Look around you: at your desk, your purse, or your wardrobe. You will most probably own a promotional product. Promotional products are mainly the free items that include the company’s name, logo and message on them. An example would be pens, polo shirts, mugs, calendars and other free giveaways. Promotional gifts are considered one of the very first techniques used in advertising. According to ASI (Advertising Specialist Impressions Study), promotional products are still the most highly viewed form of advertising amongst customers despite the fact that TV and digital marketing have been growing rapidly. This is the main reason why companies still follow this giveaway advertising technique to this day. According to research, American businesses spend $20 billion per year giving promotional products. In addition, Fortune 500 companies such as Pfizer, General Motors and AT&T spend $85, $80 and $58 million, respectively, on free giveaways. This verifies that promotional products do work, but what exactly makes them effective?
What Validates Promotional Products as a Marketing Tool
Here are some reasons that make promotional products an effective advertising method:
- Principal of Reciprocity
In order to succeed in promoting your company, you will have to understand how customers think and react. That’s why many successful marketers often employ psychologists in order to understand customers more and appeal to them. Mr McLaughlin, president of Branders (promotional products online seller), acclaims the effectiveness of promotional items to the principle of reciprocity. This theory states that when a person gives, nothing is lost. People give and others receive and then they also give and others receive. This process (also known as trade) was a benefit to society at the very early stages when scarcity of goods and services existed. Evolution has embedded in our brains that when we get something we should give something back. This proves that promotional products are an effective technique of advertising since it attracts, engages, and compel consumers to buy.
Reciprocity can work in two different ways: first on the customer that receives the promotional product and second on the customers that use and share the free product with their friends/family. For the consumer that receives the freebie, this could convert the person into a customer that would buy the company’s products. On the other hand, for the person that uses the promotional gift, the more applicable the free item, the more the consumer will be likely to use it and thus the more other potential customers will see it. This is will make your company’s name and logo more well-known (familiar) to more people, who might be converted into customers if the promotional gift is of good quality.
- Sense of Accomplishment.
Giving away promotional items after events provides the participants with a sense of accomplishment. This is because they feel that they have done something worthy to earn a free product. This principle relates to employees as well; if employees are expected to attend their company’s event/party, it is most likely that they are not too motivated to stay there. Thus, promotional products can be used to encourage employee loyalty to the company. This is because it will make your employees feel that their time spent there as well as experience were worthy.
In addition, promotional products also help to remind the employees of the good times they had during the event. Each time they use that free gift that has the company’s logo inscribed on it, they will recall the memories they formed during the event and will also be willing to attend the company events’ and charities again.
According to the ASI Global Impressions Study (2010), a promotional product is kept for 5.4 months. If we take a free bag as an example, it is kept for around 6.7 months which results in 1,078 impressions/views per month. The main reason behind this is that the more useful the item, the longer the item will be retained. Around 75% of customers retain a promotional gift for its usefulness.
- Encouraging Empathy
Empathy, as it is known, is the ability to comprehend others’ emotions. However, empathy also has another vital role in promotional products. Empathy can support the customer in imagining themselves while using a certain product. This allows marketers to use customers’ empathy to their own benefit in order to gain the needed benefits. This method is mainly used when promotional employees are giving demonstrations on using the company’s products. This allows customers to see similar people using the company’s product which will accordingly let them imagine using the product themselves. This is why it is significant to choose the promotional items and staff to perfectly fit with the target audience in order to benefit from the customers’ empathy.
Sigmund Freud’s theory states that customers’ decisions to purchase a certain product or not are determined through several unconscious needs. This means that touch, taste and smell are considered strong promoters that often cause an emotional action. However, this theory cannot be achieved through customers’ ” sight”; looking at product images. This is the main reason why promo products are very effective tools concerning this theory since the free items make customers experience using the product themselves. This is done through touch, taste and smell which are considered very controlling senses for generating memories. As a result, the memories generated will produce an emotional response creating a connection to the product even though a choice has not been made yet on whether to purchase the product or not.
Why Freebies and Not discounts?
Even though discounts usually benefit customers to get more value according to the paid price or save money, it has been stated that consumers are drawn to promotional items more than discounted products. During an experiment conducted in the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota to study the difference in consumers’ reactions to discounts and freebies, researchers found that customers desired to get free promotional products more than an item for a cheaper price. According to the study, the main reason behind that was that most people are impractical at fractions. Study results show that 73% more hand lotion was sold when the item existed in a pack as a free bonus item. This figure was compared when the hand lotion was offered at an equal discount. This shows that customers consider free items as a better deal more than lower prices.
How Do Companies Choose What Promotional Gifts to Give away?
Mainly, the promotional items should be relevant to your target audience and the company’s message. Businesses usually give away products that the target customers will use in the environment where they make decisions about using your product or service. For instance, if the target audience includes corporations executives, promo products should comprise of items that will be used in offices (around the laptops or on their desks). This will make your company with them at all times and always on their minds when they take decisions.
Companies should choose promotional gifts that appeal to the consumer in order to help emphasize their marketing message and distinguish their company from other competitors in the mind of consumers.
Another method is to personalize promotional gifts to make them enjoyable. Customers like to have their own names or pictures on the free items and not just the company’s logo. This will also make customers more keen to retain the promotional product which consequently will make the company on the customers’ minds at all times.
A vital matter to ensure the success of special marketing items as a way of advertising is to give away something useful, something their customers would actually benefit from. This means the giveaways should be items that can be retained/saved for a long time (example: pens). Companies should avoid using promotional products that will be quickly used and thrown (example: water bottles).
Promotional Products: They Do Work
Promotional products are not just about the customer receiving a free item, they also influence other people in their networks which can give your business the social lift needed to put your company on top of competitors. In addition, it can provide your business with the word-of-mouth marketing boost. Moreover, it also encourages new product trials, repeat purchases and brand awareness through incentives that motivate customers to try more items from your company. This is why promo products and giveaways have been rising rapidly through the years even though there are many other successful different marketing methods. So next time you’re thinking about holding an event, stop thinking about the money spent on promotional products but rather think of the benefits your company will gain in the future.