Promotional products, or branded merchandise, are items that companies give away to increase exposure for the brand. These products are typically everyday items that people can use for various functions and contain noticeable brand information about the company, such as a logo, their business name, or a unique design.
Promotional products are often given away to employees, customers, corporate partners, and even the general public. When someone uses the item at home, work, school, or out and about, more people are exposed to the brand. Essentially, this strategy turns people into passive brand ambassadors who are building awareness and recognition for the company.
A marketing strategy that includes promotional products can be extremely useful, especially for small businesses that are trying to make a name for themselves. Entrepreneurs often struggle with creating a customer base quickly enough to generate leads and increase sales. Branded merchandise can expedite this process and quickly elevate your visibility, especially in the local community.
Pros and Cons of Promotional Products
Any marketing strategy should incorporate multiple channels to be highly effective. Otherwise, you could be missing out on key segments of your target audience. For promotional products, there are multiple advantages and disadvantages that you need to weigh against each other to determine if a campaign could work for your marketing initiatives.
Giving away branded merchandise that people can get excited about can be a very cost-effective method for raising awareness. One hoodie could be noticed by multiple potential customers in one day, and the more that person wears the hoodie, the greater your reach can climb. All those impressions came from the purchase of one article of clothing. If you are strategic with the types of products you invest in, you could keep a tight marketing budget.
Con: Less Control Over Results
By putting your advertising impetus on other people, you have less control over the potential reach. You can’t force the owners of the items to use them in public, so once they are given away, you have to hope that they see a lot of use. Plus, it is harder to target specific audiences since you are not sure how that person plans to use the product and if it will be exposed to people who could benefit from knowing about your brand.
Pro: Geographically Advantageous
By giving away promotional products like t-shirts, hats, stadium cushions, lighters, and other useful items in a certain geographical location, you can almost guarantee that they will be seen by others in the local community. If your business depends on local customers, this can be a great way to increase your visibility to the audience segments that are most likely to buy from you.
Con: Market Saturation
There are a ton of promotional products out there, which means that your competitors are probably making impressions on your audience as well. While you don’t need to have a degree to design cool graphics, finding a way to make your merchandise stand out from the rest can be difficult. Since the market may be saturated with branding from your competitors, it could slow down your efforts to raise awareness, reducing the return on investment.
Pro: People Love Free Stuff
Promotional products can generate excitement for your brand, especially since everyone loves free stuff. You can use them to welcome new employees to the team and show them that they are valued. You can reward loyal customers with free swag that makes them feel more connected to your brand. Give away prizes to members of the public at local events or charity races to get more people to remember you and see that you are involved in the community. Customer loyalty can be fostered with branded merchandise while achieving greater exposure at the same time.
Con: Not Every Product is a Winner
It is easy to invest in a bulk order of items that you think will excite your customers, only to find out that the idea fell flat. Some items, either because they are not popular or people already have enough of them, may not be very useful for giveaways. People will accept the gift and then it will find its way to the back of a closet or the trunk of a car, never to be seen again. This goes back to the lack of control you have over this marketing strategy.
Do Promotional Products Align with Your Business?
After you weigh the pros and the cons, even if you decide that the advantages make the investment worth it, the idea still needs to align with your business model. Do you conduct sales entirely online? Then physical products may not have the desired effect. Are you an environmentally-conscious company? Then you probably shouldn’t give away certain items like plastic water bottles.
A branded merchandise strategy should align with your overall marketing plan as well as your business’s values. This will give you a better chance of reaching more customers and presenting a unified message to the target audience.