Promotional Products 101 - Dos and Don'ts of Branded Merchandise

Promotional Products 101: The Dos and Don’ts of Branded Merchandise

Every business looks for ways to reach their customers. You want them to think of you when they need your product. An effective way to keep your business top of mind for consumers is to use branded merchandise.

A study by the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI) details the effectiveness of promo products. Their research shows most people keep branded merchandise for about eight months.

If you distribute the right products, your ad stays in front of clients much longer than a PPC or Pop-up ad on a website. ASI found the length of time depends on the product. For example, consumers keep hats an average of 7 months. Umbrellas stick around twice as long.

To be effective you must choose the right products. You want it to give consumers a positive impression of your company. Choose the wrong item and your promotion could hurt your business rather than help it.

Here’s a list of dos and don’ts for branded merchandise. Follow these simple rules to improve your company’s image with potential clients.

Do: Make Branded Merchandise Part of Your Marketing Strategy

If you pick random items and haphazardly distribute them you’re wasting your money. Instead, make branded merchandise an integral part of ad campaigns and sponsorships.

Consider how branded items help you reach your marketing goals. Create guidelines for choosing and distributing products. For example:

  • Match merchandise to the company personality
  • Choose quality level for items
  • Plan how to measure the impact
  • Create an emotional connection with consumers
  • Always reinforce the brand message
  • Choose the that will engage your customers
  • Make the logo noticeable without being obnoxious
  • Stay within budget but choose fewer items over cheap ones

Promotional products are an investment. Make a plan so you give the right item to your target customer, and your investment pays off.

Next, let’s clarify why you’re giving away promotional items.

  • New Customers: A giveaway aimed at gaining business from attendees at an event or expo
  • Employee Recruitment: A way to attract talent to work with your company used at a job fair, open house or trade show
  • Brand Awareness: Something to get your name out to a new audience or a giveaway item for an expo event
  • Customer Loyalty: An item designed to keep regular customers, perhaps as part of a customer appreciation event
  • Thank You: A way to say thank you for participating in a fundraiser event
  • An incentive to Buy: An item that motivates potential clients to buy

The reason for the giveaway influences your choice of an item as much as audience and budget. The items you give to new customers may be different from a thank you gift.

Do: Understand Your Audience

Promotional products introduce your company to new people during a sales call or an expo. Your giveaway item is like a brand ambassador. It reminds clients of your business each time they use it.

So, it’s vital that your branded merchandise is something your customer wants and needs. Review your target audience profile before ordering promotional items. How old are your customers? Where do they live? What is the average income? Every demographic detail helps.

Take it a step further and look at customer habits, values, interest, and behaviors. These details determine the type of branded merchandise that appeals to your customers.

If you give golf balls to teenagers who hate golf, you’re wasting your money. But give branded golf gloves to avid golfers, and you’re on target. An item that’s discarded or never used doesn’t promote your company.

When you match merchandise to your audience it shows you understand your customers. This is very important with age-appropriate items. Give appealing and useful promotional products and you’ll build brand loyalty.

It’s also a smart way to spend your budget. Customers are happy because they have a free product they like and use. You increase brand recognition and potential clients.

DO: Get Attention

It’s crowded and noisy in the world. Choose the same old promo items every other company gives away, and you won’t get anyone’s attention.

Forget the expected mugs, keychains, and pens. Pick items people want to take home. Choose bright appealing colors so you get noticed. Branded merchandise is your chance to be different and creative.

You can make a positive impression with the item, as well as with the way you deliver it. Find a unique approach. Here are some ideas to try:

Interactive Promos

Make it interesting by doing more than handing something to a potential customer. Engage people by giving them giveaway items over several days/weeks. It’s a good way to get them to return. Another idea is to hold a scavenger hunt for items in your store. Think of ways to interact with potential buyers.

Incentives

Use your branded merchandise as an incentive to buy. Give bonus items based on sale amounts. Another incentive is to reward customers who write reviews or provide referrals. Hold a contest where winners receive branded merchandise.

Brand Ambassadors and Street Teams

Put people in branded shirts. Then, have them meet customers face-to-face while handing out branded items. This idea works best at an event or expo. Make sure brand ambassadors can answer common questions and give insights on your product.

Call to Action

Add a call to action. Ask customers to visit your website or follow you on social media. It’s easy to ask customers to post a photo with your hashtags on social media. Give a prize for the best image. User-generated content incorporates promo items into your marketing plan.

The best way to get attention with promotional items is to be creative and unique. Next, let’s look at some things you don’t want to do with branded merchandise.

Don’t: Skimp on Quality

If you’re cheap when it comes to promo items, it will affect your business.

A consumer will judge your company based on your promo items. If you hand out cheap items it makes a bad impression. People assume your business is cheap. Another drawback to cheap items is they break. A promo item that’s broken or discarded can’t advertise your business.

Don’t choose price over quality. Consider all aspects of your campaign: the message, goal of the item, and your target audience. Don’t make price the only consideration when choosing a promotional giveaway.

It’s better to distribute fewer products to your audience than it is to give everyone in the world a cheap item. High-quality products that offer real value always make the strongest impression.

Don’t: Wait Until the Last Minute to Order

Your promotional products represent your company. Take your time to make them the best product for your budget and plan. Give your team enough time to make decisions and test products. Careful planning eliminates expensive mistakes.

Order samples. Ask questions. Consult with your promotional products sales consultant. Provide information on budget, quantity, and schedule to get the best options.

Promotional items take time because they are custom orders. Planning ahead allows enough time for decisions and production without incurring rush charges.

Don’t: Buy Overdone Items

As mentioned earlier, nobody wants something they’ve seen a thousand times before. Skip the plastic keychains and basic white coffee mugs. Make sure your swag promotes your company for the long run. Give something recipients won’t throw away.

There are ways to make simple products look sophisticated with color and design. Ask your products rep for help with ideas. The goal is a giveaway item your customers consider useful, creative, and high-quality.

Don’t: Complicate Distribution

Don’t get complicated. You want a marketing campaign and promotional items that are easy to distribute. Don’t ask customers to jump through hoops to get the free item. That won’t make them happy.

If you ask customers to exchange their email address for an item, make it easy. Set up an iPad with a simple form. If getting a promo item is difficult potential customers will walk away.

Don’t: Be Invasive or Too Personal

The best promotional giveaways make the customer feel special and appreciated. Give merchandise to people who visit your store, attend an event, or take part in promotions.

Create a sense of urgency or exclusivity to appeal to your audience. Offer certain items for a limited time, or in a limited supply. Keep it subtle and non-invasive to reinforce your brand. Unless you’re a dentist, no one wants a toothbrush from you.

Don’t make customers uncomfortable by getting too personal. Stay away from politics, religion, and any other sensitive topics. It can turn customers away from your businesses.

Contact Perfect Imprints to Get Creative

Branded merchandise lasts longer than any other type of advertising. Adding promo items to your marketing plan can increase brand recognition. Products can start a new conversation, or extend an existing one.

Let the creative pros at Perfect Imprints help you find the right products for your message. We look forward to creating something special for your company and customers.

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Patrick Black
patrick@perfectimprints.com

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.