February 14, 2006
How To

Research on the $16.9 Billion Promo Products Industry: Why T-Shirts & Pens Can Outdo TV & Internet

SUMMARY: 76.1% of consumers studied said they could remember the brand name of a company that gave them a promotional item in the past year, versus 53% who could remember a TV or print ad from the past month, and only 27% recalled an online ad. Promotional products -- from logo T-shirts to brand-stamped rose petals -- really work. And there's plenty of research data to prove it. Which explains why in a search-marketing-mad world the promo products industry is quietly raking in nearly three times more ad dollars. More data and tips.
By Hope Hopkins, Research Analyst

They’re on your desk, on backs at the gym, on nightstands and breakfast tables, and each time a free promotional product is put to use it’s causing an impression.

Promo products from logo-ed mugs to baseball hats are the advertisement that keeps on messaging, in some cases for years. Consider this recall rate data:

Banner ads 27%; print and TV ads 53.5%; promo products 76.1%.

So, although the average promo product -- basically anything you give away with your logo on it -- often costs more per unit than any other ad unit CPM, the extra impressions and branding warm-fuzzies make promo products more cost effective than you may think.

That's why at $16.9 billion spent per year, US marketers are investing almost three times as much in promotional products than they are in much-hyped search marketing.

Research data roundup: The numbers behind promo products

Whether the goal is to increase consumer loyalty, warm up business prospects or encourage your biggest brand fans' evangelism, a promotional product campaign can work harder for you than almost any other type of messaging.

Here's the data organized by campaign goal for you.

-> Long-lasting/repeat exposure.

o 73% of those who used the promotional product that they had received stated that they used it at least once a week.

o 45.2% used it at least once a day. Source: L.J. Market Research, DFW Airport Study, 2004

-> An increase of company image

o 52.1% of participants reported having a more favorable impression of the advertiser since receiving the item. Source: L.J. Market Research, DFW Airport Study, 2004

o 76.3% of attendees had a favorable attitude toward the company that gave them the product. Source: Georgia Southern University Study, 2003

-> Generation of business

o 52% of participants in the study did business with the advertiser after receiving the promotional product.

o Of those who had not done business with the advertiser that gave them the product, almost half stated that they were more likely to do business with the company that gave them the item. Source: L.J. Market Research, DFW Airport Study, 2004

-> Increase in referrals

o Accompanying a request for referrals, an offer of a promotional product incentive or an offer of a promotional product incentive and eligibility in a sweepstakes drew as many as 500% more referrals than an appeal letter alone. Source: Louisiana State University and Glenrich Business Study, 2005

o Customers who received a promotional product were 14% more likely to provide leads than those who did not. Source: Baylor University, Mary Kay Study, 1993

o Salespeople who handed out promo items received 22% more referrals than those who did not give out free gifts. Source: Baylor University, Mary Kay Study, 1993

-> Higher recall

o 76.1% of participants could recall the name of the advertiser on the promotional product that they received in the past 12 months. In comparison only 53.5% of participants could recall the name of an advertiser they had seen in a magazine or newspaper in the previous week. Source: L.J. Market Research, DFW Airport study, 2004

-> Recall at tradeshows

o 71.6% of attendees who received a promotional product remembered the name of the company that gave them the product. Source: Georgia Southern University Study, 2003

-> Greater reach

o 71% of business travelers randomly surveyed at DFW Airport reported receiving a promotional product in the last 12 months.

o 33.7% of this group had the item on their person -- a coveted location for ad messages.

0 55% of participants generally kept their promotional products for more than a year.

o 22% of participants kept the promotional product that they had received for at least six months. Source: L.J. Market Research, DFW Airport Study, 2004

5 Considerations -- How to pick the best promo product for your campaign

Biggest mistake: when you're selecting a promo product to offer your marketplace, don't assume the most unusual or most costly item will work the best. Here's what will work:

1. Your target demographic

Just because you think something is ultra-neat or beyond-dull doesn't mean they do. (Example, IT professionals surveyed in March 2005 said they yearned for iPods, although most tech marketers were bored with offering them.) Consider what they are likely to throw away, what they'll keep, what they'll give to the kids and what will make them run around the office showing absolutely everyone.

2. Value

Promo products can have one of three values (not necessarily tied to the price you pay for them); either they are:

a. extremely useful so the prospect will keep them close and refresh the impression frequently (think mugs, T-shirt, pens, oversized chip bag clips)

b. lavishly valuable so the prospects will be impressed by the value you place in your relationship with them; (think consumer electronics, leather-bound books, etc.)

c. unique and cool so your prospect will start a viral "look what I got" campaign on your behalf with their friends and colleagues (think roses with logo-embossed petals, light-up ice cubes, etc.)

3. Your brand

Think over your brand and campaign to see if there is a tie-in you can make. The more you can relate the item to the rest of your messaging, the more powerful the campaign as a whole becomes.

4. Logos

Many brands' logos, in particular in B-to-B, were not designed with promotional items in mind. Will the logo be big enough within the limited print-space to stand out at a reasonable distance? (Example: MarketingSherpa is too long to fit well on items such as mugs.) Also, do you have logo colors restrictions you must obey? And don't forget your URL or toll-free phone number along with (or in place of) your tagline.

5. Distribution

How heavy is the item? What type of shipping will work and has it been tested? (Some pens have been rejected by the post office because they broke through envelopes when mail sorting equipment bent them.) Plus, can you brand the shipping carrier and also is it possible to insert additional materials such as a note? What are the additional costs associated with this?

Also, if you are planning to mail the item to prospects and consumers, how do you intend to make sure that only "qualified" prospects get it? Do you need to clean your database beforehand or add rules, regs and deadlines onto an online form?

Useful links related to this article:

Advertising Specialty Institute -- Industry association site including information about the promotional products industry and how to become a distributor member or supplier member of ASI: http://www.asicentral.com/

Build A Promotion -- site for marketers created by the Promotional Products Association, includes an interactive tool to find suppliers and consultants, plus information on MAS/CAS certification (yes, specialists in this field can be certified): http://www.buildapromotion.com

State of the Industry Report -- Excellent annual research study with massive amounts of data on the promotional products universe: http://www.stateoftheindustry.com

See examples of products and even purchase them: http://www.promomart.com

Promotional Products Association International:

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