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Promotional Tools

By Joe Haley

Tired of using the same old promotional products in your campaigns? Think about giving an imprinted tool a try. For starters, they’re functional and appreciated by your customers. And they tend to stick around longer than some other products.

Cold, hard fact: An imprinted hammer, however useful it may be, doesn’t really afford you the type of daily exposure a calendar does. And a pair of pliers doesn’t reinforce your logo every morning like an imprinted coffee mug. Screwdrivers aren’t the walking billboards T-shirts are. But try fixing a broken table leg with a T-shirt.

But long after the calendar has run its course, the mug replaced or the T-shirt turned into a dust rag, the tool hangs on. “A pocket tool may end up in the desk drawer or it may end up in the kitchen drawer – but it’s there 10 years later,” says promotional consultant Jim Moore.

Just like other imprinted products, tools and hardware have their plusses and special features. Mulitfunctional tools or six-in-one screwdrivers, for example, have that “hey-what-the-heck-is-that?” appeal. If you walk down a hallway with a logoed coffee mug, very few people are likely to stop you and ask you what it is, says Mike Eaves, a west coast promotional products marketer. “On the other hand, if you have something that’s unique and memorable, the person who owns it is going to tend to show it around.”

So why should you consider tools when other promotional products might be just as effective? Because tools connect emotionally as old friends when they’re needed the most. They epitomize the idea of unique and memorable – especially if they carry the right message. Tools fit many price points, work in numerous promotions and can work for you, regardless of your industry.

Most of all, hammers, screwdrivers, et al. are necessities. And because they’re often used in dire situations – when something of importance is broken – the promotional message can pack a heavy-duty wallop.

The List Is Endless
One of the biggest benefits of tools is that people flat-out need them. “It’s awful when you need a screwdriver and can’t find one,” says Pat Drinkwine, promotional consultant. “If you need a hammer, maybe you can use your shoe. But a screwdriver is another thing. And a tape measure. It would be ridiculous to go across the floor with a 6-inch ruler or a tape that you’re using for sewing.”

Drinkwine’s point is important: Tools get regular use. Nuts and bolts of all shapes and sizes need tightening on furniture, appliances and toys. Rooms need to be measured for carpets, curtains or furniture. Car oil needs to be changed. Eyeglasses need to be repaired. The list is endless. “People are going to use them on a regular basis depending on where they keep them,” says Darline Colonna, another promotional products marketer. “Obviously, you’re not going to get the exposure of them hanging in someone’s office or sitting on their desk. But it’s something that’s functional that they won’t throw away.”

A stickler for brands? No problem. While there are all types of tools available, your counselor can also get you Stanley, Black & Decker, Cooper and Leatherman, if desired. “If you have a name brand associated with the item, chances are [the recipient is] going to keep it around,” says Marc Puglisi, an east coast promotional consultant.

Giving something with strong brand recognition behind it can packs a pretty potent message for your firm. “[The recipient] is going to think [your] company values quality, usefulness and function,” says tool-maker Tim Leatherman. “They’re going to think this isn’t a company that scrimps on things; that this is a company that does it right.”

True enough. But your boss may not agree and see nothing but hurdles ahead. “I think the perception persists that tools/hardware are only appropriate as a gift to men,” says product expert Rob Curtis. “Also, these types of items tend to be put away for future use, so they aren’t always in view, as opposed to a desk clock, for example.”

The Quality Issue
Can a “generic” promotional tool be of high quality? Absolutely. “I think the greatest complement for us was Snap On Tools placing an order with a counselor for screwdrivers to use as a promotional product,” Moore says.

Quality and functionality are major issues with tools and hardware, and in many respects the tools your counselor can secure for your promos are no different than those found at retail. Go to your neighborhood Lowes or Home Depot and see how many different hammers are available. Some have wood handles, others fiberglass, others steel. There are various types of heads in a variety of weights. In short, all hammers are not alike.

It’s the same with promotional tools. Check out the quality yourself. If you aren’t familiar with the tool, ask your counselor to see samples. There are different grades of metal available at various price points.

Constructing Promotions
The bottom line, of course, is whether tools can be used effectively in your next promotion. Don’t discount their ability to fit almost any situation. For one thing, many tools can support promotional themes. “Not just themes, but a particular objective,” Moore says. “If a bank wants to put more money out on loan for second mortgages or home repairs or home remodeling, tools can send that message.”

The challenge with using logoed tools, however, may lie more with your firm’s decision-makers as opposed to your customers. Getting people to think outside the box can be a bit frustrating, especially if you’ve traditionally used products like caps, calendars, mugs, etc.

“If you’re doing a computer sale, you don’t have to give out a mouse pad or a computer product,” Colonna says. “You don’t want to think ‘It’s a baseball game; [I should] give away a baseball cap.’ every time.”

And the theory that tools can only be used in promotions geared toward men is absolutely false. Being female doesn’t make anyone less prone to needing car and home repairs, which many women these days are doing themselves. “Sometimes people look at a page of tool kits and they’ll say, ‘Oh, that’s male-related,’” Colonna says. “But I think that even a dominantly female audience might like to receive tool kits because everybody can use them, whether it’s in their car, at home or at work.”

There are other applications that fit imprinted tools, too. “Depending upon the price point, they can work well in direct-mail programs, as trade-show giveaways, in safety programs, as sales call leave-behinds, even as executive or employee appreciation gifts,” Curtis says. “Advertisers often have fun matching the items’ function to the theme of the promotion with clever slogans.”

Tools are making inroads in awards programs, too. “The biggest thing that we do – and a huge thing in the industry – is safety awards,” Puglisi says. “People are looking for something different, something that’s quality.” High-end tools are in General Motors and Owens Corning catalog programs. Because of that, Puglisi says, “They’re ending up in the blue collar worker’s tool belt or garage.”

It Slices, It Dices ...
Thanks to the iMac’s intro two years ago, translucent products are still sweeping the country. What started with pocket accessories/electronics, shoes and jewelry has graduated to blenders, toasters, radios and TVs. If it’s made of plastic, chances are someone’s developed a see-through version. With tools and hardware – items traditionally dominated by metal and steel – translucence isn’t necessarily the next big thing, but computers are still an influence.

“People are constantly trying to come up with computer-related tool kits,” Colonna says. Designing tool kits for home computer users is a natural product evolution. Many owners are doing their own minor computer repairs and installing memory cards, which means they need the appropriate tools. Kits can include any number of products, such as precision and/or magnetic screwdrivers, needle-nosed pliers, soldering irons, etc.

Often, we can use a selection of tools – and in these instances a variety of tool kits are available for promotional use. Some feature only a set of screwdrivers. Others have a range of products, from levels to utility knives to squares. If a promotion requires something bigger, there are even imprinted power tools.

Another current trend is the continuing emergence of multifunctional tools. Leading the way is the Leatherman, but there are others closing in fast. Consumers are pushing the envelope, and therefore the demand for them. “You can get a multifunction tool as opposed to carrying three different items to do three different jobs,” says promotional consultant Mike Levy. “The fact that you condense five different tool functions it into one product is extremely appealing.”

Stuff To Consider
As with any product, tools have their imprinting limitations and concerns, and it’s a fairly broad spectrum. Ask your counselor which products use laser engraving, four-color photo-tech process, pad printing, engraving, etc. There are various sizes and shapes to consider, as well. Hammers, wrenches, screwdrivers, tape measures, etc., accept different methods and have different-sized imprint areas. You and your counselor need to look closely at the available imprint area and make sure it’s suitable to your promotional needs.

Also, before you do any promotion involving a tool, it’s best to check with your counselor for all the particulars. For example, if you’re using a strong brand name, find out if the manufacturer will allow its logo on the product alongside your own. If not, find out if a carrying case or pouch is available for imprinting. “Usually we’ll adapt the packaging if there’s a problem imprinting the tool itself,” Levin says.

Another concern might be the durability of the imprint. Obviously, we’re not talking fine porcelain or crystal here. A tool kit might literally get tossed into the back of a truck or a car trunk. Tools usually take a beating. Most imprints will hold up, however: “With normal wear and tear the imprint should be fine,” Colonna says.

So before you jump into your next promotion with the same products you’ve used before, consider the effectiveness of promotional tools. Because, as the song goes, “If I had a hammer, I’d hammer out a successful promotion …”

Well, at least that’s how we think it oughta go …

COPYRIGHT © 2002 The Advertising Specialty Institute. All rights reserved.
Joe Haley

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