Picking Promotional Items


A blue header image featuring an icon of a branded tote bag in the center and faded promo product icons in the background

One part of marketing that’s been around for decades is the promotional item. Take a quick look around your house or office and you’re sure to find at least one of the following branded things: pens, note pads, stress balls, or calendars. There are, of course, a whole plethora of promotional items available beyond just those. As emerging technologies like 3D printing and Cricut machines continue developing, the options for custom promotional items continue growing along with them. The only real limit is your imagination (and, okay, maybe your budget). With so many promo items and only so much money to spend, how do you pick the right ones?

Substance over flash

There’s a reason why so many of us have branded pens around our houses or have calendars with company sponsors listed along the bottom of the page. It’s because those items are useful. When you pick out items to help promote your business, ask yourself “Is this something I would use?” There are a lot of practical promotional items out there that people are likely to hold on to for a long time. If they have it around, that means they’ll be reminded of your business every time they use that pen or write on that note pad. If they have that calendar on their wall all year, that means they’ll see the name of your business for a whole year. You can’t beat that kind of exposure.

If your answer to whether or not you’d use the item is no, it may be a good idea to keep searching for other promotional products. For every practical promo item, there’s a weird promo item that people are less likely to keep. You know your target audience and you can guess the kinds of things they’d find useful. If your business tends to attract more minimalistic people, avoid impractical items they may view as “junk.”

Flash over substance

Not every business is targeting minimalistic people and there can be a time and place for those stranger promotional items. When you want to stand out from your competition, an oddly shaped stress ball or an unexpected, zany keychain might just be the way to go. Brighter colors, funkier fonts, and jokey sayings definitely attract attention. Marketing comes with a certain level of risk and the reward, if successful, is worth it.

Always keep your target audience in mind. Zany for zany’s sake will not be appropriate for every situation (and some risks are too risky!). Zombie survival kits could be good for promoting a local theater’s Halloween movie event. They wouldn’t work for a funeral home, though. So, even when taking the flashier, impractical route, it is important to be thoughtful about the products you select.

In plain sight

A third route you can take when picking promotional items is the subtle route. These are promo items that don’t scream “Look at what I’m promoting!” but are, instead, quieter about it. This might come in the form of a t-shirt. Maybe it has a cool design or a funny saying on the front and the company logo printed on the back or the sleeve. Or, another option is a postcard. Perhaps it has a beautiful landscape photo on the front, and the company logo featured on the back. The benefit to attractive and subtle promotional items is that it appeals to people with pickier aesthetics. Much like the first two things we discussed, this will ultimately come down to the kind of audience you’re trying to attract.

In conclusion

Some people respond well to practicality, some respond well to fun and funky, and some respond well to less aggressive advertising. If you’re not sure what kind of people you’re trying to reach, try a mix of all three. Different occasions will allow for different approaches and it’s always a good idea to see what works and what doesn’t.

For more advice on marketing strategies or for help with designing what you’ll put on your promotional items, contact Bold River Marketing.

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