How to Choose the Perfect Promotional Product for your Business

Web marketing promotion illustration.

Promotional gifts–the low-budget, secret weapon of influencers.

Nail it, and you’re in line to boost referrals, retention rates, sales, and build long-term customer loyalty.

But be warned. There’s a right and a wrong way to to give promotional products.

In this article, you’re going to learn about the benefits of promotional gifts and how to choose the best one for your brand’s image.

Let’s get started.

Benefits of Promotional Gifts: Understanding Why They're so Effective

Before I speak to you about how to choose the right promo product for your company, I want to start by discussing why they are so effective.

1. Enhance Brand Loyalty

The customer is king

Considered the bread and butter of keeping businesses alive, brand loyalty is vital.

What better way to engage with a potential or current clients and customers than offering a free gift?

It’s been proven in studies, promotional gifts can increase in the chances of your customer choosing to do business with you over your competitors:

Fact 1: Before receiving a promotional product, 55% of people had done business with the advertiser. After giving out promotional products, 85% of people did business with the advertiser

Fact 2: 53% of the time, promotional products create a more favorable impression.

Fact 3: 90% of people who received a free gift said they were more likely to buy more frequently from the company offering the gift.

2. Builds Long Term Relationships

Similar to brand loyalty, strong and meaningful relationships with your customers or clients will benefit your business in the long-run.

When people realize you’re genuinely trying to build a good relationship, they’re more likely to recommend you to their friends, family, or colleagues.

Promotional gifts can be an effective way to increase engagement and build long-lasting relationships.

Fact 1: 6 out of 10 people keep promotional products for up to two years.

Fact 2: 89% of consumers can remember the advertiser of a promotional product they’d received in the past 2 years.

Fact 3: Promotional products generate 500% more referrals from satisfied customers than appeal letters.

3. Turn Customers into Ambassadors

Again, building on brand loyalty, if people are constantly exposed to your brand’s name, logo, and slogan, you’ll become more recognizable.

Fact: 53% of consumers use a promotional products at least once a week or more!

If you’ve giving away a useful product your customers want to use, and it has your logo on, everytime they use it, you’re increasing your brand awareness.

And the best part?

ASI found 15% of consumers throw away their promotional product when they’ve finished with it. Where as 67% of people will pass the product on to someone else–increasing cost per impression.

But your exposure doesn’t stop there.

People talk.

And getting customers to say nice things about you is as effective as traditional advertising. Giving away free, useful products is possibly the easiest and best way to get people talking positively about your company.

An article in the Journal of Marketing discovered people who got a free products talked about it 20% more, whereas coupons and rebates didn’t make a difference.

4. Stand out From the Crowd

An idea keeper

The majority of business fall victim to the boring, mundane practises when it comes to showcasing their brand to customers.

It’s true, business cards serve a purpose. But, think for a moment, when was the last time you received one? Where is it now?

Yeah, me neither.

Unless you’re really creative with your business card, they don’t have the ‘wow, cool’ factor.

Providing your customer with a well-thought out promotional product that’s useful for their day-to-day life tells them you care. But, most importantly for you, reminds them you exist.

Fact: More than 50% of consumers keep a promotional product anywhere from 1 year to 4 years+! Compare that to a Facebook ad they see once and it’s gone in a second.

5. Budget-Friendly

If you’re a small business owner, or you’re working with a limited budget for advertising and marketing, promotional products can be your saviour.

Most promotional products like coffee mugs or custom USB drives are cheap to invest in, but are useful everyday tools your customers and clients will find useful.

And remember, when most people are done with their gift, they’ll pass it on. This means, unlike TV ads or billboards, who’s messaging has a deadline, your budget-friendly promotional product has a much longer lifespan.

This study shows promotional products have a lower cost-per-impression in the U.S., than prime-time television advertising, national magazine advertising and newspaper ads, and a similar CPI to spot radio and Internet advertising.

6. Gifts Feel Great

People don’t like ads. Ads are selling. Where as gifts, gifts feel great.

Fact: 48% of consumers would like to receive promotional products more often.

Free gifts are more desirable than discounts–even if the discount helps them save money or get more value from their purchase.

An article title, “Something Doesn’t Add Up”, in The Economist discussed a studying done by the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. They found consumers much prefer getting something for free over getting something cheaper.


Well… it’s a little underwhelming. Most of us suck at fractions.

Take this study conducted by the Journal of Marketing for example.

Participants had a choice of getting 33% more coffee or 33% off the regular price of coffee. More people wanted an extra 33% over the discount. Even though the discount is a better deal in terms of cost per ounce.

They found out people thought a 33% increase in quantity was the same as a 33% discount. Where as, actually, the discount is equal to getting 50% more.

Here’s the thing, and why promotional products work so great:

As a species, we’re driven by emotions; preferring to gain rather than lose.

People view a discount as reducing the the amount they have to gain. Where as getting something for free is seen as a gain.

7. Boost Your Sales

It doesn’t make sense, but promotional event (i.e Free Comic Book Day) are huge money makers. Even though logic dictates giving away free stuff should cost your company money.

And it comes down to something called “The Reciprocity Principle.” The feeling that you need to do something because of what someone else has done for you.

Randy Garner, a professor of behavioral science, states the reciprocate feeling can occur even though we never requested a favor in the first place.

Let’s take a look at 7-Eleven’s Free Slurpee Day as an example.

You’d expect people to come in, get their free slurpee and walk out. But, that’s not what actually happens.

You see, most people walk in, try the sample size, decide they want a bigger Slurpee that’s not part of the giveaway.

According to USA Today, their Slurpee sales skyrocketed by 38%, even though they gave away 4.5million free drinks.

8. Can Add a Personal Touch

If you’ve done your research, know your customer base and what makes them tick, you can add a personal dimension to your marketing message.

Personalization can help customers develop a passion for your brand, values, and products.

Take Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign as an example:

It consisted of personalised names on Coke bottles in the UK. Simple, but effective, it created a personal relationship with their consumers, who could contact coke to request their name to be printed onto a bottle.

The results? On their site, Coca-Cola said over 730,000 glass bottles were personalized via their ecommerce store.

9. Generate Leads

This infographic below, created by WearePromtionalProducts, shows when promotional products are used as an advertising medium, they have a 50.7% success rate of call to action–out-performing TV and radio.

promotional product statistics

10. Boost Employee Morale

Often overlooked, promotional products can offer excellent internal value as well as external.

By offering gifts to your staff, you’ll boost their morale and loyalty because it reminds them they’re valued within the company.

And if the products you offer useful for everyday purposes, you’ll gain the benefits of increased brand awareness when they’re using it outside of the workplace.

You could consider creating an awards program suiting your work-culture, employees, and corporate goals. This can help increase morale and energy, especially if it’s a sales environment.

The Benefits are Clear

There’s no denying the benefits of promotional products. Get it right, and you’ll build relationships and drive more sales.

But get it wrong, and you’re in for a PR nightmare.

In the next section, we’re going to discuss how you can choose the right promo gift for your brand and audience.

How to Choose the Right Promo Product for Your Brand

The power of promotional products is real:

L.J. Market Research found 52% of participants did business with a company who offered a promotional item.

But if you want to get the most of of your promo product, you’ll need to execute the process of choosing and distributing them properly.

Let’s take a look at how you can do that.

1. Do Your Research and Know Your Audience

The goods or services you sell are setup to solve your target markets pains and help them achieve their goals.

How do you decide on these? You research your market.

The same needs to be done for promotional products or you’ll risk failure. Here are some key things you should consider when researching your market in order to choose the right promotional product:

  • Is there a promo product you could choose that relates to your companies product or service?
  • What promotional offers do your competitors offer?
  • How can you improve on your competitors promotional products?
  • What do your target customers have in common? (age, geographic location, hobbies, etc.)?

Whether this is a particular campaign, initiative, or event, it’s vital you understand your audience before choosing your promotional product.

If you offer an item they’re actually interested in, you’ll gain the most brand recognition and are more likely to see a positive ROI.

Here’s a great example:

Vantage Detergent (a Brazilian company), handed out free packets of stain remover in the shape of a ketchup stain to restaurants and bars around São Paulo.

The packet read, Stains. Hard to avoid, easy to remove. Vantage stain remover.”

100,000 packets were gone in 3 days with many of the customers taking the packets home as souvenirs.

2. Stay Aligned With Your Brand’s Image

Consistency is key when you’re promoting your company.


Because you’ll stop people from becoming confused about what you offer and why it’s great to do business with you.

If you’re a family-friendly company, a controversial promotional product probably won’t align with your overall messaging. If your company has a slogan or consistent message, highlight it.

Take a look at what New Zealand television channel TV3 did when promoting the start of a (then) new TV show, Prison Break.

They needed to reach a wide range of people, so needed their promotional product to align with their brand rather than targeting a specific audience.

Here’s what they did:

They embossed promotional soap bars with the Prison Break name and their network logo and placed them in public bathrooms all over the country.

Branded with a key on the underside, to portray the show’s theme and suggest the user is now able to “unlock” access to the new prison drama.

The result? The first episode was the most watched programme in its time slot.

3. Plan (Lead Time)

All product come with lead times–the time it takes for your product to be manufactured and delivered to you.

It’s vital you take this into account. If you don’t look into this and plan accordingly, you might waste your time looking at promotional products that will never get to you in time for your campaign.

4. Think About Distribution

Once you’ve determined who’s going to receive your, you need to figure out how they’re going to receive it.

And your method of distribution needs to match your product.

Here’s what I mean:

If you’re giving out branded apparel, lets say a sweatshirt, it might not be the best idea to give this away at a tradeshow–especially if it’s the middle of summer.

Think about it.

People are getting tons of free stuff at trade shows, do you really think they’re going to be happy carrying round a bulky product all day? They might not even have room in their luggage.

Obviously, if the situation calls for it, a sweatshirt at a trade show might be perfect for your brand. This is all about judging your situation.

If you’re running a direct mail campaign, calendars, magnets, USB drives, or other flat, lightweight items are ideal.

The bottom line: You want to get your promotional product in your audience’s hands without causing them any issues.

5. Have an Measurable Objective

I’m going to take a guess and say you’re not giving about a product just because you want to. You’re going to have some sort of objective.

And if you don’t, I recommend you decide on a goal and make it measurable.

Include a call to action.

Where it’s trying to engage your audience on social media or aiming for X amount of leads, having a measurable goal will tell you how successful your campaign was.

It’s an unfortunate fact of life: not every campaign is going to be successful.

Having a measurable objective allows you to improve future campaigns by fixing mistakes or optimizing things that worked.

If you can’t measure it, you can’t optimize it.

You could print QR codes, twitter handles, or hashtags on your product to help funnel your audience to your website or social media channels.

Let’s take a look at an example: 7-Eleven Mustache Slurpee Straws

7-Eleven took their social media to the next level with their mustache slurpee straw promotion. They were available in four different styles to please everyone’s ‘stache preference’, and fed on the #selfie fad.

The promotional campaign was a huge success, with users posting countless images on their social media accounts–generating over 1.5 million impressions.

6. Focus on Personalized Usability

Your number one goal is to enhance your brand’s image. So you don’t want to just give something for the sake of it.

Your promotional product needs to be useful.

69% of consumers would pick up a promo produced they deemed useful, and 77% say a promotional products usefulness is the best reason to keep it.

Unfortunately, I can’t give you the answer. I could tell you how flash drives are considered the most popular promo gift, but, if your target audience have no use for flash drives, you’re not going to get very far.

Remember useful to one person could be annoying to another.

Rather than focusing on what everyone else says is a good promotional item, look at what your audience wants.

It all comes back to the first point: Know Your Audience.

If you’re sponsoring a sports event, handing out flash drives won’t be a great idea. Where as handing out towels with your logo on–people may appreciate that.

But, how many blog posts have you read telling you how great towels are as a promotional product? Not many. You should focus away from what others are doing and focus on your audience and campaign.

And ultimately, ask yourself this question: Does my audience have use for this promo product?

If your answer is yes, you’re heading in the right direction.

Then you want to think about this–can my audience use this item in an environment where they make decisions about using your product or service?

Let’s say you’re going after executive decision makers in corporations. Aim to give them an item they can use at their desk so you’re always around when they’re making decision.

7. Quality or Quantity?

It’s a common question asked.

Look, the main selling point for quantity is you can distribute more promotional items for less money. And yes, sometimes this works.

If low cost items like stickers, pens, and paper products make sense for your audience, it might be something you want to go for.

But remember this…

your promotional products reflects your brand.

If you give away cheap products that quickly break, your audience is going to associate you with being cheap and low-quality.

It’s better to look at promotional products as a way to enhance your image and a way to connect with your audience. Not to give out as many as possible with your logo on it.

We know from the statistics  we discussed, there’s big potential for your audience to hold onto your product and then pass it on if it’s good.

So in my opinion, it’s always better to go quality over quantity.

The Power of Promotional Gifts

Yes, promotional products are proven to be a cost-effective tactic to drive consumers to your business, build recognition, and brand loyalty.

But, that’s not to say promotional products will suffice as your whole marketing strategy. Rather, this should be used to compliment your overall strategy.

There’s no denying it. Get your promotional product right and you’ll gain a competitive advantage over your competition.