If you type in 'promotional products' into Google it gives 51m results, it is easy then to imagine how many promotional gifts, products, premiums and giveaway options are out there! That number of results also tells us that in some way they must work, all those businesses must be addressing a continuous demand. The trick of course is to make sure that when you do use promotional products as part of a marketing exercise that you make the most of your budget. This article aims to give you some hints, tips and thoughts as to how to improve the impact of your promotional product campaign.
The number one question asked is 'how much should I spend (per person) on my promotional product?' This is going to depend on a few important considerations including your target demographic, the competition for their attention and perhaps the type of products or services you are promoting. With that in mind it is worth remembering that if 50% of your recipients are going to ignore the item it might arguably be worth paying twice as much to make sure 100% of half the number of targets keeps a better product around for even longer. A great example of this is direct mailing campaigns where the cost is very low, but success can be as little as a 0.5% to 1% take up. Working it through using 1000 flyers at $200 as an example, each response can actually cost more than $20 each! Could a $2 gift to 100 people, or even a $20 gift to 10, give a better return than that?
What is certain is that a promotional gift is much more likely to hang around longer than flyers and mailshots and therefore stand a much better chance of being to hand when the customer needs your product or service and also garnering repeat exposures to your message. Supporting that argument are fridge magnets, which are making significant in-roads into areas where direct mail has traditionally dominated. This is especially true for local businesses advertising their services. In general it is easy to get lured into more is better when it comes to promotional giveaways, but it is often not applicable so take time to plan your campaign in advance. Think about who are you sending it too: what are they interested in? What do they use every day? How can you make things easier for them to interact with you? If you can address these questions then it is just a matter of working out the cheapest option that fits the bill.
Generally a promotional item should appeal to the widest demographic possible (although sometimes it can pay to narrow your audience) otherwise the attrition rate is going to be higher. Let's work through the example of keyring bottle openers: these commonly used items clearly appeal to drinkers, but only those that drink bottled beer, and then only to those of them that prefer premium style beers that do not commonly have a screw cap. So what was wide group has now been whittled down to a fraction that will find the gift useful. So while many other people will also accept the gift, only a percentage will see their item often, and most will be put on the spare keys, or worse, the kitchen draw!
With keyring bottle openers, and many similar promotional items, adding a further complication is the fact that the group that are going to be most interested in your promotional gift are those most likely to already have an alternative already, thus increasing your competition! By increasing the functional base of your chosen item you can obviously spread your message much wider and by making it suit the needs of a wider percentage of that audience you can increase awareness further. Using products that are adjustable or have a one-size-fits all aspect are clearly more valuable in these circumstances.
Adding value to the customer
With some promotional products even more value to the target audience can be added for little cost, especially those that are made by the much more flexible digital printing processes. Something as simple as a consecutive number can become a valuable offering when it becomes a perhaps a lottery entry or perhaps a means to get a discount, both of which will undoubtedly increase the lifetime of the item as it retained until redemption. Some digital processes also now allow you to add more complex variable information such as names, numbers and addresses.
What easier way to make sure your gift sweeps all its competition away and to also impress your recipient as you have taken the time to personalise their gift with their first name! With items such as USB sticks, many suppliers can include a useful program to your specification on the device, ideal is one that evokes a subsequent interaction with your website or makes ordering simple and easy - possibly even including a login code that unlocks discounts or specials. If you are not able to do this, or do not have the budget for USB, then QR codes on printed products can perform a similar task.
Adding value to you
A large proportion of the cost of a bespoke designed promotion item is the set up and artwork. Once that is done each little addition cost less and less. Even something like adding a custom QR code can improve the value of your product - sometimes for free. QR codes are becoming more and more visible and are a great way to exact a call to action to the tech savvy generation. QR codes can be used to push people to a website, deliver an electronic business card and much more. They can also be used, once people have used their code, to track the visitor and personalise content. Variable information encoded into QR codes (i.e. each product has a unique code)can be used to further enhance the experience and are an immensely powerful marketing tool whose scope is still being explored. By capturing a QR code on my giveaway item with an app enabled phone (iNigma is a very popular one for both iPhone and Android) the embedded URL could tell me what item you scanned, the items colour, the time you visited, how long you visited for, where you went in my website, your ISPs location and even the type of phone you have!
Competition and saturation
Becoming ever more a factor in choosing the right strategy is trying to find a promotional item that stands out among the rest: commonly selected items such as keyrings, stress balls and now USB sticks are becoming so popular that you will be hard pressed to find someone that has not already got one, so you'll have to work even more harder to make sure they like your one! Occasionally a new product arrives on the market and it is important to quickly evaluate the potential of new ideas with respect to your target audience before others usurp you and steal your thunder. A new product idea done well cannot only generate interest from the person you gave it to, but to others who see it and are curious. This is an added bonus not to be sniffed at!
Often overlooked is the design aspect of a promotional product. Design is a strange thing as it can often be overlooked as it appears very easy to many people. A good design will pay dividends well into the future: an example is the Nike swoosh, of course very simple to draw, but very hard to replicate its success! Think hard about dividing up your budget so that a good amount is devoted towards getting the design right. Do not be afraid to test designs with close groups of people (preferably customers) to hone things, but remember that many people will have their own ideas, but not all can be right so it is better to focus on things like making sure the design is clear, attractive and compelling rather than the specifics of colour, size and placement etc. (there are other ways to address those aspects). Also consider that what works well for your customers may not necessarily be something you are in love with. Try and be objective, however if the two go hand in hand all the better! An example I use to illustrate this particular facet of design is to ask you to think about some of the biggest, and most successful, Internet names out there.
Chances are Google, eBay and Amazon are at, or very near, the top of your list. One could hardly say that they are also the most attractive sites though! They work and have become bigger than their competition not only because of their services, but also because their interface with their customers is simple (although Amazon is starting to look more messy!) and therefore they can be understood and enjoyed by the widest audience. Number one error, and one we have seen many times, is making sure your message is front and centre. Unless you are a recognised brand like Nike, Google or Apple then just your logo on a promotional product is going to have limited value outside your known customer base. If you can, always include a short piece of text to explain quickly and memorably what you do. For the rest of the population that do not know what Google does just simply adding 'world most popular search engine' could help them make their first Google search! Also worth mentioning is to try and select a product you can offer in a number of colour ways for little or no extra cost, this will increase both uptake and longevity. A double-whammy of sorts, which can often be quite economical in volume orders, but is increasingly possible with smaller orders too with some suppliers.
Call to action
Once you have captured the viewer's eye and delivered your message hopefully they will feel as if they want to read secondary information such as your highlighted products, services or maybe just your web address. If that information is not present then you are relying on them remembering to try and find out later, a risky strategy especially as there is lots of completion for everyone's attention these days! If you can, integrate a 'call to action' into your design, these are more common in advertising, but can also be implemented on promotional products too. QR codes or unique URLs can be useful as a means of getting an instant call to action. For instance: "Scan (or visit) now to receive a 10% discount off of your first order."
Most likely as I posted up this article recently, I looked at a promotional keyring bottle opener on my spare keys today. I picked it up from an unattended booth at an expo in Melbourne last year. It used to have an orange logo on it, but it does not now and I cannot remember who I got it from! Morals of the story are: if you are not their at an expo to qualify your leads you might as well throw the money away - and make sure that the product or gift you choose is able to keep on promoting your message for as long as it needs to! With keyrings maybe engraving is a better choice over pad printing, which if it is of a low quality is clearly easily removed by abrasion. If there are different printing options for your chosen product there might be an optimal solution for you.