Hi. New here? Click to learn about us

Memorable Meetings & Events with Promotional Products

By Richard Kern

Most of us have been to plenty of meetings, but how many do you really remember? An added promotional touch can change all that memory loss...

Think meetings are just a bunch of executives sitting around a conference table talking strategy? Some corporate gatherings do fit that stereotypical image. But just as many do not. Consider these examples:

A Perfect Product Introduction
To introduce Perrier-Jouet’s new Fleur Champagne to a targeted group of key restaurant owners in southern Florida, Seagram’s Chateau and Estate Wines Co. hired a Miami-based promotional products counselor to put together an unforgettable event.

Guests were transported via limousine to the yacht Carrousel in Fort Lauderdale, FL to cruise the Intercoastal Waterway while enjoying a leisurely dinner. The theme: “La Belle Époque” – the turn-of-the-century era when champagne was invented. By using pictures of the Art Nouveau furnishings and accessories on the boat, Segram’s created an atmosphere that evoked Maison Belle Époque, home of the Perrier-Jouet family in France. As an added touch, the dinner was based on actual menus from that era. “From start to finish, the event carried the Belle Époque theme,” says counselor Stacy Stern-Johnson.

The invitations for the dinner cruise were meticulously created and distributed to pique guests’ interest and establish the theme. And as a memento of the event, guests were given a personalized Perrier-Jouet display bottle engraved with the invitation copy, each bottle wrapped in a custom-made Perrier-Jouet silk scarf and tied with a gold cord.

Invitations were hand-delivered to the 125 guests by models dressed in period costumes who arrived in limousines at a time specifically selected by recipients. “The challenge was to come up with an invitation that would entice jaded, over-committed and extremely busy restaurateurs to attend a dinner hosted by Perrier-Jouet,” explains Stern-Johnson.

Other touches included throw pillows and server aprons imprinted with the Perrier-Jouet name and artwork, and guests were given photos of the event in frames bearing the Perrier-Jouet logo, as well as printed menus and Fleur champagne glasses, all presented in a special imprinted bag.

Results: Response to the invitations was over 90%, and Stern-Johnson says the event was such a success that no one wanted to leave, adding “[Seagram] was so pleased with the sales results, that our client was promoted.”

A Culinary Coup
To help defray the cost of its annual “reservations-only” dinner, the Los Angeles Culinary Institute (LACI) seeks out corporate sponsors who often use gifts as incentives to attend. Each dinner has a theme. A few years ago, the Institute chose one of the hottest media crazes at the time – the ill-fated passenger ship Titanic – as its focal point.

Inspired by the top-grossing, Academy Award-winning film of the same name, LACI decided to prepare the exact same nine-course dinner that was served in the ship’s Ritz dining room the night it struck an iceberg and became the stuff of folklore. The décor for the event also mirrored that of the famous ocean liner, and guests were asked to come dressed in formal attire.

One of the sponsors for the dinner was ANPC, whose products include phonecards. To promote itself and its products, ANPC decided to hand out “boarding passes” — special 12-minute, die-cut phonecards attached to miniature posters of the White Star Line (Titanic’s operator) to all 150 guests as they arrived for dinner.

On the back of the miniature poster were 13 interesting facts about Titanic, as well as a set of numbers. Once dinner was underway, additional Titanic-themed phonecards were awarded as prizes for those whose numbers were drawn at random. Other prizes included original Titanic posters and commemorative phonecoins bearing the ships’s image minted in nickel silver, pure .999 silver and .999 fine gold.

Results: ANPC president Richard Nelson says, “Not only was the Culinary Institute extremely pleased with the turnout and everyone’s reaction to the gifts and prizes, but the items turned out to be some of the most popular phonecards ever issued anywhere due to their desirability and limited availability.”

Innovation Is Key
Still think all meetings are the same? One thing certainly is – at least as far as the above examples are concerned – and that’s the successful use of promotional products to make these events more memorable.

Advertising veteran Robyn Kinard suggests seeking out items that: 1) promote the event/meeting, and 2) are relevant to the meeting but also hit home with the attendee. “Everyone gets the bag with the portfolio, pen – the standard stuff,” she says. “But you need to find something they’re not just going to throw away or give to their kids when they get home. Collectibles are phenomenal. For a meeting in Vegas, I decided to do something with an Elvis postage stamp, because people associate Vegas with Elvis. So we did a very classy, framed keepsake with a lot of different elements, all coming together to produce an item with lasting value.”

It’s about figuring out what hits home with your audience. What motivates them? “Try something different,” Kinard continues. “Think. What does a coffee mug have to do with a financial planning institution? Yet, you see a lot of meetings giving away that kind of stuff. The real reward comes from that extra thought, making that connection, identifying with that target. Don’t be afraid to spend a little bit more money – especially with a smaller, higher-profile group like you typically find at meetings and special events.”

And don’t forget that it’s about more than just “bags of stuff” for attendees. Most meetings and special events also involve invitations, speaker gifts, badge-holders, awards, in-room amenities, wearables – even CD-ROMs of presentations and seminars so people don’t have to lug a huge binder home with them.

This isn’t a typical “commodity” sale like many large-scale consumer promotions tend to be. So take advantage of the opportunity to provide something that makes a personal connection and lasting impression.

Who’s Meeting And What For?
Companies typically hold meetings for:
  • Sales training
  • Technology training
  • New product brainstorming/research
  • Product launches
  • Cross-functional team-building
  • Sales motivation & reward
  • Market research presentation
  • Corporate transitions/strategies
  • Management education
  • Holiday parties.
As you can see, each topic presents its own unique set of challenges and objectives – as well as an opportunity to come up with a theme (and accompanying products) that will resonate with attendees. And your counselor can be a big help.

Example: When Solvay Pharmaceuticals needed a way to reinforce its corporate theme, “Building on Success” (which stressed teamwork and customer support) at its annual sales meeting, promotional products counselor Janelle Nevins stepped in with an imaginative solution.

The meeting involved 550 members of Solvay’s field sales operation. Each of the products Nevins used for the promotion in some way symbolized the idea of building future success via teamwork. Using an architectural theme to convey the idea of “building,” several products were placed inside a mailing tube reminiscent of the type architects use to store blueprints. Blueprint-style graphics adorned the outside of the tube.

When recipients opened the tube, they found an insulated travel mug with a similar blueprint design (a functional gift for field salespeople), a pair of Bushnell binoculars (to see into the future) and a miniature truck, complete with flashing lights (to signify building). All products were imprinted with the Solvay logo.

Distributed at the sales meeting, the tubes were an immediate hit with attendees. Nevins says the sales team gave the promotion rave reviews for successfully tying together message and merchandise. But best of all, the products are still being used – especially the travel mug – providing a constant reminder of the company’s commitment to maintaining a top-flight sales organization as it moves into the 21st Century.

Think Like A Meeting Planner
In a way, meetings and special events are a lot like most promotions – you need to know the audience and objectives before you can put together a winning package. But corporate events expert Andrea Graham says there are specific points you should discuss with your counselor that can help you design a better program:

Objectives. ROI is what it’s all about these days, so most every event has to have clear-cut goals. Is it designed to build morale? Roll out a new product or service? Honor top achievers? Encourage team-building? Objectives should be specific and measurable.

Budget. How much has been allocated to “miscellaneous” or “other” expenses (this is typically where promotional products, gifts and awards are categorized)? And don’t forget other areas like food and beverage, travel, speakers, exhibit services – any place there might be an opportunity to select a product that could enhance a particular part of an event.

Audience. Is the event being held for employees, dealers, customers? Will spouses be invited? Is the audience predominately male or female? What’s the financial status of the group? Average age? This info will help you select products and design promotions with impact and staying power.

Transportation. Are there opportunities to tie travel into product selection? Is the meeting being held in some remote location? How will attendees get there? How will they move from one event to another? Are there off-site receptions planned? A 20-minute bus ride is a great time to distribute logoed products and create a memorable experience.

Theme. Different from objectives, this will help you decide how to package the meeting – what kinds of products to buy, color, material, imprint (is there a mission, slogan or catchphrase associated with the event? How many years has the event been held? What kinds of activities are being planned that might play off the theme?)

Time Frame. Not just when the event itself begins and ends, but when and where promotional items, have to be in order to be distributed to attendees. As always, leave yourself plenty of time to take care of last-minute changes or additions.

Site. Where is the event being held? Does this present any opportunities or ideas for products and/or presentation? Can you tie the venue into the theme? Is it being held indoors or outdoors? Will attendees be moving from one site to another? Does the geographic location (New England, Southwest, mountains, beach) suggest an obvious theme, product or program?

As you can see, there are myriad opportunities to tie promotional products into meetings and special events – many you may not have previously considered. So do your next event right. Call your counselor and brainstorm some ideas, themes and products that will make your meeting – and its message – stand out.

COPYRIGHT © 2002 The Advertising Specialty Institute. All rights reserved.
Richard Kern

Search our Selection of Promotional Products for Meetings and Conferences - click here!