Promotional Merchandise – A Powerful Tool to Promote Business

Promotional Merchandise – A Powerful Tool to Promote Business


Promotional merchandise, promotional items, promotional products, promotional gifts, corporate gifts or advertising gifts are (often branded with a logo or slogan) used in marketing and communication programs. They are given away to promote a company, corporate image, brand, or event at trade shows, conferences, and as part of guerrilla marketing campaigns. Promotional merchandising involves offering promotional products to assist companies and other organizations advertise their products and services. According to the Advertising Specialty Institute, approximate 1 million different products are available for use in promotional advertising campaigns and promotions.


The first known promotional products in the United States, are commemorative buttons dating back to the election of George Washington in 1789. During the early 19th century, there were some advertising calendars, rulers, and wooden specialties, but there was no organized industry for the creation and distribution of promotional items until later in the 19th century.

Jasper Meeks, a printer in Coshocton, Ohio, is considered by many to be the originator of the industry when he convinced a local shoe store to supply book bags imprinted with the store name to local schools. Henry Beach, another Coshocton printer and a competitor of Meeks, picked up on the idea, and soon the two men were selling and printing bags for marbles, buggy, whips, card cases, fans , calendars, cloth caps, aprons, and even hats for horses


When you are starting out with promotional products, the array of options might be totally
overwhelming, but it helps to identify them by group first. Following are given below options-

  • Apparels
  • Pen /Stationery products
  • Desk/Office/Business accessories
  • Calendars
  • Bags/ Travel gear
  • Glassware/ ceramics
  • Mementoes/ Trophies
  • Clocks/ Watches/ Emblematic jewellery
  • Magnets/Buttons/Badges/Ribbons/Stickers/Lanyards
  • Automotive accessories
  • Sporting goods/Leisure products/Travel accessories
  • Computer / IT products / Accessories
  • Games/Toys/Playing cards/Inflatable items/Soft toys
  • House-wares/Tools/ Utility products
  • Textiles
  • Electronic devices/Phone cards/USB sticks
  • Personal pocket/Purse products
  • Food gifts
  • Retail vouchers
  • Corporate hospitality events/ days out


The stickier your brand, the more effective your marketing and advertising will be. Stick-ability is what you most want to achieve out of any form of marketing. Quite simply, if they see or hear your name, and are aware of you for more than the 5-30 seconds it takes to see your billboard, hear your radio advertisement, see you pop up on Facebook, or view your magazine or newspaper ad, then you have some level of stick-ability. That’s what’s so great about promotional products – they have the power to dramatically increase your stick-ability. The very best promotional products don’t just identify your brand, they actually generate measurable results so long as these four rules are followed:

  1. They must be Audience Appropriate-There is no point in giving business card holders to toddlers, or USB sticks to an athletic club, when sipper bottles or training towels would be far more appropriate.
  2. They must have an Effective Marketing Message – A clear call to action that tells people what to do, where to go, and why they should notice.
  3. They must appeal to Targeted, Qualified Prospects-Instead of trying to market to ‘everyone’, instead be selective about who your target market really is, where to find them, and what their most compelling reasons might be for wanting what you are selling.
  4. They must be given out at the Right Time. The only difference between salad and garbage is timing – it’s the same with your marketing thrust.


  1. Employee Recognition -Many companies don’t use incentives with certain categories of employees for fear of igniting harmful competition within their ranks or because they’re unable to single out an individual’s incremental performance in a clearly measurable way. Instead, companies often give managers a discretionary budget that may be spent on gifts to recognize employees for exceptional behavior. Actions worthy of special recognition include going “above and beyond” to please a customer, putting in long hours to complete a project on time, making a cost-saving or productivity-enhancing suggestion, or completing a big sale. Some executives would argue that such actions are expected as part of an employee’s job and should be rewarded at performance-review time. Yet, the evidence suggests that carefully timed and appropriate gifts not only make people feel appreciated for their performance, they also increase the chances people will feel good about going the extra mile in the future. When giving gifts for special performance, make sure the gift is appropriate to the employee receiving it and the presentation is made in a personal and, if possible, public forum. The recipient and his or her colleagues must know why the gift is being presented. Publicity in the company newsletter, or even an announcement in the lunchroom, ensures that people know the types of behaviors the organization wants to promote. Gifts are also typically awarded to employees for years of service and farewell.
  2. Customers – With today’s increased emphasis on corporate ethics, you need to scrutinize not only the gift and the recipients, but the nature of the presentation. After you’ve determined which clients can accept gifts, think carefully about the gift and how it’s going to be given. If you ship gifts to recipients, you miss an invaluable opportunity to reinforce the relationship between your employees and your customers. Gifts have the most impact when presented personally by the people who have direct contact with buyers. Imagine the surprise when your customer gets a gift from their customer service representative!
  3. Consumers – Merchandise or non-cash awards given to consumers usually fall under the category of premiums or awards associated with sweepstakes and games. The idea is to spur behavior by making an offer. In contrast, gifts reward consumers after the fact, and the aim is to surprise the customer and build long-term loyalty. Thus, the key to using consumer gifts is to have a specific strategy and target customers whose volume you can track over time. Example: A supermarket chain wants to increase usage of its preferred-customer card so it can track its customers’ purchase patterns more precisely. It has offered incentives to get people to sign up and use the card, but usage has begun to trail off. As part of its effort to keep up interest in the card, the supermarket sends out a surprise gift with a thank-you letter from the president to all shoppers who have used the card to purchase more than Rs. 5000 in groceries in a given month.
  4. Vendors -During the heyday of the total-quality craze in the 1980s, companies recognized the importance of building close relationships with suppliers. The trend continues today, as manufacturers and retailers alike depend upon just-in-time deliveries and companies of all types demand the best service for the lowest price. Despite these concerns, surveys generally show that vendors are among the least likely businesspeople to receive gifts. If your company depends on excellent service from a few vendors, you may be surprised by the long-term impact of sending a few gifts – not only to your customer service representative, but, if possible, to the people who do the work.
  5. Media – Most daily newspapers and many consumer magazines have strict policies about giving gifts to editors and reporters, but they’re often overlooked if the gift is simple, tasteful and appropriately timed so it doesn’t look like a bribe. A very small, imaginative gift sent with a press release will increase the chances of your message being read, and that could translate into wider coverage. Be wary of sending gifts to consumer journalists whom you or your public relations people do not know personally.
  6. Government Officials/ Politician -Many businesses depend upon good working relations with government regulatory bodies or town officials. When regulatory officials or politicians are involved, proceed with caution! However, when it’s a question of municipal workers who perform services such as trash pickup for your business, a special gift at holiday time often earns a year’s worth of more attentive service.


Promotional gifts reach a much wider audience and are targeted towards customers and consumers instead in order to increase brand awareness and promote customer loyalty. Many companies implement promotional items as a way to simply make consumers more aware of what their business is all about in the hopes of increasing their customer base. Other companies will use promotional items as a way to market a specific range or product.

Promotional items have the potential to act as ongoing adverts, which is why the item itself needs to be the right choice. Typically promotional items are bought in bulk such as pens, caps, coffee mugs, t-shirts, bags etc. because they are cost-effective. It is important that promotional items are practical and that recipients can use it on a daily basis. The more promotional items are exposed to a variety of different people, the better the chances are of some taking note. For this reason pens have become a popular choice; they can be bought cheaply, are small and have high practical value.

As can be seen here, corporate gifts and promotional items serve two different purposes both with equal value. If you are considering utilizing these marketing tools be sure to think carefully about what it is you want to achieve. Are you looking to widen your customer base, or do you want to boost staff morale and strengthen current working relationships? The more you think through, plan and strategize what it is you want to achieve, the more these marketing tools can be of benefit to you and your company.


Corporate gifts are widely regarded as an effective means of strengthening corporate relationships and creating goodwill. In the past the most popular gifts used have been china and crystal, whilst desk items are currently the most used. However, corporate hospitality is strongly favoured to be popular in the future. The main objective in the use of corporate gifts and incentives is to promote the corporate image and engender goodwill. The companies believe that the most important time to use gifts is at the launch of a new service and over the Diwali, Christmas and New Year period. With regard to the cost of gifts, half of the companies surveyed paid such offerings from their marketing budget while the other half paid from special promotion budgets. Most companies purchase a mixture of gifts of different value to suit different needs. They believe that gifts and incentives have always achieved their desired objectives and consequently expect that the expenditure on business gifts will remain the same in the future.

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