What Good Are Imprinted Promotional Items in Cause Campaigns?

Joanie Loves Tchotchkes

It’s September and next month is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so magazines across the United States are filled with breast cancer goodies.

The ad above is from Successful Promotions magazine, a kind of in-house organ/catalog from the Advertising Specialty Institute, a trade group for the advertising specialty industry.

Successful Promotions frequently weighs in on the business value of imprinted promotional products for cause campaigns, which I’ve never found entirely persuasive.
Most trade association web sites have a research section that tells you how important they are to the world of commerce, usually in excruciating detail. Aside from a fact sheet like entry stating that more than $18 billion in advertising specialties were sold in the United States in 2006, I didn’t see a corresponding section on ASI’s website.

I went looking for that missing section to answer questions like: “what role do promotional products play in business?” What proof is there that promotional products increase employee morale? Move the sales needle? Increase brand awareness or customer loaylty? Help nonprofits raise more money? Etc.

I expect that carefully-selected promotional products could help do any those things. But because of the breadth in the number and type of promotional items, how would ASI test effectiveness at a universal level?

Successful Promotions said that the Verb ball was effective. The CDC could test it because the ball had an exclusive access number imprinted on it that allowed kids full use of the website. Smart! (Although, isn't checking a fact-filled website the polar opposite of actual physical activity?)

But for every campaign that uses a promotional product well, I’ll bet there’s a million coffee mugs sold imprinted with company logos.

So here’s my question to all of you. What’s your experience using promotional products in cause-related marketing campaigns? Did it make a positive impact in your campaign? How did you measure that impact?

Please share your experience in the comments section.

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