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What is the Right Promotional Gifts for You?

What is the Right Promotional Gifts for You?

There is no single answer. As has already been said, it depends upon a whole host of variables including: you, your business, your corporate ethos and mission, your motivation, your customers, your budget.
First, you need to determine what you want the Promotional Gifts to achieve. Don't be vague with comments like "more sales"; be as precise as possible. Would you hire a sales person and give them a target of "more sales"? Of course not. So demand some measureable performance from your Promotional Gifts (only a very small percentage of businesses actually do this).
The chosen merchandise has to make sense to your intended recipient. Does it logically tie in with your brand and company? Does it fit with the overall promotion theme and objectives?
Does it fit your budget? Bearing in mind that costs should be balanced against expected outcomes and returns. On the subject of budget, have a think about how you value the following item gifts:

A Watch

A knock-off Watch that stops working after it gets wet in a shower of rain
Yes, it sounds a little extreme, but the feelings associated with them are almost universal. How would you feel about the gift giver if they were giving the knock-off watch as a serious gift? That's the feeling you risk with your clients if
you are absolutely focussed on price ahead of quality. Will this merchandise require you to change your current packaging? What supporting point-of-sale material will be required? How will you get that, and the merchandise, to the point(s) of distribution? Create a written marketing plan for the merchandise that clearly defines what will be used, how and when it will be used, why it is being used, what the outcomes will be; when the promotion or event starts and finishes, and who is responsible for each step. Once you create your first plan, this can become the template for future plans.
IMPORTANT TIP
Leave room in your plan for a post-event evaluation of the results. How well did the merchandise perform for you? What worked and what didn't? What could have been done better? What did you use to measure the results? Was that adequate? These notes will save you repeating mistakes. Now let's have a look at a few of the favourite pieces of merchandise, in no particular order. A quick note to remember: just because these are the favourites doesn't mean that you should use them. Just because everyone else is doing it doesn't mean you should. Be a leader, not a follower.

CAPS

- head and shoulders above everything else
Part of a range of headwear that also includes hats, beanies, bandanas, and hard hats. The cap is, by a huge margin, the stand-out popular choice here. Why? Because they come in such a variety of styles, and they can carry your brand very prominently.
Caps are an item that people will actually buy, and often pay up to $35 for one. So this is an item that is valued.
Caps are used by adults and children, male and female. And just about everyone has a favourite.
The flip side to the last statement is that just about everyone has a favourite, the one cap they wear by choice, relegating all the others to the wardrobe, the children, or the local charity bin.
The lesson here is to take the time to make sure your cap is outstanding, and that doesn't mean the most expensive (neither does it mean the cheapest). Make the artwork fun and interesting.
Make sure the cap suits the intended wearer. Do they prefer baseball-style caps? Do they like structured caps, or unstructured ones?
A quick look at the range offered by importers or manufacturers will show you a vast range of shapes, styles, and colours.
The truth of the situation is that the the situation is that the cap is quite inexpensive; it is the decoration that really adds to the cost.
Of course, you can always completely customise your cap and get them made just for you. Almost all caps are made offshore, so be prepared to wait up to 14 weeks if the cap you want isn't currently available.

DECORATION
Your decoration options with caps are:
screen printed - not often used, the result is usually less than good. You will often see the base design woven or screen printed onto the cap.
embroidery - the most common decoration method. Variants include 3D embroidery.
sonic welding - great when you want a metallic finish.
LEAD TIME
Your lead time for caps that are in stock and just need decorating with your logo is 7- 10 days. If they aren't in stock, be prepared to wait 14 weeks.
CONSIDER THIS
I advised a client who was ordering caps with their logo on. They wanted the caps for an Open Day event where the general public was invited. Their target audience was local families.
They chose the cap style and colour and sent me their artwork. I called them back and said: "Your logo, do you think it will still mean something in 6 months from now when the wearer has forgotten where they got the cap from? I advise that you put some sort of positioning statement across the back of the cap. It's a small extra expense that will keep your logo relevant."
The person ordering the caps, not trained in marketing at all (and quite happy to admit that), accepted my point but still only wanted the logo (3 letters) embroidered onto the caps.
What will the decoration on your cap tell someone 6 months after they get it? What will it tell the person standing next to them at the footy?
On the subject of footy, if you're in business you probably get lots of requests for sponsorship of local sports people and teams. Consider giving caps instead of cash.
Get together with another potential sponsor, have the team logo embroidered on the front, your logo on the left hand side and the other sponsor on the right hand side.
Let's say that you and the other sponsor would each have given $2000 in sponsorship (in exchange for signage, program adverts, etc).
That's $4000 in total. That could buy (for instance) 350 embroidered caps (talk to your supplier and tell them it is going to be a donation to your local team, they may just reduce the price a little for you. They may not, but it doesn't hurt to ask). The team sells the caps to their supporters and at games for $20 each. The $4000 spent on caps has generated $7000 in cash.
You (and your fellow sponsor) look fantastic, the team feels great. And you get more than just signage, you get 350 walking billboards.

Think about your local disabled athlete selling caps with your brand on them through the local supermarket, gas station, newsagent, etc. And the sports team/disabled athlete (etc) is getting a hand up, not a hand out.

 

PENS

- appearing at a desk, in a pocket, or tucked into a compendium near you
Massively popular, pens come in a huge range of styles, shapes and colours: from the very nice to the downright ugly. Pens have a variety of branding areas, allowing you to co-brand, or to put more than one message on the pen. Pens are useful, and find their way into everyday life. However, cheap pens are seen as exactly that: CHEAP. And their branding area can be relatively small. Pens come in two broad categories:
Plastic - Cheaper; used as everyday, general giveaway items.
Metal - much higher perceived value (stronger keep factor).
You can also get brand name pens (Mont Blanc, Parker, Bic, etc). These do cost more, but you are aligning your brand with the strength of the pen's brand. Almost every pen you can buy (as Promotional Gifts ) comes with black ink. If
you want blue or red ink, these will take some time to locate and your style options will be very limited.
Think about what you want from a pen with your brand on it. You want it to be used; more than just used, you want it to become the favourite pen, the one someone reaches for first when they have to write something.
This means that the pen needs to be comfortable. Get a few samples and give them to people to try (make sure include females and males in your informal focus group). Get them to write for a few minutes. Does the pen strain their hand, or is it a joy to use and easy to write with? How does the shape sit in their hand?
The reality is that you are unlikely to find a single pen that suits everyone, so there will have to be some compromises.
Do you really want the cheapest pen possible? REALLY? Let me tell you a cautionary tale that really happened (no names mentioned). A major company was hosting a huge event with an extremely high end speaker - someone who's name is instantly known world-wide. A quick thinking executive placed one of their branded pens in the speaker's pocket just before he rose to give his address.
This company, like a great many others, kept a firm eye on the bottom line and had bought the cheapest pen possible. Unfortunately for them, the speaker's message was missed as a lot of people simply watched the pen leak a huge ink stain onto the speaker's white business shirt.

White shirt, black stain, red faces. Much more damage was done (to the company's reputation) by a single cheap pen than could have been done by a whole department.
DECORATION
Generally you have three options when branding your logo onto a pen:
Pad printing - in colour, and you can usually have more than one colour. This is the most common decoration method for pens as it is quick and inexpensive. Be aware that a pad print can scratch off metal pens - your logo is gone, but the pen stays useful.
Laser engraving - the most common decoration with metal pens. Laser engraving can chip, although this is rare.
Laser engraving blacken - as with laser engraving, but with a black dye in the engraved image to make it really jump off the pen. A great choice when engraving a silver pen.
Screen printing - I have also seen and supplied a range of pens (from Inoxcrom) that are screen printed at the time of manufacture (to stunning effect).
LEAD TIME
Generally, you only have to wait 7-10 days to get your pens. But don't be afraid to ask if you need them sooner. I was able to turn around 1000 pens (including delivery) in 3 days.
If you are ordering in large quantities (generally 10,000 pens or more), you can take advantage of sourcing the pens offshore and pocketing the savings. These savings can be quite substantial.
As with caps, consider making your logo mean something by spending a little extra and having a positioning statement printed on the pen as well.

MUGS

- Let's have a coffee
Mugs are great: they have a large print area, they are used in the home and the workplace, and just about everyone appreciates receiving a good one.
A mug can carry multiple messages, or a really eye-catching design.
Mugs come in a variety of shapes and colours, giving you plenty of options to choose from.
This is another item that people will actually buy, so make sure your mug is worth them owning and using. Everyone has their favourite; either choose a good mug shape, or commission an outstanding design, or both.
People use mugs when they are in a relaxed frame of mind: having a break at work; sharing a coffee with friends; watching TV or a movie at home. They also use your mug when they are researching an opportunity.
All in all, it is a nice time to have your brand in their hands.
There are also travel and thermal mugs for a coffee on the go.
The standard can-shape mug is going to be the cheapest, but think about whether YOU would use an ordinary style of mug when you have other options available to you.
DECORATION
When it comes to decorating mugs, there are generally two choices: Pad print or kiln-fired. WARNING: Pad print is NOT permanent. It will scratch off, wear off, and disappear (over a reasonably short period) in the dishwasher.
ALWAYS ASK FOR KILN-FIRED DECORATION.
Once your decoration has been placed onto the mug, it is re-fired in a kiln to make the decoration permanent.
LEAD TIME
Generally around 7-10 days.
FREIGHT
Mugs are generally quite a heavy item and your freight cost will reflect this.
Make sure you carefully check your mugs when they arrive at your place of business. It is not unknown for handles to have broken off, and you will want to get those replaced as soon as possible.
THINK ABOUT THIS
If you want your mug to be used in your customer's workplace, consider getting a couple of different decoration options. It could be as simple as a different colour being used on half the mugs. That way if there are 2 people in the same company with your mug they can easily tell theirs apart.

STUBBY HOLDERS

- Keeping it cool
Another very popular item. A can holder made of neoprene, designed to keep your drink cool or warm. You can choose to have a base or not. You can even choose a narrower version for bottles, or a zip-up version for water bottles.
Sadly, however, stubby holders are often not done very well. Just because it is a stubby holder (note: not a stubby cooler, they don't cool anything), doesn't mean that it will be used. Have a look around at your next barbeque. Yep, you've seen those same people with those same stubby holders before.
Just like with caps, people have favourites. Remember that and don't make yours boring. If you are targeting children, their favourite might last as long as 6 months before a new favourite comes along. With adults, it could remain as a favourite for much longer.
Stubby holders have a large print area, are generally used by adults (kids might use them for soft - or soda - drinks, but generally it will be adults), and they can be squashed, dropped or even thrown without breaking.
Stubby holders are used in a variety of situations, often in times of fun and relaxation, making it another great time for someone to be holding onto your brand. Make sure you don't go cheap. The cheap ones use inferior glues and the bases can drop out. Look for a quality item (a very small extra cost), one that has overlocked seams.
DECORATION
Another product with two options: screen printing and digital sublimation. Screen printing is good for a 1-colour print; but the advances of technology mean that full colour digital sublimation is now about the same price as screen printing. My advice is always to go with sublimation. So the choice is now about the quality of the decoration.
LEAD TIME
7-10 days. However, if you are ordering a sufficient quantity, look to utilise offshore production because you really will save a lot of money. That said, I did turn around 1000 stubby holders (with a single colour print and no base) in 3 days.
FREIGHT NOTE
While stubby holders can be squashed flat, that is not how they are shipped. They are light and bulky, and have a poor weight:bulk ratio so they will cost a disproportionate amount to freight.

DRINK BOTTLES

- always on hand

Drink bottles are an excellent branding opportunity as they have a large print area and are widely used in society. Drink bottles come in a range of styles and colours, but are generally made from three materials:
Stainless steel - ensure that they are made with food-grade stainless steel. Most often supplied in the silver colour of stainless steel, but they can be sourced in a variety of colours.
Aluminium - plastic lined. Often comes in a variety of anodised colours.
Plastic - if you have any doubts, ask to make sure that they are manufactured from food grade plastics and free of dangerous chemicals like BPA. Also, the more LDPE in the bottle, the more flexible (soft and squishy) it is.
The automatic assumption is that people will use these as water bottles, but a moment's reflection will soon pick out the fault with this line of thought.
Sure, many will get used exclusively for water; but others will carry cordials, soft (or soda) drinks, iced tea, even alcoholic drinks. How will the bottle stand up to other drinks? Will it stain? Will it age faster? And if it is used to carry a milk-based drink, can it be thoroughly cleaned?

Cleaning is an important point. Bottles can often be mixed and matched with a variety of lids or straws. But how easy are these to keep clean? I heard recently (on a very well researched health report) that, because it is often in contact with your mouth, the cap of a drink bottle needs regular and thorough cleaning to keep the germs and nasty bacteria in check. And it is often overlooked in the regular cleaning cycle.
Why is that important? You don't want your customers to get sick, do you? And then for the doctor to pronounce that the drink bottle with your brand is the carrier of the germs. Not a good position to find yourself or your company in.

(Perhaps drink bottles, like clothing, should come with a cleaning advice neck tag. They don't - and that might be an opportunity for a small business somewhere: coming up with the neck tags.)
In the end, you cannot affect how your customer will use your drink bottle, but by being aware of some of the issues you can make a better choice about the style of cap and whether it should have a straw attached.
Plastic bottles are usually manufactured locally because the cost of freight makes importing them uneconomic.

Aluminium and stainless steel bottles are often imported because the costs of manufacture are so much lower in emerging economies
Because of the material they are made from, stainless steel bottles are the most expensive; and plastic the least.
DECORATION
On the positive side, bottles have a large print area; and there is an important decoration difference to a lot of other products. With most products, if you want your logo in two places, this is considered a "2-position print" and comes with an extra set-up cost.
Bottles, especially plastic bottles, are wrap-printed. The entire outside of the bottle is printed at one time, meaning you can put your logo in two places at no extra cost. This only applies when pad printing, and not when engraving.
You can also brand the lid (this is an extra cost).
When you want multiple colours you need to think about whether the bottles will be printed in a 4-colour process or with spot colours. The prices vary, and you are best to seek the advice of your supplier AFTER they have seen your artwork. This means that you should have your artwork ready before you seek a quote.

Stainless steel and aluminium bottles can also be engraved. This can look particularly effective when the engraving is cutting through a colour into the bright metal underneath.

LEAD TIME 10-14 days. Because of their popularity, I would suggest that two weeks is a good minimum to work with.
FREIGHT
Drink bottles also have a poor weight:bulk ratio; expect to pay more in freight. And you can also use drink bottles in a similar sponsorship manner to caps. They are also ideal for co-branding.

TOTES

- get carried away
Totes come in a huge range of styles and colours, and they are a favourite at trade shows and anywhere that the general public is present.
They are also used as a gift with purchase. Their usefulness lives on for a long, long time.
Totes are made from a wide range of materials including:
�� Non-woven polypropylene
�� Cotton
�� Jute
�� Hemp
�� Bamboo
�� Recycled PET
Here's a trap to avoid. Let's imagine that you have determined that the people who will receive your tote are very environmentally conscious, almost aggressively so. Your choice of material is critical.
On the face of it, you may think that the recycled PET is the right solution. After all, you are making use of a waste product. Well, there are plenty of people who would object, claiming that the PET didn't need to be produced in the first place.
Natural fibres will probably be a better option here.
Totes are another item that people will buy, often as an alternative to plastic shopping bags. So they are valued, and you need to remember that. And while they are out shopping, that tote is a waking billboard for your business; make it a very attractive option, if it is an attractive tote. By the way, if you are used to the price that supermarkets charge for their shopping totes (generally 99 cents) you are going to be surprised at the real cost of a tote. Remember that the supermarket is willing to take a loss on the tote because they can make it up everywhere else. Plus, major supermarket chains order totes by the million.

DECORATION
Screen printing is the most common method. This means you can have just about anything you like. Just remember that each colour means a new screen and a new set-up cost.
FREIGHT Totes pack well and are very easy to ship around. A lot of totes will fit into one box, so freight should be quite reasonable.
TIP
In this age of cost-minimisation, many trade show organisers are cutting back and not giving people a tote as they come in the door. If your stand is giving out tote bags in such a situation, show attendees will really appreciate it.
TIP REMINDER
If you are ordering from an offshore manufacturer, make sure you have an independent quality inspection AND get a pre-production sample.

 

RULERS

- straight to the point
I know what you're thinking: who uses rulers? Well, stay tuned because despite their practicality, rulers are often overlooked as branded items. Rulers offer a surprising door into a number of market sectors, and their scope for creativity is quite high.
Rulers can be useful, and they can also be a little interesting. They come in a variety of styles that includes regular (or rectangular), triangular, scale, custom.
They come in a variety of lengths and colours (which can be PMS matched if you are ordering a sufficient quantity).
They have a large print area that does allow for some creativity in your message. They are relatively low cost; and yes, they do often get grabbed by the kids for their school pencil cases.
DECORATION
Pad printing is the method used here. And depending upon your decorator, you can get up to 4 colours printed, although most businesses stick to just 1 or 2 colours.
LEAD TIME
Generally you only have to wait 7 days to get your rulers.
SOME PRACTICAL EXAMPLES
Is your target market truck drivers? One recent conversation with a truck driver who was always having to fill in a log book uncovered the fact that he could never find a ruler to underline the latest entry. A 20cm (8 inch) ruler would have been perfect (and valued).
An accountant might want to order a ruler that has all the numbers mixed up (making the ruler completely useless for measuring, and only good for ruling). They might print the following message on the ruler: Get your numbers back in order with us.
An architect might want a ruler that has one straight edge, while the other edge looks like a city skyline.
FREIGHT
Rulers are easy to freight, with a good weight:bulk ratio.

POST-IT NOTES

- stuck on you
Just a quick note here; when a customer wants stick-on notes I always recommend the 3M Post-It Notes? because I know that I can rely on the quality.
That said, there are plenty of other, usually cheaper, stick-on notes in the market; so you should be able to get plenty of choice.
Stick-on notes are great. As I said at the beginning of this eBook, they get a lot of brand impressions out there at a very economical price. I have even used pads of stick-on note pads as business cards.
Stick-on notes cone in almost any shape you like. The ones most people are used to seeing and using are square or rectangular, but you can have them custom-cut to any shape you desire (for an extra cost, of course). For instance, imagine a winery with stick-on notes in the shape of a wine bottle or a bunch of grapes.
Despite their usefulness, I find that stick-on notes are seriously underutilised as Promotional Gifts . They're not seen as sexy, just really useful.
They are used in the office, in the home, in the car; and they hang around.
Stick-on notes are easy to include in a mail-out, and just as easy to pop into a goodie bag at trade shows. And even in this electronic age they have maintained their usefulness.
Remember, this is another item that people buy, so they really do value stick-on notes.
DECORATION
Stick-on notes can be printed in full colour, and there's plenty of room for your message. Just remember to leave enough room for them to fulfil their purpose (carry a hand-written reminder) or they will simply be consigned to the trash.
LEAD TIME
7-10 days.
FREIGHT
Another item with a good weight:bulk ratio. Expect to pay a fair price for freight.

 

MAGNETS

- something to get attached to
Magnets are another item that hangs around, often on the fridge at home. Fridge magnets pin up school notices, photos, reminders, just about anything. And fridge magnets are (probably) the most common form of magnet produced as Promotional Gifts ; although there are magnets for vehicles as well.
DECORATION
Screen printing, digital printing, or 4-colour process printing are the most common methods. It all comes down to the complexity of the decoration, the number of colours, and the number of magnets being ordered.
Screen printing is common when only one colour is being printed; and digital printing is common for smaller runs.
LEAD TIME
7-14 days. For larger orders, allow up to 28 days. Because of their weight, it is seldom worthwhile sourcing magnets from an offshore manufacturer.
FREIGHT
Magnets tend to be heavy for their bulk. Freight will be an important consideration.

As I pointed out earlier, it is important to know about your customer and to know how they will interact with your chosen Promotional Gifts . Only then can you make the right product selection. There are literally thousands of options, and we have only looked at a handful.
IMPORTANT TIP
Remember when you learned that more than ? of business people keep their Promotional Gifts for more than a year because it was useful? Well, quality also plays a big part in this. Cheap and nasty is unlikely to be kept for very long at all. Quality products mean that the cost per brand exposure diminishes over time and continues to diminish as the product is kept and used.
IT SHOULD BE OBVIOUS
Make sure the product you choose matches your target's behaviours. Don't give me branded golf balls if I don't play golf. Don't give me a USB if I am always behind the wheel of my truck.
It sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how often this basic rule is violated. And that most often happens because someone in your company (you) has fallen in love with a particular product, and thinks that just because they love it everyone else should, too.

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