Can promotional products really build your brand?

Written by Ollie Galpin

There’s a common misconception that promotional products are merely an old-skool marketing tactic rather than a serious brand building exercise. This article looks at the difference between marketing vs. branding and how promotional products can boost customer perceptions, drive new business and support the development of your brand.

How is branding different from marketing?

Marketing is a tactical approach to growing your business.

Branding is a strategic approach to changing the perceptions of your business through the (marketing) tactic that you adopt. It’s a mouthful.

To very quickly put this into context; You may decide that you would like to send a promotional item to 1000 customers and have a budget of £500.00 – That, in essence, is a marketing tactic. (Some may call that a strategy but I firmly feel that this is just selecting a tactic and a budget)

On the flip-side, you may decide that you would like your customers to start seeing you as an ethical company, or a friendly organisation, so you’ll start with what the promotional product is, how it’s coloured, how it feels and what it says about your business – That is a strategy, or at least part of a more holistic approach.

Marketing drives actions and is measurable.

Branding alters perceptions, communicates values and is hard to measure.

The ultimate ROI (Return on Investment) occurs when both the marketing tactic and the brand strategy work in harmony together. Which leads us swiftly onto the big question, can promotional products really build your brand?

We believe they can, so if you’re considering a promotional campaign, take a moment to check out the brand funnel before you dig into the advice below.

Brand Funnel Diagram

How do promotional products influence brand awareness (top of mind)

First and foremost, promoting, in it’s very essence raises awareness due to the scale of it’s distribution. With over 20 years of promotional experience we’ve observed that companies tend to buy custom products in large numbers for large-scale campaigns because it makes business & financial sense.

Guess what, this means lots of people see, feel and start remembering your logo and brand colours. Whether it’s giving away branded pens and bags at a trade show or sending complementary umbrellas to your executive list for their next golf game – It makes sense to ‘go-big’, because awareness is the broadest stage of the brand funnel, to be honest you could be wasting money if you plan on shifting less than 100 units on an awareness campaign.

That’s where a purchase decision starts, by embedding your name and image into a potential prospects brain you have conquered a really import branding metric. Put simply, if people don’t know you exist then you’ll never get considered.

Did you know?

It now takes 23 impressions (views) to memorise a brand.


Promoting can effect the attitude & favourability (close to heart) brand metrics

Promotional products don’t have to be tacky. By selecting an item that’s realistically useful to your target prospect (or existing customer) they’ll feel just a tiny bit more positive about the company on the item they are using.

Imagine the taste of cool water at the end of a run.

The brand on the bottle that quenched your thirst could be an IT company with a clever slogan. It may seem ‘out there’ but basic human instinct creates an impression of positivity with a mental image attached to it. It might be small, and it might be subliminal – but this is basic brand science.

Umbrellas for senior execs, lanyards for interns, canvas bags for busy women. You get the idea I’m sure, all the items have a day-to-day usage rating that not only means you’re upping the number of brand impressions (stage 1) you’re genuinely helping your target audience by giving them a useful tool (stage 2).

Quick tip

Always take some time to consider the emotion you want your target customer to feel when they engage with your branded item.

Helpful Products Image

They can even effect the purchase intent metric

Sure, most promotional items simply don’t have enough functions to really effect how likely a target customer will buy a product from you but it depends which angle you view it from.

If you’re looking to push someone over the line then a promotional product could be the tiny trigger they needed to remember you and get in touch. Often, simply saying “Hey I exist” is enough to turn a cold lead into a hot one.

Timing is everything!

Another way to influence ‘Purchase Intent’ is to provide more of a reason to buy. We brainstormed how this would be possible and the winning brandable product was the USB stick. You can store video, images and presentations on them – all of which are influencing media. If your content is compelling then there is no reason why a branded USB stick loaded with the right media can’t push your target customer into ‘I’m ready to buy’ mode.

USB Stick

They have very little to do with the final stage in the purchase funnel, ‘Preference’

Preference is the hardest, and possibly the most ambiguous metric to alter through marketing. It’s the subconscious feeling a customer gets about choosing a provider just as they are about to buy (the last stage in the brand-funnel)

So many factors come into play before a customer parts with their cash. Feature based considerations become more important such as size, shape, function and emotions the customer has experienced throughout their purchasing journey also come into play – in short, promotional products can’t fix a weak product.

Can you use promotional products to clearly communicate your brand (and products) USPs? sure you can! Just remember that preference is a very subjective, personal part of the brand funnel that is as difficult to explain as it is to influence.

Pepsi and Coke

A few tips to make your promotions tie up with your brand…

Imagine your brand as an animal. Is it bright, dark, loud or fun, hard or fluffy. We think there’s a product for every brands animal – just take a look at the huge range on (as one example, wink-wink).

Make sure you use the colour search and filters when you’re browsing different products. Most promotional companies should also be able to help with perfect pantone matching and even bespoke product colours on large runs so your brand can remain consistent.

Hold a team workshop and get ‘buy-in’ from your co-workers. We find that collaborating on new brand and marketing initiatives helps us make better decisions. So next time your boss asks you to sort out some branded ‘stuff’ for the next event make sure you hold a mini-meeting about what the promotional products will say about your brand.

Do you agree with this article? Perhaps you have something to add or dispute?

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