Top 5 Promotional Merchandise Items in Brand Marketing

In this exclusive article for Bristol Online, Steve Hill, director of Bath-based Bag Workshop, Steve Hill, talks us through his top five all-time timeless promotional brand items.

Marketing has changed almost beyond recognition in the last twenty years or so, a shift that has been driven almost entirely by the digital revolution and the plethora of new platforms and channels it has spawned. But some things never change and in our here, today, gone tomorrow world of digital marketing, the power of promotional marketing through branded merchandise continues to exert a huge influence on consumer behaviours.

Promotional Merchandise remains a Powerful Brand Strategy

Despite the prominence of digital marketing and the huge reach it can offer, along with the numerous metrics and data it can produce on customers, promos still have a very important place in the marketing mix.

As a brand building exercise, promotional marketing offers some distinct advantages over their digital counterparts. These include:

  • Longevity and long-term brand awareness
    Promotional products are physical objects which means that they don’t evaporate into the ether like perennial marketing campaigns. A branded pen can sit in someone’s desk for years, giving long-term brand visibility that digital media can only dream about. Studies suggest that around 85% of people keep promo products for over a year and some two thirds can recall a brand on a promo product, 12 months after receiving it.
  • Substance over style
    By offering consumers something of genuine substance and not just a slick and stylish piece of branding you are able to differentiate your brand and business in a very unique way. The utility and practicality of a functional item will leave a lasting impression and help endear people to your brand.
  • Physicality and tangibility
    Numerous studies have shown how we are able to better recall information from physically printed media compared to images and text represented on a screen. The same goes for physical objects. Seeing, holding and even hearing and smelling a physical object represents a far more sensory-rich experience and will leave a far more lasting impression. This innate power of the physical is something that shouldn’t be looked at in the psychology of marketing.
  • Encourages brand defections
    Promotional products have shown to even change consumer behaviour, causing once-loyal customers to switch from their trusted brand to another, just to get their hands on a free promotional product. Whilst there is the possibility they might go back to their own trusted brand after this, it does offer the unique opportunity to win that consumer over completely.

Top Promotional Branded Merch

Let’s look now at some of the absolute all-time greatest branded promo items out there. Whilst there is an almost infinite range of possibilities out there, it’s often the tried and tested old faithfuls that will see the most popular response and give you the most brand reach.

1. Branded Bags

Without a doubt, one of the most popular choices for promotional items, the simple but enduring branded bag encapsulates everything that’s great about promotional marketing. From tote bags to gym bags, laptop bags to wash bags, not only are promo bags extremely practical for just about anyone, but they can be extremely stylish too. Because their function is to carry things, they tend to be on the move a lot as well, maximising brand exposure.

Promotional Bags

Promotional Bags © Bag Workshop

2. Clothing

Clothes are a great promotional product but only if they are done well. Unless you are one of the Redbull’s or Coca Cola’s of this world, your brand logo won’t carry the cache that many brands will carry, so style is also important. Unless the recipient is already a fan of your brand, then it’s important to go with a great and enduring design, whether it’s a baseball cap or a hoodie. Failure to invest in a good design and durable materials will result in your branded apparel ending up in the dark recesses of a wardrobe for years to come.

3. USB Sticks

One of the big risers of the last few years, USB sticks are an increasingly popular promotional item. Being small and often wedged into the pocket of a laptop bag or the USB port of a laptop or PC, their appeal is clearly their utility. Whilst they may not have the obvious visibility of branded clothes or bags, they are a universally useful item that it’s unlikely will become obsolete for many years, if not decades, to come. What’s more, you can even pre-load them with your own marketing materials, in the form of PDFs, videos, images and website links.

USB Sticks

4. Pens and Pencils

Like the ubiquitous branded bag, pens and pencils can get a lot of exposure simply by the fact they will live on your desk and get taken to meetings and other work events. Their simplicity and enduring utility also make them a promo that is unlikely to get thrown away (although, unlike the trusty USB drive, they will end up binned once they run out of ink/lead).

5. Mobile Accessories

It’s almost a cliche to say that mobile phones are ubiquitous these days. It’s this frequency of use in our everyday lives that makes the potential reach of mobile phone accessories so popular. Of course, the problem with something like a mobile phone case is that not everyone has the same mobile phone. That being said, opting for a very popular model (the iPhone certainly springs to mind) is always going to find an audience.

Mobile phone case

Having worked in marketing for over a decade, Steve Hill was instrumental in founding Wurlin Promo; under which he setup Bag Workshop and Umbrella Workshop. You can connect with Wurlin on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.