Is Promotional Merchandise Still Worth the Investment In A Digital World?

In an effort to keep up with the latest technological advances, the old stalwarts of marketing, like promotional merchandise, might start to seem a little behind the times. But...

Photo: Steve Hill, Director of Bag Workshop; Source: Courtesy Photo
Photo: Steve Hill, Director of Bag Workshop; Source: Courtesy Photo

The marketing industry and the world at large are becoming increasingly digitized.

In an effort to keep up with the latest technological advances, the old stalwarts of marketing, like promotional merchandise, might start to seem a little behind the times. But promotional marketing shouldn’t be retired just yet.

In fact, 87% of surveyed companies heavily credit promotional products as a contributor in reaching their marketing goals, while 54% said these products allowed them to regularly engage with customers. And a hefty 96% of marketers believe that promotional products are one of the most effective forms of advertising.

So it seems that promotional merchandise is as relevant to the success of your marketing campaigns as it has always been.


Promotional merchandise adds value for businesses

The primary value, and where you should look to measure ROI, on promotional merchandise, is in brand awareness and brand association.

Promotional products encourage brand recall in 9 out of 10 customers, as opposed to broadcast, online, print, and mobile ads that average only 2 out of 10 customers.


Promotional Merchandise Tips For Businesses - YFS Magazine
Photo: Charles Koh, Unsplash/YFS Magazine

And, in a study conducted by the British Promotional Merchandise Association, an overwhelming majority of participants, 87%, kept their promotional items for longer than a year, and, more importantly, over half said their impression of the company improved after receiving a branded promotional gift.

Brand awareness and brand association are the driving factors behind customers, not only choosing your brand over any other but returning to it.

In a market that is oversaturated with choice, and an increasingly competitive internet marketplace that discourages brand loyalty, sending out useful promotional merchandise can demonstrate how much you value your customer base.


A modern approach to promotional merchandising

But when promotional merchandise just conjures up images of stress balls and forgotten pens at the bottom of conference bags, how do you bring it into modern marketing?


Work with influencers

With considerable clout over their followers’ buying decisions, social media influencers are the future of online advertising. According to The State of Influencer Marketing 2018 study by Linqia, “86% of marketers used influencer marketing in 2017, 92% of whom found it to be effective.”


Promotional Merchandising Tips For Small Business - YFS Magazine
PhotoL Milada Vigerova, Unsplash/YFS Magazine

The growing number of micro and macro influencers provide huge social media opportunities to utilize promotional merchandising, especially since social promotion is predicted to increase exponentially this year.

To increase brand awareness, why not partner with an influencer for paid or in-kind sponsorship. Take, for example, Rinck Advertising’s campaign for Wholly Guacamole and Daily Cocktail. Select influencers not only wrote about the brands and promoted it on all of their social platforms but also hosted giveaway contests for branded promotional merchandise. This strategy got Wholly Guacamole and Daily Cocktail to a million followers and also seeded free advertising through the future use of their branded merchandise.


Capitalize on mobile shopping

Mobile shopping will continue to grow. Studies confirm the growth of “mobile commerce revenue worldwide from 2013 to 2018. In 2014, global mobile e-commerce revenues amounted to 184 billion U.S. dollars and are projected to reach 669 billion U.S. dollars in 2018.”

One simple way to get started is to retain brand visibility by including a promotional gift with every online order.


Get personal

Building on the named bottle campaigns by Coca Cola and the personalization of internet advertising, personalized marketing is poised for even bigger success in years to come.


Promotional Merch Tips For Entrepreneurs - YFS Magazine
Source: www.coca-colacompany.com

Did you know that 78.6% of consumers will likely engage with your brand if you offer promotions directly tied to how they interacted with you previously. Provided it’s on a manageable scale, personalizing promotional merchandise can be an excellent way to forge bonds with your consumer base.


Leverage millennial purchasing power

It’s predicted that millennials will have the most spending power of any generation by 2018. “Specifically, their spending power is estimated to reach $3.39 trillion by 2018,” according to Oracle. Therefore, it’s key for businesses to identify ways to engage with this customer segment and understand their buying motivation and behaviors.

Start by including more millennial decision-makers in your strategy planning. This approach will help you keep your finger on the pulse of millennial trends and capture the attention of this powerful group.


Distribute high value promo products

If you want to convert leads, premium products are proven to be far more effective. Demonstrate your customers value proportionately in the type of promotional merchandise you choose to release.


Choose the right promotional products

Considering that 41% of people keep promotional items between one and five years, and a further 18% hold on to them for more than 11 years, creating a promotional product that people will use frequently can generate a lot of free advertising.

This will only work, however, if your product provides value to your target demographic. Two types of products to consider include:

  • Tech gadgets – New gadgets spring up often. You can distribute branded USBs, tech accessories, fitness trackers, or speakers as giveaway items. The more wireless the better (e.g. Bluetooth earphones and speakers). Studies also show that 60% of consumers will do business with you if you give them a power bank.

  • Daily use products – If you’re looking for a product with a long shelf life, pick those that your target audience will use regularly. Promotional tote bags are always useful.


Measure promo success

Just like any other marketing campaign, the key is to measure your success. Ensure your promotional products hit core KPIs to determine their effectiveness. But keep in mind that promotional items take a longer timeframe to establish ROI – especially if the product has a long shelf life.

Using methods like split testing and incorporating a call to action, like a QR code or a hashtag campaign, around your promotional merchandise can demonstrate dividends but always remember to revisit your success metrics after a few months of the campaign.


This article has been edited.

Steve Hill is the Director of Bag Workshop, a leading UK supplier in promotional bags and custom branded bags. Having worked in marketing for over a decade, Steve stepped aside to found three separate companies under the Wurlin Promo umbrella, supplying every aspect of bespoke marketing products.


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