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Promotional Products: From Trash to Treasure

Follow these tips to elevate the impact of your promotional product offerings

In the production of promotional products, it seems companies often lose sight of the original goal of creating such a product in the first place. Somewhere along the process “creating long-term value, return on investment, and making the world a better place” shifts to “put our logo on as many things as possible for as cheap as possible.”

These goals are often in direct competition with one another. A promotional product should be customer-focused. Through innovative design, the product strives to create a positive association with a brand and a useful outcome. Nobody wants a stress ball with a mortgage company logo on it. Nobody. In contrast, a customer who receives a high-capacity power bank with their favorite colors that saved their flight when their phone almost died? That is memorable. That is what people want. That is what will make a company money.

So, how does a company elevate the impact of its promotional product offerings?

Step up the design game

Drinkware, not stinkware

drinkware
If the company touts its eco-friendly packaging, consider a product like reusable straws or water bottles over plastic tchotchkes to resonate with the customer. (Image courtesy AMB3R Creative)

Sure, any brand can slap its logo on a Yeti mug, and people will use it because the mug is great. However, if the budget is tight and doesn’t allow for high-end merchandise, one major way to elevate a brand is to avoid the logo slap and associate the brand with highly intuitive design and decoration. A small investment in design time can pay off tenfold in customer loyalty and brand recognition, but it’s often overlooked. By slapping a logo on a subpar mug, a company is only investing in the profits of its local thrift store and hurting its bottom line in the long run.

Instead of creating “a mug,” create “the customer’s new favorite mug.” This can be achieved without breaking the bank with small, thoughtful design changes. For example, consider replacing a logo drop on a water bottle with a full wrap design that any customer would love to take to the gym with them. A small logo hit within a full-color wrap or brand color association within a niche design will do much more for a return on investment when the product resonates with the end user.

Bags to brag about

bag
Consider creating a full custom cut-and-sew digitally printed bag instead of just embroidering a logo. (Image courtesy AMB3R Creative)

Consider creating a full custom cut-and-sew digitally printed bag instead of just embroidering a logo. If a company is lazy in its design, a savvy customer will perceive the lack of thoughtful design and associate this laziness with the company’s offerings — consciously or not. Considering different locations, design creativity, and decoration options will elevate your brand above the competition in a way that is memorable and representative.

Looking for a quick litmus test to see if current promotional products are hitting the mark? If the customer would prefer a blank product to your decorated product, a company is not cultivating positive associations in the minds of its customers. Customers are not in shock and awe. They may even be disappointed, which is the last association a company wants.

Go the tech route

Utilizing everyday objects that an end-user might need creates a greater likelihood of success within a promotional product campaign. In 2022, consider decorating usable power banks, speakers, and headphones. Consider the battery life, usability, and aesthetics of the tech products selected. Remember, if a power bank with a logo on it only charges their phone halfway, an association between the logo and the awful charging capabilities is created in the mind of the consumer.

Get creative

Everyone has a printed business card. Instead of opting for the usual in the next round of business cards, opt for the memorable. Remember, the goal is to create an impression on the customer that leads to a sale, not to clutter their desk with a small rectangle they keep meaning to do something with until they throw it away.

Consider printing on nonstandard mediums, such as metal business cards. Make cards relative to the company niche — perhaps create box office tickets for an entertainment company or lip balm for a mountain hiking store. Generally, handing someone a matchbox or a pack of gum with contact info on it is much more likely to wow and much less likely to be lost.

Reflect brand values in your products and design

pencils
(Image courtesy AMB3R Creative)

If the company touts its eco-friendly packaging, consider a product like reusable straws or water bottles over plastic tchotchkes to resonate with the customer. Adding branding elements in a botanical design and forgoing the plastic in the packaging are small but thoughtful changes that will be noticed by the end customer with similar values.

Is your brand family-friendly? Don’t forget the kids! Happy kids make for happy parents. A company’s kid-friendly offerings should not be something that is ultimately going to be thrown away or shoved to the back of the toy box. Consider putting together custom coloring books with branded crayons in a full custom zipper pouch!

Remember, the ultimate goal of promotional product offerings is to create a positive association with the brand in the mind of the client. Investing in design, thoughtful product curation, creativity, and small details will make all the difference in the success of any promotional product campaign.

Jeremy Picker

Jeremy Picker

Jeremy is the creative director and CEO at AMB3R Creative, a Colorado-based apparel design firm. He has over 20 years experience in the fashion industry and brings a depth of knowledge in custom design, screen printing, embroidery, applique, finishing, and promotional products. Jeremy has helped numerous brands launch and grow and managed merchandise for major label brands. He is also passionate about creating retail quality for the non-profit sector to fuel fundraising efforts and expand awareness. His current client list spans from churches to restaurants to corporations. He is a cancer survivor and a co-founder of ESTAINE, a high-end accessory line to support cancer education.

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