The Pros and Cons of Promotional Products

Retro pitch man in black and white from a 1950's era TV commercial with promotional products

Building your brand and running promotional campaigns is an important part of a growing business. After all, the more people that know about you and think of your company fondly, the larger your potential client pool is. To this end, there are dozens if not hundreds of common and unique ways to get your name out there, share something valuable with your target audience, and draw in more customers. From pricey TV commercials to incredibly variable online marketing techniques, there have always been ways to market through content and media but only one method gets your name and brand out into the real world where people make decisions away from their TVs and computers: promotional products. Whether you are building your very first marketing campaign or face the challenge as a seasoned expert, we’re here to bring you a comprehensive list of pros and cons involved in using promotional products to help you decide whether or not they belong in your next advertising effort.

What are Promotional Products?

Novi Sad, Serbia - February 24, 2016: Photo of a logotype collection of some of most famous brands in the world on a screen - including Coca-Cola, Nestle, Nike, McDonald's, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Sony, Apple and promotional products

Starting at the very beginning, promotional products are useful items that bear the logo and name of your company. Some businesses go further and print detailed contact and even services information on the products while others go minimalist and include only a logo. The purpose of a promotional product is to create a positive association between the usefulness of your promo product and your company itself. Of course, not all products are useful because that’s not what all companies want to be remembered for. Some send toys or gift cards because they’d rather be thought of as silly or economic instead. The most important part of a promo product is that it be seen.

The Advantages of Promotional Products

The primary reason why so many companies choose to use promotional products either on a regular basis or for specific events is that they work. There are many ways in which promotional items can be helpful based on what item you choose, how you brand them and the methods you choose for distribution. While there are dozens of choices to make once you decide to go with promotional products, the benefits stay the same for almost every campaign that implements them:

  • Comparably Inexpensive
  • Visibility in the Physical World
  • Everyone Loves a Freebie
  • Potential to Spread through Sharing
  • Convention Swag

Comparably Inexpensive

Buying advertising space, paying for content creation, and keeping a digital marketing team on retainer are all pricey decisions that can eat up a marketing budget quite quickly. Whether you’re focusing on TV commercials, radio clips, digital marketing or some combination, the cost of advertising space can stack up very quickly. Promotional products, on the other hand, are surprisingly inexpensive and often take up only a negligible fraction of your marketing budget. When it comes to getting a bang for your buck, promo items are one of the most efficient tools available to modern marketers.

Visibility in the Physical World

People are used to tuning out banner ads, PPC search engine results, and promotional emails. They’ve even gotten pretty good at ignoring billboards and LED signs outside of brick-and-mortar businesses but they still look at smaller hand-held items with genuine curiosity. Promotional products slip through the anti-advertising mental shields most modern consumers keep up at all times and this is especially true when your product is used so people end up working with or watching others work with it, extending their exposure and familiarity to your brand marking the item.

Everyone Loves a Freebie

It’s hard to say ‘no’ to something free, even if it’s just an eraser or a stick of gum and you have something a lot better than pocket clutter. Truly useful products are practically irresistible as people see an opportunity to get something they need without having to seek it out and pay for it. This immediately creates a positive association between them and you, their benefactor. As the item continues to serve them well, your tasteful and attractive branding will make it unique among their other items and increase their recognition of your company in the future.

Potential to Spread through Sharing

The longer someone has a useful promotional item, the more likely it is to end up in the hands of others. Pens are a classic example of something given away as a promo-freebie and then traded dozens of times into many different hands, all exposed to a valuable and inexpensive branding campaign. More permanent items like folios and phone cases are less likely to be traded but more likely to be noticed in the use of their owners. As people use their devices or check their notes, colleagues and clients will see your attractive design and may potentially want one of their own.

Convention Swag

Seminars, conventions, and trade shows are a great place to network, meeting new clients and business partners while showing off what your company is all about. One of everyone’s favorite features at these industry gatherings is the opportunity to gather excellent swag which will inevitably go into use as office supplies and gadgets for the attendees. High-quality promotional products make wonderful swag that will serve to remind new contacts how much they enjoyed meeting you and learning about your company at the event.

The Disadvantages of Promo Products

There are always a few downsides to every strategy, even one as versatile and fun as promotional products. Your products will shape how people see you which is usually a good thing but can have negative consequences when things go wrong. In order to properly manage your promotional product campaign, remember to plan for these concerns:

  • Quality Standards
  • Relying on a Supplier
  • One Size Does Not Always Fit All

Quality Standards

A nice looking, sturdy, and useful item will reflect well on your company, unfortunately, the opposite has a similar effect. Shoddy products that break or otherwise fail to impress will cause people who interact with them to think less of your company. At the very least they will question the judgment of the marketing department and at worst they will assume that the entire brand can’t tell quality from crud. To avoid this, make sure you know the quality and type of product you are ordering. Either obtain examples or only work with highly rated, reputable suppliers.

Relying on a Supplier

There is an inevitable amount of risk involved when your business decides to rely on someone else to fulfill a need. Potential for disaster results from making promises your supplier could fail to keep either by not delivering, coming in late, or producing low-quality products. You are, to a certain extent, tying your reputation to that of your supplier. Therefore you only want to work with someone you can trust to back up your plans as agreed upon when you made the order.

One Size Does Not Always Fit All

Not all promotional items can be bought in boxes of uniform models. Garments, for instance, like hats or t-shirts must be bought in a wide variety of sizes and there will always be a few extras of the very small and very large sizes left over. Other products, like those made to fit people’s personal devices, may also need to be ordered in some variety. However, if you’re up for the organizational challenge this could easily be turned into a bonus as people will be excited that you have an item that is just their size or the right fit for their gear.

Promotional products are a wonderful way to get the word out about your company without breaking the bank. Free useful items can serve to delight both clients and business partners and if the items are designed to be subtle, attractive, and tasteful you can even equip your own team with branded gear for conventions and field services. No matter what you choose or how you choose to implement them, promotional items are almost always a good, budget efficient choice for your next marketing campaign.