An Overview of Promotional Products

Whether you're looking to drive traffic to your tradeshow booth, improve response rates on direct mail campaigns, increase referrals, improve return business, reduce accidents, improve employee morale or retain employees, promotional products work. If used properly, promotional products are a proven way to build your brand and get your company noticed. The good news is that custom printed promotional items are not nearly as expensive as they once were and there are many more options. Now it’s up to you to allow us to come up with a creative promotion – read on for help.


Whether your business is online or in the brick and mortar world or both, chances are you have thought about using promotional products at one time or another. According to the Promotional Products Association International, promotional products are an 18 billion dollar per year industry. Promotional products are an excellent way to establish fantastic customer and vendor relations as well as a simple, affordable way to advertise one's business. 

We've all seen them and most likely been the recipients of one or more promotional products. How about the magnet on the refrigerator that has the name and phone number of your favorite pizza delivery place? How about the magnet on the refrigerator that has the name and phone number of a pizza delivery place that isn't your favorite but you use it because the number is always handy? 

That's just one of the jobs promotional products accomplish. Getting people to buy something they wouldn't have otherwise bought, but for the idea the promotional product plants in their head, or as in the above example, convenience. 

Sometimes consumers have no need for goods or services until an unfortunate circumstance befalls them. For example, how often does the typical consumer call a plumber? Many consumers would have no idea which plumber to call if they suddenly needed them. They would have to resort to the telephone book or Internet for leads. However, the plumber that has the wisdom to constantly court potential clients by using promotional products as part of his overall marketing strategy just may be the one that gets the most calls. 

Promotional products keep your name, your number and the name of our business out in the open. They also help foster customer loyalty, show customer appreciation, and serve as an introduction to the scores of potential customers we haven't met yet.


Most of us don't realize just how powerful advertising is; promotional products can alert customers to the existence of one's business. Further, promotional products can draw attention to special offers and sales you may be offering. In addition, promotional products can be used as a method for expressing customer appreciation - consumers love to frequent businesses that appreciate them. Advertising takes many forms, of course. Print, radio, and television are the major forms of advertising, yet there are many variations of those.At any rate, advertising affects every single one of us even when we don't realize it. 

We've all used products and brands that we really don't know anything about yet, because "everybody else uses it," or because it's a popular product or brand we will take a chance on. 

Advertising gets the blame sometimes when the wrong message is picked up by people, such as when young girls starve themselves to look like the models in the magazines and on TV. Yet, because we know advertising gets the blame when things go wrong, we have to also acknowledge how powerful advertising is when things go right. 

We've all done it. We're in a hurry and in the store to pick up a product we're not especially familiar with. Faced with a myriad of different sizes, shapes and brands, how often do we pick the one from the commercial or the billboard? Advertising is indeed powerful.

For this reason, we want to choose our promotional products wisely. Which ones will the most people see? Which ones will last the longest? Candy is a great promotional product; it just doesn't last very long. Still, there are times when you might want to use something like this as a present for a special customer perhaps or for a function or event. 

Golf balls are a fun promotional product, but you have to realize that no one can see your logo or company information if the golf ball drowns or gets squashed. 

The above examples are reasons why you want to employ a variety of promotional products to advertise your company. Remember the kids too. Frisbees, Yo-Yos, kites, and other kids' toys can be powerful advertising investments.

Why Use Promotional Products?

Promotional products keep your name or the name of your company where people can see it. Promotional products can help a business owner establish and maintain public awareness about the exists of the business and the products and services the business has to offer. Even loyal customers who don't need to be reminded of your company are still candidates for promotional products. This is because they still come in contact with others who may not know anything about your business and this is when promotional products really do their job. 

Another reason to give promotional products to customers you do business with frequently is to thank them for their business. You may even have different levels of promotional products that you give out. Although you want to give potential customers something nice, you may consider giving loyal customers something nicer. 

Distributing promotional products is a powerful motivational tool to use when working with your sales team. Everybody likes to get something for free and by equipping your sales team with plenty of freebies to give away to new and old customers, they are more likely to make more contacts. It's also a good way for salespeople to contact former or infrequent customers. Even well-known companies work at keeping their name on the minds of consumers. That's why they're well-known companies.


Promotional products are also used to increase awareness of certain situations or diseases such as breast cancer. Lapel pins, ribbons, and bracelets are popular promotional products used to promote awareness. 

Promoting awareness helps to further the cause in many different ways, among them fundraising. Most people like to contribute to charities and organizations they have heard of before and by keeping the name of the organization out in the open, it will be more recognizable when fundraising time comes along. 

Promotional products that specifically promote awareness are often sold as a means to raise funds for the organization. This has a two-fold benefit. First, the charity or organization which primarily exists to raise funds to fight the particular disease benefits monetarily when the promotional products are sold to the individual. Secondly, as the individual goes about his or her daily life wearing the promotional product, it is working to raise awareness every time someone sees it. 

For example, suppose someone is wearing one of those pink lapel pins that promote breast cancer awareness. Those who come in contact with that person throughout the day will either know what the pin stands for or they won't. For those who already know, they will be reminded of breast cancer and the fight against it. For those who don't know, some of them will ask about the significance of the pin and then they may in turn decide to purchase one, or at the very least, the subject of breast cancer has been talked about to them. When it comes time for them to contribute to their favorite charity, they might just think of one that fights breast cancer.


Every company needs a logo and if you don't have one yet, you'll want to get one. You need this for all advertising purposes, because just one glance at your logo can tell people who you are and what you do. Plus, your logo can be used on each and every promotional product you use: thus, consumers will not only know your business by name, but by your logo as well.

You may find some companies that distribute promotional products that are willing to help you design a logo. You want to put some time and thought into this, especially if your logo is going to be on hundreds or thousands of promotional products. 

When you do submit a logo to be put on your promotional products, you may be asked to sign a copyright release. This tells the design company that you indeed own the copyright to the logo, as opposed to simply using someone else's logo, which of course, would be an infringement of copyright law and no reputable company will knowingly do that.

You don't have to be an artist to design your own logo. You can come up with the idea and rough draft and then have a professional do the design work. Logos can be extremely personal to the person who owns the company and for that reason, he or she may have a better concept of anyone how best to portray the logo.

Finding the Right Niche Items

Although anyone can use a refrigerator magnet or an ink pen containing your phone number, it's also good to focus on the business aspect of your client. Someone in the auto industry might like to give out key chains or car air fresheners to customers. In the same way, a hardware store owner could choose miniature tool kits to give out to customers and potential customers.

Whichever promotional products you choose, you want to make sure they will accommodate the entire name of your company, your address, phone number, and web address, if you have one. Pay attention also to the size of font used on your items, because it won't do any good to have the information there if no one can read it.

Consider also the hobbies and special interests of your customers or potential customers. Golf balls and golf accessories make good promotional products. So do sturdy and functional cups for customers who like to take a drink with them when they're on the go. Sports-related promotional products are good ones to choose for those interested in sports. Frisbees and Yo-Yos are promotional product standards that have been used for many years.

It's likely you'll want to explore more than one kind of promotional product. Different times of the year may make a difference as to what you'd like to give out. Seasonal items are also fun to distribute. Parents notoriously go through Halloween candy before they allow their children to eat it, so this might be a good time to splurge on promotional products like candy.

What to Look for When Purchasing Promotional Products

You'll want to consider the company's reputation, how long they've been in business and any other factors you deem important. Ask if they will send you referrals. Almost any reputable company will be glad to provide referrals.

Trade Shows

There are more than 2,500 trade shows held each year in the United States. Trade shows are an excellent way to promote your business and hand out promotional products. Some people actually go to trade shows specifically for the promotional products. That's ok because these people are consumers too and in fact, people who specifically like promotional products are more likely to use them, thus more people are likely to see them.

Trade shows are an excellent way to network with others in the industry and to make contacts you otherwise might not make. It's also a great way to meet potential customers and to greet regular customers. You can also see a wide variety of promotional products at work at trade shows that may give you more ideas as to how to promote your business.

Of course, some trade shows are open only to those in the industry and others are also open to the general public. You want to make sure you make the best presentation possible regardless of which group is admitted, and you want to have the best promotional products available.

What "best" means is the real clincher though. What is best for you and your business might not be best for someone else. Furthermore, what is best to hand out to your everyday customers might not be the best items to hand out at trade shows. If you're having trouble coming up with ideas, you might want to consult with a promotional products specialist. These people have seen it all and they know what works and what doesn't work.

Another thing to consider when passing out promotional products at trade shows is whether or not to give something to everyone or only to those who fill out a survey or a form with their email address or phone number on it. This may largely depend on the type of business you have. Obviously, if your business is selling hamburgers and fries, you probably won't need to take a survey, unless you want to get specific; however, generally speaking, most everybody likes hamburgers.

Before you decide how and which promotional products to give out at trade shows, attend a few and notice what others are doing. Then make the best decision based on your company and your ideas.

Not Just Pens Anymore

Almost everyone has been given a pen as a promotional product from someone they do business with. In fact, pens are the second most popular promotional product companies purchase. Leading in popularity, with approximately 30% of the promotional products business, are wearables. This includes t-shirts, caps, jackets, and anything that people might wear. 

In third place, are calendars and related items such as date books and planners. There are, however, dozens more promotional products today than there were just a few years ago, as businesses are trying be more focused in handing out these freebies.

Post-it Note pads, calculators, and tool kits are among some of the freebies given away as promotional products today. There are hundreds of promotional products for sale, and while many of these are appropriate for a large customer base of diverse interests, there are also a good number of niche items such as golf balls and accessories and computer accessories. 

It makes a lot of sense for a computer company to use mouse pads as promotional products. Their customers are obviously computer users and what better place to keep their name in front of their customers than at their computers? 

Almost everyone at any given time has some kind of promotional product in their home or office even if they don't do business with the company being promoted. Start noticing what kinds of promotional products people have in their homes, cars, and offices and ask which items your family, friends, and acquaintances like the most.

If you attend a sports function, notice things like cups or stadium chairs people are carrying that are obviously promotional products.

Once you start, you won't be able to stop and before long, you'll notice promotional products everywhere you go, and you'll get a feel for what people keep and what they quickly discard. In identifying what people appreciate in terms of promotional products, you can effectively define which products you can use in a promotional products campaign.

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