Are promotional products worth it?

by on October 27, 2012

Promotional products – branded clothing, gadgets, accessories… they can be a part of your marketing strategy, but have you ever wondered whether they are really worth it?

They are expensive to buy. Really expensive. So using them needs to be though through carefully. I see them working with small businesses that…

  •   do trade shows – can be a great traffic booster to your booth.
  •  sponsor events, community organizations in the local community.
  •  have a product that is beneficial to the masses, where general brand awareness would be a boon.
  •  send things out to customers. Whether the actual product you sell or educational information. A promo product can be a nice insert depending on what it is. Or it can be made part of a special promotion.
  •  have an in-person location where it’s easy to get your promo products out (versus having to mail them out).
  •  are interested in offering gifts to customers, whether through contests, a thank you for top customers or in exchange for completing a particular action, such as filling in a questionnaire.

My partner for example who does retaining walls and excavating, is thinking about getting his boys some branded t-shirts so that they look all professional and matchy matchy on the job site. That makes sense to me.

A few tips from my personal experience…

  • the cheapest options sometimes can back-fire. Think about what a poor quality product says about your brand.
  • be realistic about the numbers. You can get sucked into buying too much because the price is better. You don’t want boxes of the stuff lying around for years.
  •  As much as possible, make the connection between the promo product and your brand make sense. Too often promotional products are really random.
  •  Make the products useful. What would people actually want in their lives?
  •  Make the products enticing. Would people actually be excited about receiving them?

At a previous job at a local tofu manufacturer one of my responsibilities was preparing for trade shows and deciding on the types of promotional products to use. One of the most successful we used was all natural lip balm that matched the flavour of the dessert tofu. They went like hot cakes at the shows and people were really interested in them. And they made perfect sense in terms of awareness and connection to the business.

Interest piqued? This is a really handy infographic that gives some perhaps surprising stats about promotional products. Now you are armed to make the right decision for your small business.

5 Inspirational Ways to Use Promotional Marketing Products from

OK, so now I want to hear from you. Have you ever used promotional products in your biz? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments.

Comments, likes and tweets are always appreciated! Did I mention that I LOVE your feedback?

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

StaceyG November 8, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Being a web designer and copywriter for a promotional products company, I would have to say yes, they are worth it. 🙂

Think about the cost of an online or print ad vs. a promotional product. Most people who receive a promotional product are within the target demographic, so you can bet your ad will be seen by all the right people. Other forms of advertising can be a gamble because you aren’t sure if the people you want to see your ad will actually see it.

The fun part of it all is sorting through the hundreds (thousands?) of options of promotional products. It seems you can put your logo on just about anything nowadays! Like you said in your tips section, it’s important to give customers something useful and enticing. Nice post, Martina!


Martina November 8, 2012 at 6:01 pm

Thanks Stacey! Appreciate your comment and feedback. Good analogy with ads too – you’re right that promo products are a great way to really hone in on a specific target market. And since birds of a feather flock together, you might also get some friends and family with similar interests/values etc… being exposed to the branded product, even if they didn’t receive it themselves.


Rudee January 4, 2013 at 11:55 am

Hi I have been selling promotional products for 21 years. Yes they work, but the trend is changing due to the economy. Years ago someone would be 500 of something even though they only needed 250, because they felt that there maybe another time that they could use whatever item they bought. Today is different, if you need 250, you buy 250 and no more. Times have changed


Martina January 9, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Really appreciate you sharing your personal experiences Rudee! Cheers


Kevin Davis @ Alphagraphics June 17, 2014 at 1:32 pm

My recommendation is to give something out that will be useful. Promotional products have a high brand recall because they get used and seen on a regular basis.


Martina Iring June 18, 2014 at 11:53 am

Totally agree Kevin that your promo product needs to be useful and valuable. Thanks for stopping by!


Richard Thompson @ Alphagraphics October 24, 2014 at 3:32 pm

I cant tell you how many key-chains I have gotten at trade shows… guess how many I am using right now. You are correct, zero. I suggest useful swag. For example if the trade show starts early in the morning give out coffee cups with your company name on them and coffee in them to help people wake up. Things like that get you noticed in a more meaningful way.


Martina Iring November 3, 2014 at 8:07 am

Totally agree with you Richard. Useful is super important when it comes to promo products. And thanks for sharing that specific example – love it!


Julie January 30, 2016 at 7:34 am

Love the idea of the lip balm that matched the tofu. That’s one of the best suggestions for keeping your product in the mind (and on the lips!) of your customers I’ve heard. As a promotional products manufacturer it’s interesting to hear what small businesses want to give out to their own customers.
Julie recently posted..Why Runners Need Yoga


Martina Iring February 1, 2016 at 9:26 am

Yes, those lip balms were a great idea and so popular with customers! Thanks for checking out the post Julie 🙂


Martin Lindeskog February 12, 2016 at 11:55 am

Martina: I will have tea as my promotional product in the future. You could have an open teabag and fill it with loose tea leaves and then clips it together. On the string you have a paper note with a promo message! 😉
Martin Lindeskog recently posted..EGO Interview with Daryl Urbanski


Martina Iring February 15, 2016 at 9:45 am

That’s a fun idea Martin! I just love all the unique, creative promo product options there are out there now. Thanks for sharing 🙂


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