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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.
  • In March 2007 Successful Promotions highlighted a campaign to draw attention to Merck’s controversial vaccine for the human papillomavirus that causes cervical cancer. The tchotchke utilized was a bracelet-making kit targeted at teen girls.

  • Also in the March issue was news of the Florida Grand Opera in Miami which gave away real stone beverage coasters on the occasion of the premier of Verdi's opera Aida.

  • In November 2006 the mag gave some pub to the Verb campaign from the Centers for Disease Control, which encourages kids 8-13 to be more physically active. The tchotchke was a yellow six-inch rubber ball imprinted with a website that encouraged kids to blog about their experience.
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.

Comments

There are many ways to prove your return on investment in regards to promotional products. First and foremost, you must have a goal in mind and a way to track your results. There is a place for the "trinkets and trash" - someone wants to get bodies in a tradeshow booth, so they just need something under $1 to attract people to the booth. In this case, they wouldn't care about residual marketing value, but instead about the immediate results. On the other hand, for an additional 60 cents, you could give away a music download that could only be redeemable online. The target audience would be asked to fill out a short survey (could include contact info for follow-up purposes), thus enabling you to prove how many people you touched while at the same time enabling you to collect real-time data from your target. For a cause-based event, perhaps your questions would revolve around their willingness or ability to donate to the cause. There are many solutions like this one - I'd be happy to discuss them with anyone who has an interest or need. Another possible consideration: my company offers affinity programs for the right fit. Many companies view promotional products as a commodity and would be very happy to switch their purchases to a distributor that would give a portion of their purchases back to the cause they support. I can help with all of these suggestions. Please contact me for more info. rkremski@boundlessnetwork.com.
There are many ways to prove your return on investment in regards to promotional products. First and foremost, you must have a goal in mind and a way to track your results. There is a place for the "trinkets and trash" - someone wants to get bodies in a tradeshow booth, so they just need something under $1 to attract people to the booth. In this case, they wouldn't care about residual marketing value, but instead about the immediate results. On the other hand, for an additional 60 cents, you could give away a music download that could only be redeemable online. The target audience would be asked to fill out a short survey (could include contact info for follow-up purposes), thus enabling you to prove how many people you touched while at the same time enabling you to collect real-time data from your target. For a cause-based event, perhaps your questions would revolve around their willingness or ability to donate to the cause. There are many solutions like this one - I'd be happy to discuss them with anyone who has an interest or need. Another possible consideration: my company offers affinity programs for the right fit. Many companies view promotional products as a commodity and would be very happy to switch their purchases to a distributor that would give a portion of their purchases back to the cause they support. I can help with all of these suggestions. Please contact me for more info. rkremski@boundlessnetwork.com.
Imprinted Pens said…
Check this out "Giving out promotional items can be very expensive, so why not get the recipients to pay? Better still, why not get them wanting to come back for more and really increase your sales?

Rather than distributing inexpensive promotional items that your recipients don’t really want and aren’t likely to keep, why not add some perceived value to the item?

Better still, why not use the promotional item to encourage them back in the future to buy more?

Sounds too good to be true? Have you ever noticed fast food chains entice children back into their restaurants by offering a different toy each week? Come back next week and you get another new toy. Maybe not a huge branding, but you know by looking at them where they are from.

What can we learn from this clever marketing strategy? Well, if you are a shop, put a little thought into some promotional items. Select items with a theme that can be developed over weeks. Maybe a different coloured item each week, a different variety or a series of characters."

Cheers,
Patrick
Todd said…
To choose a right kind of promotional products is not easy. It would be great if the product can be used everyday.
Interesting read. OK, so most of the comments on this page are more about promotional products in general, not really about cause campaigns. I think the most important issue for cause campaigns is, does the product fit the message? For instance, a human rights charity giving away Nike shoes might not be rational. However, for a "save the rain forest" group giving away reusable shopping bags would have a better effect. Not only do they get to showcase there logo, the product is in fact in tune with the message. Just my thoughts...
sale prove said…
I feel your blog really useful and inspiring me. Thank you.
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Good post! People need to get more creative with their promotional products, otherwise they just won’t have the desired impact.

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