Promotional merchandise may seem like a recent phenomenon, but in fact businesses have been giving away promotional items for longer than you might think. The fact that this continues today is proof that it works.
Early promotional items
The first records of promotional giveaways refer to the commemorative buttons worn at the inauguration of George Washington as President of the United States in 1789. It is unclear whether these buttons were worn earlier to promote the campaign period or were simply worn to celebrate success.
A more significant moment in marketing history was the production of book bags with the name of a shoe shop printed on them, which were given away to local school children. The ideas man behind this simple marketing project was the Ohio printer Jasper Meek, who convinced the shoe shop owner that this would bring in more business. With this, in 1886, the concept of promotional items was born. The industry had grown sufficiently by the early 1900s to prompt the establishment of the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), a dedicated trade association.
In the early twentieth century promotional items were used to boost sales of breakfast cereal. A free toy was placed in the packet and kids couldn’t wait to find it hidden among the cornflakes. Parents succumbed to pester power and the toys proved to be an effective marketing tool for many years.
Free gifts would continue to be distributed, some with corporate branding others without, through the next few decades, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that there was a sudden explosion in demand for corporate gifts as we know them today.
Why do promotional gifts work?
Most people naturally enjoy receiving a free gift. Whether we can afford to buy the item ourselves seems to be irrelevant, hence the popularity of luxury “swag bags” among affluent celebrities. It’s just the joy of getting a freebie that counts. Whether the freebie is retained is determined primarily by its relevance to the recipient.
Studies have shown that over 80% of people decide whether to keep a promotional item based on its usefulness. The perceived value of the item matters far less. According to research by the PPAI, corporate branding on the freebie is a positive aspect with around 20 per cent of recipients retaining a gift precisely for the convenience of having the contact details to hand.
Out of sight out of mind
It’s a sad fact but true: companies are easily forgotten. It’s essential to make the connection with your audience and keep making it over and over again. It’s rather like parenting. Studies show that a child may need to hear the message to do something at least one hundred times before they will remember consistently without prompting. It’s the same with marketing. You may need to remind your customers many times before they will remember to use your services or products consistently without prompting. Just a small item can be enough to ensure that your company stays on your customer’s radar screen. Office branding items, such as those offered by SAPD, are ideal to support this connection process, with their constant presence on a work desk.
The epitome of brand success has to be when simple promotional promotional items become collectible items. A large fizzy drinks company’s promotional items handed out at various Olympic events were snapped up, not just for refreshment purposes, but also to acquire the limited edition branded bottle. This is a sign of a winning brand. To make your brand a winner, contact the corporate branding experts at sapd.co.uk.