sly : marketing

Promotional products and gifts – does it work?

promotional products and gifts

I am looking at the notebook I received when I worked at the University, and it makes me think of all the custom promotional products and gifts we ordered. We ordered all sorts of items, and most of them with the logo and the name of the University. I believed that it worked as part of our marketing strategy, because people did use the promotional products and gifts. We created the items to get people to use them and to get more people to recognize the name and the logo.

A lot of people were using what we gave them, and when we asked them for their reaction to the gifts, it was always very positive.

Promotional products and gifts – delivering happiness

We started with custom pens, and I must admit that I had no idea that people would be that happy just to get a pen with our logo. From my experience, you should buy custom pens for your companyΒ and give them to your customers.Β What I experienced was that people who received promotional products and gifts are so happy by receiving the free gifts, and it seems that they think of this as an act of kindness instead of marketing. It’s not that they don’t understand the advertising part of the products, but it seems that most people don’t care as long as they are receiving it as gifts.

But, how can we measure success in offline marketing as promotional products and gifts? Like I said, while I was working at the University, I measured some of the success in the feedback I received and the smile on the faces of the people who received the promotional products and gifts – but, that’s not good enough, is it?

How do we measure success in using promotional products and gifts in marketing?

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we measure success and the return on investment (ROI). Sometimes I believe that the ROI can’t be measured directly, and that a smile and a happy face is enough. But, as part of my marketing strategy and helping my clients to success, I need to go into details and find ways to measure success other than my gut feeling.

One thing that can work is to add a website to the promotional products and gifts, and make the URL unique, so that the only place people can see the site is on the items we are giving away. This way, a measure of success is to see how many people are visiting the site directly.

What’s your experience with promotional products and gifts, and how do you measure success in offline marketing like this?

25 responses to “Promotional products and gifts – does it work?”

  1. Lisa says:

    I see less and less companies using them so I think if you do send out gifts like a pen or calendar they will get noticed more now than they did years ago. I’m not sure if you can really track it to sales though. It’s more of a feel good experience. And who doesn’t like to feel good on any given day?

    • I’m all for the feel good experience. That’s what I love about being in marketing. Making people smile. On the other hand, my clients are looking for results. And I’m thinking that if they see what I’m seeing when we’re giving away the items, that might be results enough for them πŸ™‚

  2. Carolyn says:

    A father of a kid in my daughter’s second grade class spoke at career day and gave out measuring tapes with his business name and phone number. He owns a construction business and we had just moved into our house and needed some work done. Two large construction projects later and that measuring tape was probably the best marketing investment he ever made.

    We still have that measuring tape. πŸ™‚

    • That’s a great example. Would it have made any difference if the promotional product had been something that wasn’t related to his business, like a notepad or a pen?

      • Carolyn says:

        Great question. Yes, I think it would have made a difference. My husband works at a company where logo pens are given out like candy at Halloween so we have dozens of pens with different logos. But we only have one branded measuring tape. That tape is one of the metal, retractable ones that is very high quality so it doesn’t snap your fingers when it snaps back.

        • That’s what I’ve been thinking. If we’re going to give away something we should give away something that stands out from the crowd and it should be related to what we do as a business. It wasn’t related to the business, but one of the products with most success at the University was giving away drinking bottles that people (students) could use when exercising.

      • Carolyn says:

        Get this…I ran into the business owner today (coincidence or kismet?) and told him about your article and comment. He had no idea that the measuring tape was what prompted me to make that first phone call. He was delighted to learn about that and we talked about our next project.

        Someday, when you visit Philadelphia, I will have to introduce you to him. πŸ™‚

        • Wow. That’s funny and weird, and interesting, and a little bit scary πŸ™‚

          One of the things I tell my clients is to start getting more feedback and to make a system that gives them feedback all of the time. Many of my clients say that they’re doing marketing and they have no idea if it works, they are just relying on their gut feeling. That’s why we need to ask people to tell us exactly why and what happened. Your story is awesome. I have been to Philadelphia one time. I had a cheese steak, that’s how long ago it was, since I’ve been a vegetarian for 11 years πŸ™‚

          So, I better come back soon. I loved the city and the history.

          • Carolyn says:

            You’re right, Jens. Feedback is so important. In fact, when I was talking to Nick, I told him that his measuring tape was very useful because it had both feet and meters, so I could use it in the US and the UK. He said that the addition of meters was a mistake by the manufacturer and he almost returned the measuring tapes because they weren’t supposed to have meters on them.

            You never know what mistakes are really blessings!

  3. Adrienne says:

    Hey Jens,

    Pens and calendars are a dime a dozen. Now I know that promotional items can end up costing a small fortune so you have to consider the expense but if I’m given something more memorable to me then I’m more likely to remember that company. I have tons of promotional pens and I don’t pay attention to any of the company names written on them.

    I did receive a calendar for Christmas this year from our insurance agent and I would highly recommend his services to anyone. He’s just that kind of quality guy.


    • That’s true Adrienne. They should be fairly special if you’ll notice a calendar or a pen with a logo. But if we’re creative enough, I bet we can make some awesome pens and calendars too πŸ™‚

      I have also received a calendar this year, it’s from my accountant. And since the calendar has some important dates (that I always forget), I will most likely keep the calendar, even though it didn’t look that good πŸ™‚

  4. Rogier Noort says:

    No, I do not send out relation gifts.., maybe next year. But, I’ve received some and I only remember one of them, which was a bottle of wine. Mainly because it was unexpected and different.
    If I ever get around sending or handing out gifts I’ll make sure it’s something original and/or useful. The more it stands out, the more impact it will have. A pen doesn’t cut it.
    When I have something, I’ll be sure to send one to Norway πŸ™‚

    • Please send it to Norway πŸ™‚ I agree, and sometimes it’s not just about the type of gift, but when you receive it from someone unexpected. I haven’t received that many, but I remember a few from people / companies I had no idea that I would receive anything from – that stands out from the crowd.

  5. Tim Bonner says:

    Hi Jens

    Mostly the promotional pens just end up in the draw and forgotten about so I agree with everyone here that a promotional gift needs to be something quirky, something that stands out as memorable. Definitely not a calendar or a mug either, although they do come in handy!

    The only time I specifically remember getting a pen was when the Queen came to open a new office of the company I was working for at the time. We all got Parker Pens as a commemorative thing.

    • I just received a calendar from my accountant, and usually, I would just trash it or forget all about it. But this one was different, it’s not the design, but it has all the important dates for businesses in Norway when it comes to taxes and the accounting things (I am terrible when it comes to remembering the dates).

      So, you’ve received a pen from the Queen? I would remember that too πŸ™‚

  6. Xavier says:

    I think promotional products like ebooks will be useful for readers and will make them to come back to us. But it should not be over used. Optimized use of any resource can be beneficial to any one.

  7. Sapna says:

    Hi Jen

    I would prefer Personal Diary with your brand name embedded on it. Everytime I need to write something very important, I need to search for something more than a notepad. I use diary for that thing. When I open it I could make out the one who gifted that.
    Thought provoking post. Keep them coming.

    • That’s interesting Sapna. I am thinking that when we give gifts, we should give something that people will be using a lot. This way, like you said, they’ll be seeing your name, and think of you every single day πŸ™‚

  8. Nathasha says:

    Pens work for me IF they are quality pens. Most of the time, they aren’t. Therefore, they end up in the trash.
    I am going to do something in the middle January just because. People get bombarded with “stuff” during the holiday season then after January 3rd it stops. It’s when it stops and you go that others notice.

  9. Ofcourse that promotional products are worth working in the company because by using a promotional product strategy it might the company will excel.

  10. Promotional gifts are an effective way of enhancing the presence of your brand without even using word of mouth. Distribution helps you reach the right audience. Not only do you make existing and potential customers happy you also advertise in a large way!

  11. Promotional gifts are an effective way of enhancing the presence of your brand without even using word of mouth. Distribution helps you reach the right audience. Not only do you make existing and potential customers happy you also advertise in a large way!

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