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Promotional Auto Accessories, Car and Vehicle Products

Supercharge Your Promos With Auto Accessories
By Josh Vasquez

Next time you're on the road, try to find one car - just one - without some kind of auto accessory on or in it. From bumper stickers and antenna décor to safety kits and sunshades, accessories are ubiquitous. Not only for the utilitarian aspect, but because they say something about the driver.

Cars are a lot more than transportation. They make statements, confirm status and endorse identity. And drivers like to reaffirm that message. How? They accessorize. From simple bumper stickers to high-end gadgets, people love products that enhance their automotive expression and experience.

Every year, the auto accessories product mix grows larger with creative new items (and new twists on old stand-bys). If you've never used them as part of your promotional blend, you could be missing out on a potential truckload of response and appreciation.

Vehicles For Your Message
Think of auto accessories as vehicles that drive your ad message home. Whether inside a car providing a service to passenger or driver, or flying from a car window, accessories can deliver your message to thousands.

"The visibility of the product is what makes it so effective," says promotional consultant Uri Rosen. "With something like an ashtray, you only see it if it's in someone's office."

Car accessories, though, hit the road. "Car & Driver magazine said the automobile is the living room of the '90s," says Butch Marshall, another promotional consultant. "Because people now spend so much time in their cars, it's [a great] time to send your message."

Consider this too: Radio ad sales rose to nearly $20 billion in 2000, nearly double their volume in 1994. In most cases, the ads were intended to reach drivers in traffic. But, a radio ad is heard, then gone. A logoed item is always around.

Who's Drivin'?
Another factor that makes auto-related products effective is their adaptability and widespread use. They're as frequent as cars themselves. "Just about everyone has a vehicle," says counselor Bob James. "That makes it a universally applicable area. You're not talking about a tool only some people will use or a jacket some people don't like."

And contrary to popular belief, auto accessories aren't limited to advertising for - or to - the automotive market. "People think auto dealers are the most logical places to use automotive products, but less than 5% of our sales are to dealers," says counselor Bob Bogle. "It's a broad range, from Internet companies to lawyers' and doctors' offices to mom-and-pop operations." Dave Craig, a promotional consultant, agrees: "It reaches down to all markets and market levels."

So consider the broader opportunities. In one case, a Boston law firm sent 250 clients auto safety kits as holiday gifts. The reaction from clients was so positive that the firm instantly ordered another 50.

Play To The Image
"People buy cars based on how they want to be perceived," says counselor Michael Joyce. "There's a ton of identity in cars, and how they're accessorized falls into that category. You don't find many doctors in Corvettes, because that's not the image they want to cultivate. They're in Audis and BMWs - cars that portray a sensible, successful image."

To find the most effective auto product for your target audience, do a little digging; identify a typical car that market would likely drive - or would like to drive - and play off its image. For instance, someone driving a new Porsche or Ferrari would hardly be attracted by a "domestic classic"-themed auto-related promotion.

"Their cars are extensions of themselves," affirms Bogle. "Once someone has that extension, they want to build on it and maintain it."

Practical Transportation
Of course, the outward expression of tastes, status, identity, etc. isn't the only angle for auto accessories. Utilitarian products are also effective; people appreciate the functional side of things. And though, admittedly, more pedestrian products may pack less of an initial impact, their long-term staying power can offset that.

"When you receive a functional product, there's satisfaction there," says Joyce. "But when you actually have to use it, the ad value for the company who put its name on it gets a double effect. That corporate name gets driven home."

Safety Sells
As you might expect, a large portion of auto accessories involves safety-related items. Whether it's getting the right child seat or checking the air pressure in the tires, car safety is always a good choice. Some of the many safety-related products available for imprinting include battery chargers, jumper cables, flares, flashlights, safety gloves and vests, first-aid kits, tire pressure gauges and pumps, glare guards, crash-tested safety belt adjusters and automotive escape tools (if trapped inside a car). All of these products do a great deal to foster good will; they show you genuinely care about the recipient.

Additionally, people rarely buy such items for themselves, which makes it even more likely the product will be appreciated. "They know it's something they should have to be prepared, but they just never get around to getting one," James says.

Something Old, Something New
Tried-and-true products are still the name of the game in auto accessories, but with a few innovative changes. "From where it was 10 years ago, the auto products available have changed dramatically," says Joyce. "But there really isn't much happening that's new. It's more the enhancements that have gone into the products."

Some stalwarts that have gotten makeovers include keytags, bumper stickers, sun shades, maps/atlases, travel mugs, air fresheners, license plates/frames and mud flaps.

The Road Ahead
The promotional future of auto accessories seems assured. Not only are cars becoming more sophisticated and technologically advanced, but more numerous as well.

There were over 250 million at last count. That's 250 million possible places to display your logo or ad message or logo. Not bad.

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

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