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Magnets as Promotional Products

Magnets And Stickers: What's The Attraction?
By Josh Vasquez

Even though magnets have been around for what seems like forever, they continue to be one of the most popular promotional products. Combine their adaptability (and affordability) with new variations and imprinting techniques, and you'll see why these time-tested items still attract people.

If you think stickers and magnets are just something people slap on their file cabinets, refrigerators or dayplanners and leave there - you're right. And that's exactly what you want: to get your ad message displayed in a high-traffic/visibility area for as long as possible.

The facts: Nearly 100 million U.S. homes have at least one refrigerator, and each is visited 11 times a day, on average. If a magnet on the fridge catches someone's eye every other time, that's more than 2,000 impressions a year - not too shabby for a fairly pedestrian promotional product.

Or consider stickers. Car windows are plastered with the logos of bands, radio stations and favorite tourist spots. Bumpers are adorned with political statements, humorous sayings and club names. Stickers decorate our cubicle walls, computer monitors, bulletin boards and file drawers. The little hearts and stars that once rewarded children for good work have grown up and blossomed into a $600 million industry, says USA Today.

What makes these products so popular? How do stickers and magnets maintain their dominance? Read on.

Why They Stick
It's simple, really. These items wouldn't remain so popular if all they did was clutter up car windows, refrigerators and file cabinets. To survive for decades as top-selling promotional products, magnets and stickers consistently provide something many other imprinted items don't.

"They're like mini billboards," says promotional consultant Joe Huston, noting that their flat surfaces provide a clear, readable imprint area. In fact, magnets and stickers are pretty much all message - there's not much else to compete, the way there is with a pen, calculator or mug, for example. Nothing to distract the reader. Counselor Glen Riedesel agrees: "Stickers [and magnets] have so much copy area it doesn't matter what the size is or what's imprinted on it."

Well, that may be stretching it a bit. Still, these mini billboards aren't limited to a drive-by glance like their big brothers that line the highway. Magnets can deliver a message from nearly any metallic surface: handrails, door frames, cars, license plates, desks, chairs, lamps, bookcases - the list goes on. And stickers can literally stick anywhere. In fact, the more creative you get about where magnets and stickers get stuck, the greater the impact of the promotional message they carry.

"A lot of their success hinges on the philosophy of repetitiveness," says one promotional counselor, who adds that both stickers and magnets deliver highly cost-efficient exposure for the dollar.

"People eat 365 days a year," sums up promotional consultant Tom Mertz. "When you can put a message on a refrigerator for 30 cents that lasts years, you can't beat it."

Custom Cuts
With all those stickers and magnets (and whatever they're holding) crowding filing cabinets and other surfaces, it can be a bit of a challenge to make yours stand out. A standard item usually won't be as effective as one designed for a specific audience.

"I always say, when you're doing an ad campaign, do it correctly from the start," advises one promotional consultant. "If there's no stock shape to fit your promotion, it's well worth the extra cost to get what you want - it's really not that much more."

True. Much like the products themselves, customization is cost-effective, and the process is faster and more efficient than ever. "We offer stock, but custom is so easy we encourage people to customize," says promotional consultant Carl Gerlach. "That helps a client to best hit the market he's targeting. Standard stickers may be a better buy when directed at a generic market, but for a specific market, customizing accomplishes goals better. It has a higher return value on the advertising."

Of course, if time and budget don't allow the luxury of custom, there are still plenty of options. For example, slightly altering the artwork, color, delivery method, or message can make a stock shape into a one-of-a-kind winner.

Thanks, Technology
A word about creativity as it relates to magnets and stickers: "No matter what you do, you have to remember you're dealing with a piece of plastic," cautions counselor Eric Johnson. "If you don't dress up the design, you're still looking at a piece of plastic."

A newer technique in magnet design is digital four-color processing, which provides photo-quality images. "Digital imaging has taken magnets into markets where people once perceived them as not able to represent their company adequately," says Mertz, noting that the new capabilities are leading more and more companies to use magnets as promotional pieces.

New technology has also expanded the range of products available and had a hand in cost-effectiveness, particularly with custom work. "In the past, when doing custom magnets using offset printing, you needed a minimum of 10,000 to be economical," says counselor Kathy Peters. "With digital printing, you can do 250 to 500 and still be economical."

"Information Spots"
Another thing to remember when using magnets or stickers: People love anything that will save them steps or time. "They want things right in front of their faces," says Johnson. "To call the local pizza place, they don't want to fumble through the phone book for a number. They want to walk over to the refrigerator and read the number off a magnet."

The ability to create an "information spot" is what makes stickers and magnets such popular ad vehicles in many different industries, particularly the service arena. Some service-oriented businesses that have historically used magnets include:
  • plumbers
  • painters
  • wallpaper hangers
  • contractors
  • heating/air conditioning companies
  • waste management firms
  • home medical services
  • electricians
  • appliance repair firms
  • computer-service firms
  • snow-removal services
  • trucking firms
  • car-rental agencies
The medical profession has also been a longtime magnet user. "A lot of what we sell to clients involves recurring appointments, like optometrists and chiropractors," says Johnson. "Doctors give out magnets to keep their name, address and phone number handy so patients can get in touch with them."

Stickers are also excellent information and identity vehicles. When prominently displayed on or near the telephone, they give recipients instant access to emergency numbers, fire department, police department, schools and more. Many times, return-address stickers are given as thanks for a charitable donation.

Sheer Magnetism
But suppose you want something more eye-catching and enticing for your promotion than even a custom shape, four-color process art treatment or an expansive imprint area will give you.

Think interactive. "Today we can do puzzles, magnetic poetry, picture frames, write-on/wipe-off surfaces, etc.," says counselor Darryl Haddox. "Just like other products, the more someone uses a magnet or sticker, the more attention the message gets. There are all kinds of options - small cardboard cookbooks, pens, letter openers, clips, mirrors, thermometers, notepads, calendars, and so on can be placed on or made out of a magnet."

Of course, you need to match the product with the intended audience in order to ensure success. "If it's something they're going to use, like a pad, it's much more likely to be hung up," says promotional consultant Thomas Stiller.

Hybrids
For situations when a magnet or sticker isn't quite right, there's another answer. "We call it the 'all-terrain magnet' because it acts as a magnet on even non-metallic surfaces," says Haddox. "It's a great product because, like the refrigerator, the computer has become a huge part of people's lives. We're always looking for things we can put on our monitors."

What Haddox is talking about is a sticker as thick as a magnet that, like a magnet, is reusable. The adhesive is a gel-like plastic that's sticky when clean and maintains its stickiness forever if properly cared for. When the product begins to lose its stick, you simply wash it and it's good as new.

But eternal stickiness isn't the only advantage; the adhesive is clear, meaning the back can be imprinted, too. "That extra imprint area is great for putting additional information like instructions, mission statements, directions, etc.," Riedesel notes.

Sticking To The Future Plan
All told, it might be difficult finding reasons not to consider stickers or magnets for at least some of your promotional needs. "I think magnets will continue to be a strong product for promotions," says Haddox. "There are so many new, exciting products and features being introduced every year."

That's our story, and we're sticking to it.

COPYRIGHT © 2002 The Advertising Specialty Institute. All rights reserved.
Josh Vasquez is assistant editor of Imprint.

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