Look around you – at your desk, purse, or wardrobe. You will most probably own a promotional product. Promotional products are mainly free items that include the company’s name, logo and message on them.

Examples include pens, polo shirts, mugs, calendars and other free giveaways. Promotional gifts are considered one of the very first techniques used in advertising.

According to ASI (Advertising Specialties Impressions Study), promotional products are still the most highly viewed form of advertising amongst customers, even though TV and digital marketing have grown rapidly.

This is why companies still follow this giveaway advertising technique to this day. According to research, American businesses spend $20 billion per year giving promotional products.

Promotional products have long been a popular marketing tactic for businesses to raise brand awareness and engage customers. Items like t-shirts, pens, or drinkware imprinted with a company’s logo and messaging are common giveaways at trade shows and events. However, when used strategically in an integrated campaign, promotional products can be extremely effective brand-building tools for small and medium enterprises.

How to use promotional products featured image

Unlike fleeting advertisements, promotional items provide lasting visibility and reminders of your brand as customers interact with them daily. The recipient essentially becomes a free brand ambassador. These physical items also lend themselves to personalization and creativity, forming meaningful connections with recipients. With careful product selection and messaging tailored to business goals, promotional products can boost brand recall, increase customer retention, motivate sales teams, and more.

This guide will explore the diverse range of promotional product categories, best practices for integrating them into your marketing plan, and strategies for maximizing ROI from these deceptively powerful items. Promotional products are far more than just giveaway swag when leveraged effectively.

For modern marketers, promotional products and newer forms of advertising can even go hand in hand.

In addition, Fortune 500 companies such as Pfizer, General Motors and AT&T spend $85, $80 and $58 million, respectively, on free giveaways. This verifies that promotional products do work, but what exactly makes them effective?

Promotional products brand awareness stats
Even seeing your logo once can have a huge impact on consumers. Image credit: 4imprint.
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What Makes Promotional Products a Great Marketing Tool

Promotional products have been consistently popular for centuries. The key to this is that they just work. Here are some of the more specific reasons that promotional products are an effective advertising method:

Principle of Reciprocity

To succeed in promoting your company, you will have to understand how customers think and react. That’s why many successful marketers often employ psychologists to understand customers more and appeal to them.

This theory states that when a person gives, nothing is lost.

People give, and others receive. Then they also give, and others receive. This process is essentially trading, which benefited society at the very early stages when scarcity of goods and services existed.

Evolution has embedded in our brains that when we get something, we should give something back. This proves that promotional products are an effective advertising technique since they attract, engage, and compel consumers to buy.

Reciprocity can work in two different ways:

  1. On customer that receives the promotional product,
  2. Customers who use and share the free product with their friends/family.

For the consumer who receives the freebie, this could convert the person into a customer who would buy the company’s products.

On the other hand, for the person who uses the promotional gift, the more applicable the free item, the more the consumer will be likely to use it. Therefore, more other potential customers will see it.

This will make your company’s name and logo more well-known to more people. In turn, they might be converted into customers if the promotional gift is of good quality or uses attractive branding.

Sense of Accomplishment

Giving away promotional items after events gives the participants a sense of accomplishment. This is because they feel they have done something worthy to earn a free product.

This principle relates to employees as well. If employees are expected to attend their company’s events and parties, it is most likely that they are not too motivated to stay there. Thus, promotional products can encourage employee loyalty to the company.

This is because it will make your employees feel that their time spent there and their experience were worthwhile. This has to be something that your employees will appreciate.

A new mouse mat is unlikely to cut it.

In addition, promotional products also help to remind the employees of the good times they had during the event.

Each time they use that gift that has the company’s logo inscribed on it, they will recall the memories they formed during the event. This helps to foster a sense of loyalty, which can improve employee retention.


According to the ASI Global Impressions Study (2010), a promotional product is kept for 5.4 months. If we take a free bag as an example, it is kept for around 6.7 months, which results in 1,078 impressions/views per month.

The main reason behind this is that the more useful the item, the longer the item will be retained. Around 75% of customers retain a promotional gift for its usefulness.

Useful items include travel mugs, bags, facemasks and items of clothing.

Promotional products impressions infographic
Different kinds of impressions will offer differing numbers of impressions. Image credit: Fairware

Encouraging Empathy

Empathy is the ability to comprehend others’ emotions. However, empathy also has another vital role in promotional products. Empathy can support the customer in imagining themselves while using a certain product.

This allows marketers to use customers’ empathy to gain the needed benefits. This method is mainly used when marketing employees are giving demonstrations on using the company’s products.

Customers get to see similar people using the company’s product, which will let them imagine using the product themselves.

Freudian Marketing

Sigmund Freud’s theory states that several unconscious needs determine customers’ decisions to purchase a certain product. This means that touch, taste and smell are strong promoters that often cause an emotional action.

However, this effect cannot be achieved through visuals alone. This is the main reason why promo products are very effective tools concerning this theory since the free items make customers experience using the product themselves.

This is done through touch, taste and smell, considered very controlling senses for generating memories.

As a result, the memories generated will produce an emotional response, creating a connection to the product even though a choice has not been made yet on whether to purchase the product.

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Examples of different promotional product categories and specific items that could be covered:

Apparel: T-shirts, polos, hats, beanies, sweatshirts, jackets

Drinkware: Water bottles, travel mugs, coffee cups, pint glasses, tumblers, koozies

Office Supplies: Pens, notepads, sticky notes, mousepads, tech accessories

Bags: Tote bags, drawstring bags, backpacks, messenger bags, duffel bags

Home Items: Blankets, pillows, glassware, kitchen utensils, tools, gadgets

Outdoor Recreation: Golf balls, golf towels, sunglasses, beach balls, water bottles, sunscreen

Tech Accessories: Power banks, earbuds, phone cases, laptop sleeves, USB drives, chargers

Health and Safety: Hand sanitiser, first aid kits, face masks, safety vests, wristbands

The key is choosing a range of products suited to your brand image, goals, and audience interests. Prioritize useful, visible items that promote recurring exposure.

How to Use Promotional Products Online

These days, there is more to offering promotional products than simply giving merch out on a street corner. Instead, there are many massive benefits to giving away promotional products online.

Essentially, this offers a handful of key benefits for brands:

  1. It’s easier to ask for something in return for your giveaways,
  2. You can target your giveaways more closely,
  3. You can use giveaways to grow your audience on various channels.

Promotional products can be used as what’s known as a lead magnet. This is when you give something to your customers in exchange for details which will help you sell to these customers, most often a mailing list signup.

Similarly, if you give items away through existing marketing channels, you’ll know your targets are closer to purchasing.

Finally, giveaways are an excellent way to grow your audience, especially on social media. Competition-style giveaways can be implemented to offer promotional products in exchange for social shares or referrals.

Use promotional products for social engagement
Promotional products can be used as giveaways to improve social engagement. Image credit: PeerToPeerMarketing

Selecting the right promotional products for your business:

Align with Brand Messaging

  • Choose items that fit your brand image and reinforce positioning
  • For example, sustainable products for an eco-friendly company

Consider Audience and Usage

  • Pick items your target audience will find useful and appreciate
  • For B2B, select office supplies; for consumers, lifestyle items

Evaluate Visibility

  • Opt for products people will use publicly to expand impressions
  • Branded apparel and drinkware advertise while in use

Assess Uniqueness

  • Find products not commonly overused as promos to stand out.
  • Research niche items competitors aren’t using

Order Samples First

  • Get samples before large orders to review the quality.
  • Test usefulness and visibility before full production

Personalization is key – including logo, messaging, and contact info to effectively promote a brand.

The psyche of consumers why do promotional products work

Why Freebies and Not Discounts?

Even though discounts usually benefit customers by getting more value according to the paid price or saving money, it has been stated that consumers are drawn to promotional items more than discounted products.

During one experiment, researchers found that customers desired to get free promotional products more than an item for a cheaper price.

Study results show that 73% more hand lotion was sold when the item existed in a pack as a free bonus item. This figure was compared when the hand lotion was offered at an equal discount.

This shows that customers consider free items a better deal than lower prices.

How Do Companies Choose Which Promotional Gifts to Give Away?

Most importantly, promotional items should be relevant to your target audience and the company’s message. Businesses usually give away products that the target customers will use in the environment where they decide to use your product or service.

For instance, if the target audience includes corporate executives, promo products should comprise items that will be used in offices. This will make your company with them at all times and always on their minds when they make decisions.

Companies should choose promotional gifts that appeal to consumers to help emphasise their marketing message. This distinguishes the company from other competitors in the minds of consumers.

Another method is to personalize promotional gifts to make them enjoyable.

Customers like to have their names or pictures on the free items and not just the company’s logo. This will also make customers more keen to retain the promotional product, which consequently will make the company on the customers’ minds at all times.

A vital matter to ensure the success of special marketing items as a way of advertising is to give away something useful, something their customers would benefit from.

This means the giveaways should be items that can be retained or saved for a long time, for example, a pen. Companies should avoid using promotional products that will be quickly used and thrown away.

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Tips for integrating promotional products into your overall marketing strategy:

Align with Campaigns

  • Use products to supplement campaigns on social media, TV, print
  • For example, branded cups for a beverage contest

Leverage at Events

  • Give away products at trade shows, conferences, company events
  • Include in swag bags, use for prizes and incentives

Promote Launches

  • Create special edition products for new product launches
  • Build excitement and brand awareness

For Retention

  • Send promotional gifts to existing customers to solidify relationships
  • For instance, branded blankets sent seasonally

Motivate Sales Teams

  • Reward sales milestones with useful branded items
  • For example, apparel when certain goals achieved

Track Conversions

  • Use unique promo codes to measure conversions from giveaways
  • Offer discounts in exchange for sales lead data

The key is tying promotional products to broader marketing and sales initiatives through careful integration and campaign timing.

Promotional Products: They Do Work

Promotional products are not just about the customer receiving a free item. They also influence other people in their networks, giving your business the social lift needed to put your company on top of competitors.

In addition, it can provide your business with a word-of-mouth marketing boost. Moreover, it also encourages new product trials, repeat purchases and brand awareness through incentives that motivate customers to try more items from your company.

This is why promotional products and giveaways have risen rapidly through the years despite many other successful marketing methods.

So next time you’re thinking about holding an event, stop thinking about the money spent on promotional products, but rather think of the benefits your company will gain in the future.

Promotional Products FAQ:

Q: How do I choose the right promotional products for my business?

A: Consider your brand image, goals, target audience, and useful items that offer lasting visibility and reinforcement.

Q: When should I use promotional products in my marketing?

A: Strategically align promotional items with campaigns, events, launches, and initiatives to integrate them.

Q: How do I make promotional products cost-effective?

A: Order in bulk for discounts, use them sparingly for targeted campaigns, and track conversions.

Q: Should I just give away cheap promotional items?

A: Prioritize quality over quantity. Well-crafted useful items that people will keep create ongoing impressions.

Promotional Products Conclusion:

Promotional products require thoughtful selection and integration to amplify their marketing impact. When aligned strategically with branding and timed to reinforce initiatives, they provide lasting visibility and value. Invest in useful products tailored to resonate with your audiences. With careful measurement, promotional giveaways can become powerful and cost-efficient marketing assets.

2 commments on “Promotional Products: The Strategic Guide to Driving Brand Awareness Through Targeted Giveaways

  1. This is a great article! I definitely agree that promotional products can help you get your brand into the hands of more people, especially when you’re trying to build awareness for your business.

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