Branding with Promotional Products

Promotional products are the Rodney Dangerfield of branding.  You know, “They get no respect!”.  Often thought of as the inexpensive tchotchkes given away at events or trade show booths, they have gotten a bad rep.  But when given some thought, they can be valuable in reinforcing your branding efforts.

So how do you use promotional products as part of your company branding?  First, you need to select products that support your core message.  Here are some real-life examples:

  • A broker who handles hard-to-place reinsurance risks sent key buyers a throwaway cell phone in packaging with a “use in case of emergency” message.  This reinforced the company’s focus on placing risks others couldn’t. (A word of caution: Try to keep your items under $25 each as many companies have restrictions on the value of gifts employees can accept).
  • An ad agency sent sets of four leather-covered juggling balls to marketing executives.  The message: The agency could help the executive keep all the balls (responsibilities) in the air.
  • The Bermuda Insurance Institute has given out canvas tote bags at industry conferences since the mid-1980s.  Each year they use a different bright color (aqua, corral, yellow, etc.) connected with the island.  By the second day of the conference all you see is attendees carrying the totes.  The bags reinforce Bermuda’s island location and have a utilitarian function as well.  I still have a bunch I use to carry around stuff.

Effective use of promotional products for branding assumes you have thought through your core brand message.  Without the work involved in creating a value proposition and distilling how you want your company to be known, selecting promotional products becomes an exercise in what someone thinks is cute/funny/useful/inexpensive/interesting/flashy/(fill in the adjective).   If you start by answering the question “What do we want to be known for?”, it will be much easier to focus on promotional products that deliver that message.  For example:

  • If you promise fast delivery, give customers and prospects a stopwatch with your logo and phone number/web site address.
  • If you provide business solutions, give customers and prospects a jigsaw puzzle of your logo or a custom Rubik’s cube with your logo.
  • If you help improve customers’ health, give away pedometers with your logo.

You get the idea.  Once you have the core message for your brand, you can visit promotional product web sites and the ideas will start flowing.  If you are stuck, many companies have service reps who can provide ideas for products that will communicate your message.

And don’t forget your employees.  Giving them promotional products reminds them of the core brand message.  At one company, we gave employees mouse pads with the company’s new ad campaign printed on them.  Employees could select the ad they wanted.

While promotional products will probably not be the centerpiece of your branding efforts, they can be an effective addition to communicating your value proposition to prospects and to reinforcing it with your current customers.


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