Promotional items are an effective tool to promote brand awareness, but choosing the wrong promotional items will have little to no effect if they’re destined for the trash. Items that aren’t useful won’t last long and what people consider useful depends on the industry.
Are your promo items related to your industry?
Effective promotional items are useful but also related to your industry. For example, promo items to give away at a mountain biking conference include branded helmets, bike shorts, reusable water bottles, and drawstring backpacks. Relevant promotional items for outdoors lovers include backpacks, sleeping bags, first-aid kits, multi-tools, and power banks for charging a phone. People can use these items and their usefulness ensures they’ll stick around for a while. Even if these items end up at the thrift store, they’ll still be seen.
What’s useful is relative to your event
Useful items aren’t necessarily perceived as useful. The topic of your event plays a role in determining the usefulness of your promo items. For instance, a keychain compass is inherently useful, but it’s not relevant to a manufacturing trade show. A large portion of your items might end up in the trash before people leave the event. Receiving random items at an event feels cheap, even if the items are good quality.
Your promo items represent your brand
Branding a bunch of items with your company imagery or name will forever tie you to that product. Do you want your brand to be represented with a toothbrush? Unless you’re a dentist, you’re going to confuse people and/or cheapen your brand perception if people associate you with a toothbrush.
You’ve spent time, effort, and money to build a brand image that represents your company. Plastering your logo all over items that have nothing to do with your brand will backfire.
Treat promotional items as advertising space
Swag isn’t just swag. It’s permanent advertising – at least until the item ends up in the trash. Instead of advertising in a traditional space, you’re advertising on a physical item. The relevance of every item you advertise on matters. Promo items are advertisements first and free gifts second.
It’s crucial to advertise in relevant spaces. For example, sporting goods giant Big 5 wouldn’t advertise in a knitting magazine for obvious reasons. Some people who knit might be sporting enthusiasts, but it’s not guaranteed. Even if half of the magazine’s audience was into sports, people who read knitting magazines want to read knitting-related content. Sports-related content would feel out of place. The same is true for promo items.
Have you ever seen a Wells Fargo branded toothbrush and trial size toothpaste? Probably not. If those items do exist, they were probably made to bring attention to a cause like dental hygiene. Wells Fargo gives away all kinds of swag, but they seem to stay away from personal hygiene products probably because it’s a little too personal.
Before committing to any particular promo item, ask yourself the following questions:
- If this product were a magazine, would I advertise my business inside?
- Is this product designed for my target market?
If the answers is no to either question, it’s not the right product.
Your promo items should be a match to your target market
It’s not enough to use promo items related to your industry. Go one step further and use items that are specifically made for your target market. For instance, fidget spinners would be a great choice for a computer geek conference because they’re designed for stress relief. Fidget spinners are great promo items for people in any industry prone to stress. There’s a wide market for fidget spinners, which now make up 17% of all daily toy sales.
Going back to the example of outdoor promo products mentioned earlier, those items work because they’re an exact match to the target market. People who love the outdoors are the market for sleeping bags, first-aid kits, and backpacks.
Make your promo items work for you
Next time you shop around for promotional items to give away, go for products related to your industry and event. Target your market with the products you give away. Keep your promo items working for you instead of misrepresenting your brand or allowing them to disappear into a landfill.
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