What are the most popular promotional products?
What are the most popular promotional products?
Well, I don't think you'll be surprised with the answer - t-shirts. You probably have a few at home right now. According to the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) about 35% of all promotional items sold fall under the apparel category with t-shirts being the largest winner by far. I mean who doesn't love a cool t-shirt with an awesome graphic or catchy quote.
Adam Nash, on his blog about psychohistory, had an interesting take on the classic t-shirt. He argued that companies should definitely be using t-shirts for incentives, creating limited editions to establish seniority, and to help foster what he calls "Tribal Cohesion":
T-shirts will always be a powerful promotional item. But enough about the power of the almighty t-shirt, that's not why you are here reading this article. You want to see the latest, buzz-worthy promotional items that will make you look like a marketing genius. So what are the most popular promotional products?
Look at Retail Trends
Yep, you can always bet that if something is trending in the retail space then it is definitely going to be a big hit on the show floor.
One example this year was how popular S'well reusable water bottles became, first in retail then in promotional items market. What makes their product stand out how the bottle allows beverages to be hot for up to 12 hours and cold for up to 24 hours because of the vaccuum insulated design. Pretty soon I saw similar products in the advertising specialty industry everywhere. Not exactly the same as S’well but the concept was there.
Pop-Sockets are another retail product that hit the promo products market big this year. In case you haven't seen one, it's an expandable device that sticks flat to the back of your phone or tablet as a media stand or easier grip for taking photos or video chat. And yep, you can definitely brand your logo all over their product. Some companies even use them as a promotional gifts to their clients.
Believe it or not, fanny packs starting becoming super popular in the last year. According to the Boston Globe in 2018 in an article entitled, "Fanny Packs: They're In Vogue. We're Not Lying",
Why not consider staying on trend with a fashionable custom fanny pack of your own?
These are just three examples but chances are if you want to buy something in retail, you can bet your target audience would love to get one for free with your brand logo all over that trade show giveaway. My suggestion, find something in retail you think connects with your target audience and then get your own version branded for your business.
Find Attention Grabbers
Okay, you might already have your personal opinion about how silly some promotional giveaways seem. But before you get all high and mighty and judgmental don't slam those wacky, fun attention grabbers you see all over the convention floor.
I remember during one trade show seeing a promo item called the flying shrieking monkey being used by hundreds of people on the trade show floor. Can't tell you how many trade show attendees lined up to get their own monkey to try out. It's fun, it's crazy, and sometimes you've got to lighten up a bit. Don't be afraid to try something silly as long as it fits your brand.
Right now I can think of a few branded items that would be awesome attention grabbers:
Fidget Spinners - don't slam it until you try it.
MopTopper Pens - it's wacky but fun to write with.
Sublimated Socks - sublimated with full color graphics.
One trick to help you find practical giveaway items is to ask yourself if you would be excited to get one yourself. And would you actually use it if you picked it up from a convention?
Awhile ago, I picked up a customized journal book from a booth during a conference that made it's way back to the office. I ended up using it for meeting notes at the office. Very simple but I got a lot of use out of it.
Try thinking about what your typical consumers like to do out-of-the office. If they are into working out, there are several products that are very practical for an athlete:
Protein shakers - it's an essential to every athlete.
Running belts - keeps them safe and helps them not worry about that pesky smart phone.
Drawstring Bags - I use mine all the time to carry my gym clothes and shoes.
Or if your target audience travels frequently, these promotional products work well:
Travel pouches - super useful for throwing in charging cables, loose coins, even business cards
Fold-up tote bags - very helpful when traveling since it's something portable and reusable.
Luggage spotters - definitely useful for those who travel often
Umbrellas - when it rains there is no better companion.
Everyday life activities like going to the store, making coffee in the morning, or writing notes at your desk may seem mundane but people will be more prone to use and reuse your marketing swag like the following products:
Reusable grocery bags - it's almost a staple these days.
Coffee mugs - who doesn't need a great coffee mug?
Sticky notes - I love jotting down quick things I need to remember.
Promotional pens - don't know about you but I use a pen everyday.
I bet you didn't know that 81% of consumers report keeping their promotional giveaways for more than a year according to the Promotional Products Association (PPAI) consumer study. Handing out practical products goes a long way for brand recognition.
Be Instantly Helpful
During any event, some of the most popular promotional items are the ones that are instantly helpful to the attendees.
Nimlock, a large manufacturer of exhibits gave some great advice on their blog regarding this subject:
Thinking about the details of the consumers business trip will help you figure out how to provide something instantly helpful like:
the show venue,
the local weather,
scheduled event activities
how extensive travel will be
Putting yourself in their shoes makes some otherwise boring products seem like winners.
Here are a few popular promotional items I think get overlooked to generate some brand awareness:
Sports Bottles - so much cheaper to fill up then paying $4.50 for a bottle of water at the convention.
Journals - they should be writing down what they are learning at the convention anyways right?
SmartPhone Wallet - so easy to stuff a few business cards in the back for those networking after hour events.
Tote bags - let's face it they need something to carry all that material they receive. My advice would be that the biggest promotional bags will always win, hands down! Besides being walking billboards, they are super useful.
Hand sanitizer - hey, these are key for us germaphobes out there.
Lip Balm - very useful for some conference destinations
Create an Experience
Have you ever attended a concert where you get those goose bumps running down your arm? Sounds cheesy but people in large crowds love connecting with each other as a tribe with something in common. Whether it is everyone singing a favorite song together or wearing the same items, the affects can be memorable.
Here are few items that you can not only put your logo on but that will also create an experience and brand recognition:
Light up bracelets - they can really liven up an outdoor networking event.
Flip Flops - give them some permission to relax
Sunglasses - maybe try the glow-in-the-dark version
Multi-functional buffs - great item for team building
Wine tumbler - sure to help some conversations go smoother
Rally towels - get that crowd cheering!
Be Your Brand
Social media has connected consumers with the brands they love on a whole new level. In a way, companies can have so much more personality and dimension to their audience then in years past with Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook. The company can connect and build relationships on a completely personal level.
You might find some inspiration from other companies doing this really well. Hannah Abrams and Brendan Menapace, both bloggers for Promo Marketing Magazine, have pointed out a few companies doing this really well.
For example, Taco Bell sold onesies and ugly sweaters for fans (see original post). KFC upped it's game for street wear (see original post). Pepsi did it's own limited edition branded footwear (see original post). NASA did some killer Vans exclusive shoes (see original post).
Photo Gallery of Corporate Merch
One favorite of mine is a Geico Bobble Head I received at a trade show. My whole family got a kick out of seeing our favorite reptile’s head bounce around.
But by creating limited edition corporate gifts, companies generate brand recognition and loyalty with their existing fans and potentially consumers on the fence. Let them join the crew by repping your logo on unique, fun branded merch.
My suggestion is to come up with your own line of corporate swag. Start with the basics:
Hats - personally I’m a fan of the New ERA Mesh Back.
T-Shirts - Love the 50/50 classic cotton t-shirt.
Hoodie - essential for anyone.
You'll be surprised how many clients are willing to wear branded promotional products from you.
To sum it up, look at retail for product trends that might work, don't be afraid of using wacky attention grabbers, think practical, be instantly helpful, and most important of all - be your brand.