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Promotional Desk Accessories

By Erik Caplan

People in advertising have something in common with those who work in the real estate market - they understand that prime areas are all about location. In our world, the most valuable advertising locations often comprise less than 10-square-feet - the desk or office cubicle. Cozy? Maybe not. The ideal spot for an ad message? Definitely.

Most professionals find themselves at a desk or workstation for the majority of their careers - approximately 45 years. And we're talking about eight or more hours a day, five days a week. What else occupies that space? A cursory inventory might list a computer, pens, paperwork and perhaps a family picture or two. However, there are usually far more items than these found on an average desk. A closer look reveals a mug of some kind. Those computers almost always require mouse pads, wrist pads and some sort of attachment for holding paper documents. Some folks have small clocks, pencils and paper clip holders. Those who've been around awhile might display some sort of special gift from their company recognizing their years of service. And let's not forget the telephone and all of its accessories - shoulder rests, notepads, planners, rolodexes, etc.

In case you hadn't noticed, most (if not all) of these items are imprinted, and therein lies an opportunity. Essentially, wherever there's a desk, a chance to advertise awaits. And that's where you come into the picture.

The Appeal
custom imprinted paperclip dispenser, promotional"Desk stuff is unisex, and it's not age specific," says Pam Proctor, vice president of marketing and product development at The Martin Company (asi/68915). "It's appropriate for a male or female, and it's functional. For example, a paperweight holds your papers in place. My desk has several stacks of papers on it, and I organize them with different paperweights. Just imagine that paperweight carrying someone's message every day. It's in [people's] faces every day.

"Indeed, any imprinted object found on a desk maintains a high degree of visibility - especially if the object in question also serves an essential function. Obviously, products with practical, daily applications make the most sense as desk accessories since they'll get the most use. Additionally, these items cut across the job spectrum - they're useful everywhere from doctors' offices and insurance companies to gas stations and construction firms. "The audience for desk products has a broad range - anyone who sits at a desk has potential," says Russ Rowan, director of product development for Topper's (asi/91530).

Know Thy Desk
As always, it's important to understand the needs of your target audience. Some items are designed for a more corporate setting, while others will experience a greater degree of success in blue-collar situations. For example, a wood-and-leather-covered desk calendar would have little practical use in an auto mechanic's office where oil, dirt and grease are the order of the day, while a plastic-coated example of the same item would certainly look out of place in a very pristine corporate setting. However, both clients could doubtlessly make good use of the appropriate version of this product. Business is business, after all, and everyone in business has appointments and daily responsibilities to meet.

"Desk calendars are very popular and are great sales opportunities for business-to-business sales," says Sharon Menssen, marketing manager for Norwood Promotional Products Inc. "Everyone needs a quick reference while at their desk for daily event planning and organizing."

So what about the intended recipients of the items? How much desk space do they have? Would a wall-mounted item be more practical? What colors prevail in the office space? These are important bits of information that can make the process of customizing a desk accessory for a particular client quicker, easier and more properly suited to its intended environment.

What's It Good For?
Functionality is important for people these days. Modern trends in office products seem to bear this out, with less emphasis placed on frivolous items and more focus on maintaining work-oriented themes. The bottom line: While aesthetics are still important, folks want to know the items taking up space on their desks aren't just - er, taking up space.

"We all probably spend more time at our jobs than we do at home," explains Proctor. "When something's on your desk, you're not only looking at the paperweight or whatever for its basic purpose, you're looking at what's on it and the reason you got it. [But] it still holds your papers in place."

The key to a successful desktop oriented promotion is to offer an item that will get maximum use. Clearly, if the product is in the recipient's hands or field of vision constantly, the imprinted message is also bound to find its way into their memory.

For this reason, portable office products like day-planners offer an additional bang for the client's buck, as their promotional message follows the owner to various locations where business transactions occur.

"It's a stable piece," says Rowan. "A padfolio, for example, as part of a desk accessory, is something that is used everyday. You bring it to meetings, you bring it to conventions, you bring it home. It's a great promotional piece because it goes to all these different locations."

A product with an obvious purpose also helps to eliminate concerns about adding to desktop clutter and general office sloppiness. In fact, a particularly appealing item used as a reward may inspire a messy employee to "clean up" their act.

It's Out There
The good news is that just about anything used in the modern workplace can be imprinted. You name it, and it can most likely carry a logo. While technology continually allows for the creation of new, interesting office specialties, sometimes the older, more practical items make the strongest impression. "We make paperweights," says Proctor. "They're classic. There have been new and creative items for desktop accessories, but the old standby is still a big seller.

"Like most other specialties, the addition of leather or simulated leather coverings, stone or faux-stone finishes and glass touches are popular elements, that can add to the perceived value of a product and turn the average desk accessory into a coveted award or gift. Obviously, it's important to show a client all the various options and budget levels."

Suppliers need to be able to cover different price points," says Rowan. "We offer different materials to handle this. We offer some products in polyester, but we also have simulated leather, which is a mid-range cost. But then we also offer genuine leather, which really can make an impact. We can customize our products with rolled edges, and that's nice for top executives. For middle management, if your budget doesn't warrant it, you can go with simulated leather. For front workers, if budgets permit, you can go with polyesters. The idea is to create the best-looking item you can for the money available so that it stays on the desk and doesn't end up in a drawer - or the trash."

Get With The Program
As with any promotional idea, the old adage of "programs, not products" applies to office accessories as well. For example, stock lines of pre-made desk sets that can be presented as a whole or spread out to create a continuity campaign. Here are a few other program suggestions:
  • Corporate Gifts: Thank a colleague for their continued business or support.

  • Policy Reinforcement: What better way to be sure everyone in the office has a solid grasp of the company's mission statement than to put it right on their desk in a functional way?

  • Incentive Awards: Reward employees who complete education courses or achieve their goals.

  • Special Events: Make your sales meeting, conference, trade show or seminar memorable with imprinted items.

  • Work Anniversaries: A special desk item can show a valued employee that their years of work are appreciated.

COPYRIGHT © 2003 The Advertising Specialty Institute. All rights reserved.
Erik Caplan

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