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Why Do Promotional Products Work?

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Author: Rachel
Date: May 28, 2024

Promotional products are enduringly popular in the business sector. It’s often a sign of success for a company to have branded items they can afford to give away to visitors, customers and prospects.

Promotional products are most commonly seen at conferences and trade fairs where they are used to entice individuals to listen to a pitch in exchange for a freebie. The prospect then walks away with their freebie and hopefully continues using it in their everyday life. This translates to free promotion for the business, and they will enjoy increased brand visibility as a result.

So, what is it about promotional products that makes them so enduringly popular? And how can companies choose the ideal product that will allow them to maximise their return on investment?

Why do promotional products work?

There are a number of reasons that promotional products are so popular with the public. Let’s look at these in more detail below:

They’re free

They’re free

Perhaps the most common reason that promotional products work so well is that they are free. Everyone likes to enjoy a freebie every now and then, and if the free product is genuinely useful to the individual, this makes it even more popular.

Examples of free products that will always be popular include things like reusable coffee cups, water bottles, tote bags and lanyards.

They’re exclusive

Not only are promotional products free, but they are also scarce. With a paid-for product, some people may be priced out of owning it, which means that only those with the means to purchase it will be able to enjoy it.

With a promotional product, it’s often down to chance. You need to be in the right place at the right time to get that elusive freebie. This reminds me of a time at a university Freshers Fair where the most exclusive item was a branded lanyard from a popular drinks company.

Those who were in the right place at the right time managed to secure one and then proudly wore it, while the rest were left coveting these in-demand items. Since the items are given away for free, it’s understood that supply will be finite, which adds to the sense of exclusivity.

They’re often genuinely useful

They’re often genuinely useful

When you’re at the supermarket and you’ve forgotten your bag for life, you might be kicking yourself. Until you remember that you grabbed a free tote bag at the trade fair earlier. That free tote bag saves you from having to pay for a plastic bag.

As you walk home with your shopping in your tote bag, you’re happy to display the company branding that is printed on the tote. You’ve effectively become a walking billboard for the company. And most people genuinely don’t mind this transaction, because they are getting something useful for free.

They tap into our tribal sensibilities

Securing a freebie from a new start-up is a badge of honour for some people. They want to be seen as the early-adopter with a finger on the pulse of the latest trends. A giveaway from a brand at a fashion show allows individuals to showcase that they were invited to this exclusive gathering. A giveaway from a magazine or media organisation allows you to proudly assert your alliances.

Humans are tribal by nature and want to be able to signal to those around them that they are interested in specific things. This is why giveaways from companies they love can be so effective.

They increase brand recognition

They increase brand recognition

Imagine you’re launching a new business in a city. When you first arrive, no one knows how you are. You pass out promotional products and soon people start to get the impression they have seen your company everywhere. 

They see your products on the street, and their colleagues are bragging about grabbing the last freebie. On social media, their friends are sharing selfies with their new favourite freebie. Your business goes from having zero brand recognition to giving your ideal target customer the impression that you are everywhere. To achieve this, you need to hit the spot with the right promotional product.

They’re cost effective

Companies wouldn’t be giving things away for free unless they could be confident of a return on their investment. Increased brand visibility is difficult to measure, which is why companies will often shy away from taking the plunge and investing in their own promotional products. 

However, you need to think about the image of success it projects when others see that your business is at the stage where they can afford to give away free products. It projects a sense of confidence in your situation to feel like you can give things away. And the best part is that promotional products are often a lot cheaper than you’d think. For a small investment, you can project an image of success with ease.

They’re reusable

They’re reusable

When you give away something that is disposable and not particularly useful, you’re shooting yourself in the foot when it comes to achieving your goals.  The best promotional products are reusable and functional. 

In fact, when your promotional product finally reaches the end of its life, you want the owner to feel a sense of loss. It’s not uncommon for a promotional item like a mug to become a firm favourite in the office. If this is accidentally broken years down the line, you want the individual to be asking questions about how they can get another one.

They level the playing field

Those of us who are well versed in social media practices are used to the influencers and the celebrities getting all of the freebies. In fact, this is often a key motivating factor that drives people to want to become influencers in the first place. 

Promotional products level the playing field and tell ordinary people that their contribution means something. It makes those without a huge social media following feel worthy of attention from the big brands. Rather than relying on influencers to get you in front of your ideal target audience, you can go directly to the audience.

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