promotional marketing I was at the pub the other day when a new acquaintance turns to me and says “So you sell promotional give-a-ways”.  This is how it begins, this is how my blood starts to boil.  I run a company selling promotional merchandise – I have been doing this successfully for the past 6 years. I do NOT sell anything that could be classed as a give-a-way unless you are using promotional merchandise in a way that isn’t fit for purpose.

Example, my brother in law, shortly after I started my company decided he needed some mugs for his company.  He wanted something that would stay on people’s desks or at least around their office. He wanted a big branding area to get his message across and he didn’t want to spend a fortune doing any of this. Mugs fit this criteria perfectly.  There is so much that can be done; chalk mugs where your client can write on the outside, colour changing mugs where you can print a message that appears when you pour hot water into it. Also Expresso mugs to impress, Tall mugs for short people, Short mugs for tall people, yellow mugs, blue mugs…OK, you get the point.

We settled on a short run of colour changing mugs, his branding on the outside plus his phone number and a cool little tag line at the bottom of the mug on the inside (to be cute). On top of all of this, as this was a thermochromtic mug we made his logo and a dirty hand print appear on the mug when hot water was poured into it.  (I should point out he is a mechanic) I spoke to him a couple of weeks after the job had delivered; I wanted to know how the mugs were working out for him.  

 “Terrible, the staff keep taking them!” He tells me, “If I wanted the staff to have a give-a-way I would have gotten them something,” he continues.  

I laughed, it’s a common complaint when you do promotional merchandise well!  But the point is that everyone should want one, if your product is fit for purpose.  I ignored the jibe about ‘give-a-ways’  “But what about your clients, what did they think?” 

 “I haven’t given any to any clients”  Now, honestly my blood is boiling.

 “Why did you buy them then?” I ask, scared I know the answer…and sure enough before I have even finished my sentence he says the words I hate to hear:

 “Everyone does give-a-ways so I thought I had better do some.”

Now STOP – hold on a cotton pickin’ minute!!  Everyone does give-a-ways??  Really, ever tried getting BT to give you something for nothing?  Have you ever tried calling Schweppes and requested a can of Coke free of charge?  Esso, when was the last time they gave free fuel?

Nobody in the corporate world does ‘give-a-ways’, they do however spend huge amounts of money on promotional merchandise marketing because study after study recognises that it works as an advertising medium.  It can be, when it is fit for purpose, the most cost effective form of advertising.

Here is some ways I promise it won’t work:

 1.  Spend time and money investigating products you like (Instead of finding products that help spread your message, that are fit for purpose).

2.  Spend time and money producing the goods.

3. Keep hold of promotional merchandise and only give it to a client from time to time, when you feel like it or when you go to an exhibition because that’s what you have left over in the promotional merchandise cupboard.

Dragon-Ball-Z-Vegeta-heat-change-coffee-Mug-Heat-sensitive-Reactive-ceramic-cup-magic-Morphing-ChristmasWe recently worked for a computer games company. The game was fighting for space in people’s perception as it was a sports sim so not the biggest game in the world, it was releasing on day one of the PS4 release so all of the press was being sucked up by bigger franchises and the PS4 itself.   They decided to be clever, they instructed us to produce some picnic / director’s chairs, each chair with the branding from the game. We delivered them to volunteers around the country who went out as queue started forming outside of certain shops, they gave a chair to each of the first ten people at the front of the queue. These people were literally queuing over night; all night they sat on chairs advertising the game.

Not only that, there was lots of free advertising as these chairs were seen in the background whilst people being filmed for news segments on the PS4 being released. All of this for £2000.  

My point is that when a company uses promotional merchandise for marketing it has to be fit for purpose, don’t produce pens, keep them locked away and then wonder why you ever bothered.

 Don’t produce mugs that you only keep locked in a cupboard so people don’t take them?

Look around your desk, how much advertising can you see?  Do you know another way to get advertising on to your client’s desk?  E-Mailers can be deleted, leaflets thrown, special offers withdrawn but promotional merchandise can hang around literally for years…. What happens when someone in the office uses your favourite mug?  I actually saw a fist fight over a pen many years ago.

It’s funny; I wouldn’t have to say this if I were talking about advertising.  

No one in his right mind would commission an advertising campaign without knowing why he or she was about to spend the budget.  They would know, what the point of the advertisements were, they would have targets and measure how successful the campaign had been based on the targets they set before launching.

Admittedly getting metrics on promotional merchandise campaigns are much harder but not impossible, especially these days where you can tie in your merchandise campaign with your social media and really create some fun campaigns.

So, with the rant out of the way, what can I tell you to help you next time you want to advertise your brand using promotional merchandise?

Make sure it is “Fit for purpose”, if you are trying to drum up talk about your company at an exhibition buying 1000 pens for 20p per unit is just not going to cut the mustard. Instead how about 250 bags that are massive, big enough and strong enough to carry everyone else’s bag.  Suddenly for the cost of a few hundred pounds you have your branding floating about, being seen all over the exhibition.

criminal-minds-heat-sensitive-mug-453_1000Saving a few pence in the short run can cost you pounds in the long run.  The best example of this is with USB keys, I am often told how our prices can be beaten.  I know and understand this however, we will only sell good quality grade A USB chips, this means that we are not the cheapest but we do give a 1 year manufactures warranty.  There is nothing worse than being given a gift, liking the gift and then, finding out that the gift is a dud.

Forget about trying to please everybody all of the time.  I promise, not matter what piece of promotional merchandise you choose to use to advertise your brand; there will be someone out there who is a naysayer, who doesn’t like it, who thinks it’s cheap or pointless.  That is why the ‘fit for purpose’ criteria are so important.  

What happened to my brother in laws 250 mugs I hear you asking?  Well after a big rant from me, after talking to him about how he could use them and why it was so important to get them into the hands of anyone who wanted to take them he started to give them away. 

3 Clutches, 2 exhausts, 4 services, 8 MOT’s and an engine rebuild later he is on his 3rd re-order.

Everyone loves his mugs and often show them off.  Now you tell me, what did he give-a-way?