a staff uniform, you could offer company-branded clothing to any staff that would want to wear it outside of work.

Promotional garments also make great giveaways for potential customers. Branded T-shirts, hoodies, and sweatshirts are worn everywhere, from the gym to shopping, meaning maximum exposure for your company. You can increase your chances of customers wanting to wear your clothing by selecting high-quality products and applying an attractive design to them. Take promo clothing to events like trade fairs and exhibitions and they can double up as giveaway items and uniforms for the staff members who are working your stand.

Promotional accessories

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Much like branded clothing, promotional accessories can be a very effective marketing strategy for a relatively small outlay. Accessories like hats, bags, and towels are likely to be used by potential customers in a variety of locations and for extended periods of time. For example, someone who receives an umbrella displaying your company’s logo could well keep it in their car in case of rain and could end up using it in a busy area giving your brand maximum exposure. This is just one example of a situation where a promotional accessory could be used to advertise your brand, but if you are able to offer useful accessories that people want to use then the possibilities are endless.

Accessories, like promo clothing, make great giveaways at events that your company attends. Bags are great for storing marketing materials and other products at exhibiting events. Potential clients can use your bag to store their items, as well as providing added advertising for your brand as they move around the event — you can also pre-fill bags with some of your own marketing materials ready to hand out. Other trendier accessories, like snapbacks and beanies, might even be worn around the venue and beyond, especially if the attendees are younger.

Promotional electronics

If your company is geared towards a more tech-savvy client base, it is definitely worth exploring the options available to you regarding promotional electronic items. Well-chosen items can prove to be incredibly useful to these possible customers, ensuring prolonged use and extended advertising for your brand. Furthermore, being able to offer relevant tech items to people who are more likely to put them to good use will leave them with a positive impression of your business, potentially increasing the chances of further business being done in the future.

Possibly the most useful and widely sought-after promotional products available at tech-orientated events are USB memory sticks and portable power packs that can be used with a host of mobile devices. In the BPMA industry research quoted earlier, 63% of people said that a USB memory stick was the promo item they were most likely to still be using one year after receiving them. They are used widely in busy places like workplaces, colleges, and universities, and are likely to be seen by many people during this time. Power packs are also incredibly useful items, often kept in bags for on-the-go emergency power.

These two items are not the only promotional merchandise worth investing in, with branded calculators, torches, clocks, and speakers among many useful options available for your business. Within the right context these items can create a positive impression for your brand too, for example: offering calculators at a conference for accountants.

There is much more at Custom Planet…

We stock all of the above promotional products, as well as many more niche products — all of which can be fully customised with your brands name, logo, or any other design that you want to include.

Our staff are all printwear and branding specialists and are on hand to help you reach your marketing goals. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with any queries or requests — we would be more than happy to help you develop the perfect products to promote your brand.

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