Promotional Product Trends

A Guide to This Year’s Leading Promotional Product Trends

Promotional products are one of the best ways to promote your brand while earning customer approval at the same time. Everyone loves free stuff, right?

Not necessarily, nowadays. If you’re handing out the same products that didn’t sell at their last garage sale, you’re going to be very unpopular at the trade show.

So how can you tell what the top promotional products are? By keeping up with current promo product trends, like the ones we have listed below.

Do you want to have the best promotional products out at your next trade show? Then check out these 2018 promotional products industry trends.

2018 Promo Product Trends Overview: Millennials are Marketing to Millennials

Millennials are now the biggest generation in the U.S. labor force. That means most of the people receiving or purchasing promo products are millennials. It also means that more and more of the people marketing promo products are millennials.

Millennials love individuality and originality. Probably because there are so many of them, they prize being different. They’re always on the lookout for products that are useful in new and exciting ways.

As such, the most popular items at trade shows are now the ones that cater to the younger, millennial crowd. We’re seeing a lot more uniquely designed and uniquely useful items being pushed at trade shows. We’re also seeing these innovative items being the most popular among attendees.

What This Means for You

The traditional promo items you’ve been pushing, like drinkware and basic phone chargers, are not going to do as well as they used to. Meanwhile, quirky, innovative promo items, like wooden sunglasses or PopSockets, are going to steal the show.

If you want to have big success at your next trade show, you’ll need to cater to the big crowd: millennials. Get some brand new, currently trendy items to put your name on. Or ask the millennials on your team to come up with an innovative new product of their own.

Trend #1: Added Value is Key

As much as your promo product target audience is looking for new and exciting, they also have too much stuff already. For most of us, nowadays, not enough space is a bigger problem than not enough stuff. We are often making efforts to declutter our homes and get rid of unnecessary excess.

Most of the common, traditional promo products being given out are these same items people are already trying to get rid of. Therefore, they are not seeing much success at trade shows.

What This Means for You

If you want your promo items to succeed, they need to have value. What kind of value? The most successful promo items fall into these three categories of perceived value: timeless, long-lasting and multipurpose value.

Timeless value applies to items you could never have enough of, like T-shirts or hooded sweatshirts.

To add long-lasting value, choose very high-quality versions of useful items. For example, if you hand out very high-quality promotional phone chargers, recipients will throw out their old phone charger and use yours.

Multipurpose value speaks for itself. PopSockets are popup phone stands with about 30 other advertised uses. There are also nifty combination items, like a phone stand that’s also a 4-port USB hub.

You can also add value with unique design tweaks, as seen in Trend #5 at the bottom of this list.

Generally speaking, be competitive. Whatever promo product you’re planning to push, assume three other companies have a better one. Then, figure out how you’re going to up the ante.

Trend #2: People Love Brand Names More Than Ever

People Love Brands

It used to be that that the type, quality, and design of your promo product was the only thing that mattered. People only cared about the product itself. They merely tolerated that your company name was prominently displayed on it because they wanted free stuff.

This isn’t so anymore. Now we actually like showing off our support for our favorite brands. We have social media to blame for this.

Social media has now firmly established its place as a regular part of the average person’s daily life. We are all but hardwired into this system of likes, shares, and hashtags. So just as social media is set up as an advertising platform, we too are now set up to perpetuate this system.

Mindboggling rant short, we’re used to promoting things because we do it all the time on Facebook.

What This Means for You

This may be the best news you could ever hope to hear concerning your promotional product campaign. Instead of scaring people away from your promo products, your brand name, logo and slogan is now attractive to your customers.

So rather than trying to sneakily hide your brand name on products so people don’t notice it, you can show it off with pride. Instead of diverting attention away from your brand, you’ll get more attention when you make it the central focus of your design. Bigger, more direct advertising is now a selling point.

This also means that partnering with other companies for your promo products is a good idea. For example, Thermos brand insulated tumblers are a popular, brand name promo product.

If you put your name on a generic insulated tumbler, made by an unknown company, you’re going to be very unpopular at the tradeshow.

It’s not just your brand name that attracts people, but also the brand name of your promo product manufacturer.

Trend #3: Health and Wellness Items are Now More Popular

Health and wellness products are very in right now. They are quickly depleted at trade shows and greatly appreciated by recipients.

This has to do with the added value we talked about. On a table full of nifty swag, event attendees are more inclined to take one that benefits their health. It makes their conscience feel good to make such a smart, healthy step toward taking care of their body.

It also does well for your image when someone receives a health-benefiting gift from you. It makes them feel that you genuinely care about their health and not just marketing.

By helping others stay healthy, you truly are doing a good thing. And this will be appropriately well thought of by your public.

What This Means for You

Obviously, this means you should put out some health-promoting items in your swag mix. Some good ones to consider are hot/cold packs, fitness trackers, and safety lights. There’s also exercise equipment like jump ropes, resistance bands, wrist and ankle weights, and yoga mats.

Exercise Resistance Bands

But remember to stay competitive. Hand sanitizer is good, but there will be about 20 other trade show booths handing these out.

But who’s going to think to hand out items such as pepper spray for self-defense? Probably just you, giving you an advantage. Those who want this swag will have to come to you.

Another excellent and very cheap idea is a free, fitness-related app. All you’ll need to set up at the trade booth is a poster with a scannable QR code.

People can scan the code to download the app right at your booth. That’s instant value right there.

This saves you the time of setting out another item and the money you would have spent on materials.

Trend #4: Unique Design Tweaks make Boring Items Popular

A final way we’re seeing value added to swag in the eyes of millennials is unique design tweaks. In a study by PPAI Research, “Visually Appealing” is listed as the most important advertising quality according to millennials.

That’s why taking a simple, traditional item and incorporating materials and textures that wouldn’t normally belong to it effectively makes the unpopular item popular again.

For example, most of us have a cabinet (or storage box) full of swag coffee mugs. And some of us don’t even drink coffee.

But very few of us have an elegant-looking coffee mug inlaid with cork. With this simple tweak, an item that we have too many of becomes an item we have none of.

What This Means for You

Tweak makes chic. Add the following elements into your swag products where they wouldn’t normally be.

Cork and wood are a great example. As technology has progressed, we’ve mostly gotten away from these simple and natural materials. And that’s why using them now makes them new and fresh.

In addition to the coffee mug example, we’re seeing huge popularity in wooden sunglasses. Consider replacing the plastic parts of other products with wood.

This also makes them biodegradable (unlike plastic) and, therefore, green. And that’s more added value.

Next, replace stainless steel with copper. Steel equals trite, copper equals trending. In addition, matte finishes and bright, bold colors are also in this year.

Trend #5: Have the Trendiest Swag at the Trade Show

To see the biggest success with your promo items, follow these tips when choosing swag. Adhere to these 2018 promotional product trends and you’ll have the most popular swag for any use.

Hand out employee rewards and customer appreciation gifts they’ll really appreciate. Show up your competition at the next trade show.

Use your trendy swag as an incentive in your various campaigns. You see much better results when your incentive is something people actually want!

And get creative! Combine these tips as you see fit.

Remember, it’s the uniqueness that earns your swag a place in consumers’ overcluttered houses. Use these tips as a jumping off point for your own unique and original design ideas.

There’s more promo product advice where that came from! Now, check out 3 Ways to Make Your Promos More Memorable.

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Patrick Black
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Patrick Black, MAS, is the founder of Perfectimprints.com and has been in the promotional products industry helping businesses and organizations since 1999. When not geeking out over the newest and greatest promotional items, you can find him paddleboarding at the beach or hanging out by the pool with his wife, three kids, and his basset hound in Fort Walton Beach, FL.