Tell Your Story

storyThere is great value in storytelling as a marketing vehicle.  A good story gives the reader a reason to put aside subconscious barriers, allowing you to communicate a message directly to their hearts.  Once you have reached their heart, you are one step closer to winning a new customer.

The story should be memorable, even contagious.  Corporate stories like the founding of McDonald’s Corporation by Ray Kroc, a 52-year-old milk-shake machine salesman; Harvard drop-out Bill Gates and Paul Allen forming Microsoft; or, one of my personal favorites,  the TOMS Shoes business of giving one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair sold, are stories that connect with the buyers.  Of course, once you have decided on the story you want to tell, one of the questions all marketing departments must answer is how to communicate the story.

Your corporate story can be communicated through many vehicles – advertising, social media, marketing materials – and, on a grass roots level, through the distribution of promotional merchandise at events and trade shows.  When working with this marketing medium, the story should be a short, concise mini-version of the whole narrative.  For example, “One For One” was gleaned from the history of how the company was founded and is a brilliant three-word line that represents the TOMS story and business model.   Fortunately, whatever that shortened version of your company story becomes, there are several marketing vehicles that can creatively carry the message.

  • Marketing Card:  Printed information card the size of a business card.  They are offered as part of the product purchase for items like cell phone grips and screen cleaners.
  • Banner Pen:  Ballpoint pen includes a retractable laminated banner that offers a cost-effective vehicle for your message.
  • Custom Journal:  Add a separate information page to the front of a basic business journal.
  • Hang Tag:  Easy way to include your story on gifts such as apparel, drinkware and briefcases.
  • Pre-Loaded USB:  Add your story to the memory on a flash drive and it will launch every time the user opens it.

Regardless of what marketing vehicle you choose to tell your story, remember that stories are meant to engage the reader.  Make it fun – make it heartwarming – make it memorable!

Low Price Losers

costBranded merchandise doesn’t have to be expensive to have a high perceived value, just as high prices don’t guarantee quality.  It is the job of your corporate supplier partners to introduce you to product options in all price categories that will enhance your company brand and carry the message of quality, creativity and reliability that most firms want their customers to see in their own products and services.

Distributing quality merchandise, regardless of the price point, should be one of the most important considerations for corporate marketing and procurement departments.  There are thousands of well-made low-cost items in the advertising specialty industry that can improve brand awareness.  However, there are just as many inexpensive giveaways that are poorly made and/or have little or no value for the recipient.  So why consider those options just because they are cheap?  After all, if the gift you decide to give is discarded immediately, why give it at all?

I have listed below a few of my favorite low-cost promotional items, and have followed that list with the same number of low price losers that I recommend leaving off your list of options for the next giveaway.


  1. Pen/Stylus:  Less than $1.00.  You never have enough!  Available in multiple colors with double duty practical applications for writing and working on a touch screen device.
  2. Anti-Slip Phone Sticker:  Less than $2.00.  Keep that phone in place!  Full color digital graphics on phone grip that comes attached to a full color marketing card.
  3. Laser Cut Acrylic Magnet:  Less than $1.50.  Creative approach to a classic!  Available in custom shapes with full color graphics, and inexpensive to mail.
  4. Neoprene Can Cooler:  Less than $1.00.  Especially in the summer!  Multiple colors and decoration options from camo pattern to rhinestones.
  5. Hand Sanitizer:  Less than $1.50.  Everyone uses it!  Full color label graphics available on a variety of container options from small bottles to credit card shape.


  1. Small Plastic Toys:  Choking hazards are never good!
  2. Scented Anything:  So many people are sensitive to smells and additives, it’s safer to choose unscented products made from natural ingredients.
  3. Inferior Tools:  Tools that break under the pressure of using them are frustrating for the user and a poor reflection on the giver.
  4. Low-Grade Speakers:  Speakers are meant to improve sound, not drive the listener to turn it off!
  5. Open Cell Foam:  Fingers, balls, hats.  These things are cheap for a reason!  For the tournament game, go with a noisemaker or rally towel for close to the same investment.

Creative marketing giveaways can be found at every price point.  Be sure to enlist a supplier partner who understands the merchandise as well as the budget.  Your customer will be glad you did!

Drink Up, Ladies!

mugsAccording to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, “In aggregate, women represent a growth market bigger than China and India combined—more than twice as big, in fact. Given those numbers, it would be foolish to ignore or underestimate the female consumer.”   Ergo, when considering the next branded giveaway aimed at a female audience, it would be wise to look at the product category that is nearly twice as popular with women as it is with men:  branded drinkware.

Branded drinkware has long been a popular option as a corporate promotional giveaway, but in recent years the advertising specialty suppliers have stepped up their game in terms of styles, color choices and materials.

  • Mugs:  ceramic, acrylic or glass mugs are offered in shapes and colors designed to hold any type of coffee concoction the local barista can whip up
  • Sport bottles:  made from aluminum, BPA-free plastic and collapsible polyethylene, and are constructed in sizes perfect for the serious bikers, casual sports enthusiasts or students’ backpacks
  • Stadium cups:  still available in paper, plastic or Styrofoam (not my recommendation), have been reimagined to accommodate the sports team tailgaters as well as the sippy cup toddlers

In consideration of capturing the highest return on the investment, marketing and procurement teams may want to read on for a few more statistics to help provide further insight into this popular promotional product category.

What percentage of U.S. consumers own branded drinkware?

  • 21%

What age group owns the most branded drinkware?

  • 21-34:  25%
  • 35-44:  20%
  • 45-54:  20%
  • 55+:     19%

Where is the drinkware most likely to be used?

  • Office:  39%   Home:  39%

Branded drinkware joins the ranks of the most widely used promotional merchandise, particularly with young women.  Next time your company wants to target this powerful market segment, think about drinks!

Global Study On Effectiveness Of Promo Products – Part III

Cats_Out_of_BagThe cat is out of the bag!  The Global Advertising Specialties Impressions Study conducted by ASI (Advertising Specialty Institute) concludes that bags generate the most impressions of any other branded product in the study.  That finding may beg the question – what are impressions?  In this study, the number of impressions a product derives is calculated by “… multiplying how long a recipient owns an item to how many people he comes in contact with each month while using it.”

Keeping this definition in mind, it should be no surprise that bags come out on top considering they are frequently used, particularly in public places, where they are seen by other people.  Next in popularity of impressions are caps – then writing instruments, outerwear and t-shirts.  The items that create the fewest impressions are those intended for personal use, like USB drives, health and safety items, and consumables.  These items are given to impress the recipient, and are selected with a different campaign goal in mind.

Finally, one of the most important questions corporate customers have about advertising specialities is how they stack up against other media in terms of cost effectiveness.  According to this study, promotional merchandise is less expensive per impression than almost any other type of advertising.  It beats out prime time television, national magazine and newspaper ads with a cost of 0.6 cents per impression vs 1.8 cents for TV and magazines, and 0.7 cents for newspapers.  With the ability to take a more focused approach to the recipient while giving even the smallest companies the ability to achieve the same ROI as major corporations, branded products have a unique and undeniable place in the advertising world.

It’s always beneficial to have tested data to help marketing teams decide how to best use their budgets in order to achieve the highest return on investment.  Now that you know the facts, the next meeting with your promotional products provider should be a lot more productive!

Gen Y and The Corporate Brand

Generation Y (those born between 1980 and 2000) is now estimated to be the largest consumer group in US history.  That age group provides an astounding 80 million potential buyers, referred to as Millenials, who are confident, connected and open to change.  (Source:  Pew Research Center)

This generation is well-educated, digitally saavy and more passionate about causes they care about.  With a generational personality like that, corporations need to embrace the idea that free t-shirts and branded sling bags alone are not going to drive the desired behavior.  In terms of product choices, there are numerous options that will appeal to the Gen Y consumer.  But without a focused marketing strategy aimed at truly engaging the recipient, that giveaway alone will be just another piece of swag (“stuff we all get”).

Consider some of the following characteristics about Generation Y when designing a brand strategy aimed at this group:

  • Embrace all things digital – 90% use internet; 75% use social networking
  • More highly educated – 54% have at least some college education
  • Eco-consious – 53% buy green products; 36% buy organic foods
  • More likely to exercise – 68% of men vs 48% of women
  • Support consumer activism – 34% buy a product when they agree with the company’s social values

Source:  Pew Research Center

Companies like Apple, Red Bull and Toms have been enormously successful in marketing to these young consumers.  They market through appealing product design, high energy engagement and social awareness.  Regardless of the product, the concept is the same.  Give a gift that appeals to the tech saavy recipient; sponsor a local marathon, bike-a-thon or walk-a-thon; or tie in a campaign with a social cause.  The corporate logo can be attached to almost anything – just be sure that the message that logo inspires promotes the action your company intended!

Marketing To The Yogi

Fifteen million people practice yoga in the United States.  77.4% are college graduates and 44% earn more than $75,000 annually, with 24% earning more than $100,000 annually (  Considering the weight of these statistics, it seems likely that at some point some of the branded merchandise aimed at the corporate customers during any given campaign will end up in the hands of a yoga enthusiast.  So why not consider a marketing theme and associated products that are aimed directly at this health-conscious audience?

Offering a branded yoga mat, hydration bottle or bamboo towel as part of a wellness campaign, employee motivation program, or gift-with-purchase giveaway are all perfect opportunities to reinforce your company’s support of healthy lifestyle choices.  Presenting the gift in eco-friendly branded packaging materials maintains a consistent message that will radiate out to your audience. Even the most casual exercise buff will recognize the value of the gift, and associate the giver with positive feelings of health and well-being.

With the many health benefits that come with the bending, stretching and deep breathing exercises taught in every yoga class, it is likely that this ancient form of low impact exercise will continue to attract growing numbers of followers.  Marketing to those yogis may also help grow the corporate client base.

Clients Want Solutions

So-lu-tion:  a means of solving a problem or a difficult situation.

When a promotional products provider is working with her or his corporate partner to solve a problem, products, or tangible goods, should not be the only focus of the discussion.  Creative ideas, responsive service and flawless execution are even more valuable than the one-time purchase of a branded piece of merchandise.

The customer is not expected to be the expert in the sourcing, production and delivery of promotional items (which is the only reason this partnership makes sense), so it is the responsibility of the vendor to get a full understanding of the issue at hand, and offer well-considered, insightful advice for the most effective solution.  A few of the obvious questions that should be asked and answered up front:

  1. What is the problem? (last-minute request?  special event?  new marketing idea?)
  2. When is the event?  (this week?  next month?  next year?)
  3. Who is the audience? (trade show participants?  preferred customers? board of directors?)
  4. What is the marketing strategy behind this request?  (one and done?  setting stage for future initiatives?  employee or customer appreciation?)
  5. What is the overall budget?  (not just for promotional product, but for freight, packaging, storage, etc)
  6. What quantity is needed?  (large quantities can be sourced at lower costs with longer lead times)
  7. Are there special packaging needs?  (gift wrap?  eco friendly? custom inserts?)
  8. Are there special fulfillment needs?  (ship all at once?  kit with other items?  store and ship as needed?)

These questions should set the stage for a productive discussion between customer and provider.  Sometimes the product is secondary to the presentation and delivery, and other times the product IS the presentation, but in every case the tangible item that carries the corporate logo is only a small piece of the overall solution.  When meeting with a customer on a special project, catalogs and samples are great for brainstorming product ideas, but nothing beats creative problem-solving for getting the whole job done!

(Image via Comm’n Sense)

Texting While Driving Kills

Corporations interested in sponsoring an advocacy compaign that everyone can relate to should consider that raising awareness about the dangers of texting while driving is a social cause worth shouting about!  Teens and adults alike are guilty of contributing to this epidemic.  And similar to the dangers of drinking (or eating or shaving or hairstyling) while driving, texting can kill!

One way to get the word out is with this debossed Silicone Thumb Band that carries the message “Texting Kills” or “Text Free Driver”.  Available in different sizes and colors, this band can be worn by people before they get into a car to remind them of the dangers of texting while driving.  Schools, financial institutions, healthcare organizations, insurance carriers and non-profit agencies are among the many types of institutions with a customer base that could benefit from this message.

For the cost of a refrigerator magnet you can distribute an item that will speak to your company’s commitment to promoting safe driving habits, which can enhance the other parts of your marketing strategy and encourage loyalty and support for your firm.  Win, Win … results worth investing in!

(image via BamBams)