Hi. New here? Click to learn about us

Promotional Marketing: 8 Areas of Opportunity

By Leslie R.Wolff

Early in my career I was in premium sales, which evolved into offering full promotional services. I mostly focused on the area of custom programs, often directed to children or their parents. I created programs for fast food, retail, packaged goods, consumer hard goods, airlines, hardware, etc.

Put Into Practice
Let me share a couple examples of how my colleagues and I put these guidelines to work for our clients.

A major international airline had a problem with children on its flights getting bored and disturbing other passengers. We took that problem, created an animated spokesperson and developed "Pierre Panda's Fabulous Flying Fun Kit." We took into consideration the space limitations on the airplane and the needs of on-board personnel. The airline purchased more than 250,000 kits a year for many years. It even ordered a special version for the German market.

A pharmaceutical company had a product that treated children with asthma. In our discovery phase of learning about the product and the client, we found that children with asthma were suppose to practice lung exercises but often failed to do so. That led to the "Huff & Puff Fun Book and Kit," packaged in a can. It was delivered to physicians in a six-pack and distributed by them to parents of patients. The client ordered 80,000 cans and 250,000 booklets.

There are opportunities all around us if we're willing to take the time to listen and do some "outside-the-box" thinking. Consider the following eight opportunities and how they might open doors with your clients:

1. Integrated Marketing
Integrated Marketing is the mantra of 21st century business. Funny thing is, it was the same in the last century. When I started out in the late 1960s/early 1970s, firms were asking how to integrate their communications efforts for maximum impact and cost efficiency. Now they're screaming about it in a communications environment that's smothering itself in communications clutter. As bad as that sounds, it's an ideal environment for the unique characteristics of promotional marketing. These days it's called "alternative" or "nontraditional" marketing - print or TV campaigns with outdoor, CD-ROM and/or Web components. And imprinted products, of course.

2. Advertising
Promotional products can transport the slogan, graphics or message of an advertising program from a jumbled scenario to one in which the delivery is focused, clear and well received. How? They extend communications through reproduction of print advertisements and broadcast messages. They also enhance direct-mail response, promote TV sponsorships or increase exposure of key graphics and copy to specific targeted groups (see Integrated Marketing).

3. Public Relations
PR is a credibility-building factor, and promotional products boost the value of press releases. For example, by adding an element of intrigue and dimension, they improve the effectiveness of press kits. Plus, distribution of an imprinted gift at a special event can lengthen its reach and/or the amount of press coverage generated.

4. Promotion
Promotion, more than most other marketing tools, is considered measurable because it drives traffic by offering a reward for visiting, making a purchase or participating in a contest, survey, etc. Premiums are very effective in causing a favorable purchasing decision or gaining extra display space. And they should always be imprinted.

5. Change Management
The business environment is changing rapidly, partly due to debacles like Enron, the vagaries of the stock market, evolving technology and a much more intensely competitive marketplace. Result: Clients are coming to rely on their vendors more and more for ideas on how to better serve, communicate, enhance customer relationships and motivate employees/salespeople. These are all areas where promotional products and programs shine. For example:
  • Customer-Retention Programs constantly communicate how much loyalty is appreciated. These may be in the form of recognition awards, personalized items, survey incentives, etc.

  • Influencing-the-Influencers Programs. Clients don't live in vacuums; they're surrounded by people who influence their perceptions. Small promotional gifts to receptionists, assistants, secretaries and management staff can have a significant effect on the reception a vendor receives vs. that of their competition.

  • Customer-Care Programs show that companies are listening to their customers in bad times as well as good.
A small, imprinted thank-you gift recognizing the contribution of "complainers" gains their loyalty. This also gives your client a way to constantly monitor customer-service levels. Those requesting information might get a plastic Rolodex card with names of key personnel who can be contacted for future information. Phone orders should be acknowledged with a note and a gift showing appreciation for the business.

6. Lead-Generation Programs
These are most successful when designed to communicate from the perspective of the targeted audience, with a focus on the benefits to be received, not the features of the product or offer. How?
  • Use dimensional mailings as a prospecting technique. The curiosity factor of a "packaged" mailer plus good teaser copy dramatically increases how many people read the message. The more readers, the higher the response rate.

  • Promotional postcards are another effective way of generating leads. Prospecting that combines a creative message with a contest/sweepstakes tied to a Web site is another successful approach.

  • Traditional "gift-with-purchase" for agreeing to an appointment or demonstration is still very effective.
7. Trade Show Marketing
We attend between 15 and 20 trade shows each year, and we see a tremendous amount of promotional products in use. Unfortunately, more than 90% seem to have no marketing plan in mind other than to give imprinted products away. There's nothing wrong with that if the goal is to create some awareness of the company. But promotional product marketing can do so much more for the trade show exhibitor. For example, offer:
  • a gift if prospects listen to a presentation

  • a gift if they make a purchase at the show (encourages a decision on proposals that might be sitting awaiting action)

  • a gift if they fill out a survey or information request forms

  • a drawing to generate traffic

  • a pre-show mailing to key customers and prospects with a reward for stopping by the booth for a presentation.
8. The Internet
Many businesses have learned the hard way that simply putting up a Web site doesn't guarantee traffic and sales. In fact, finding viable information on the Internet requires patience, a high-speed connection and a great deal of luck. Companies wanting to promote their Internet presence can use promotional products in a number of ways, including as vehicles to carry a URL address or as prizes for a monthly contest held for visitors to a Web site.

A Parting Reminder
Despite all the opportunities that exist, there are still some basic points you need to stress to maximize success. Some of the unique characteristics and benefits of promotional product marketing are:
  • Hands-on interaction. This medium is actually handled as well as viewed

  • Reinforcement. Promotional products strengthen a company's overall marketing theme, corporate philosophy or whatever it wants understood.

  • An uncluttered environment. In many situations, promotional products are delivered, used and receive repetitive exposure without any other form of advertising around.

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

Search our promotional products - click here!