Building Your Brand with Promotional Items

How to Market with Promotional Products
Scott Kalapos on Feb 13, 2023

Owning a business can be a daunting task. You have a massive list of responsibilities, especially if you are a solopreneur. This list includes product development, sales, marketing, accounting, taxes, healthcare, employee recruitment, and more. As a key stakeholder at your company, there are a million things to worry about and the pressure is on to find ways to grow the brand and turn a profit.

Marketing is one branch of your organization that requires a lot of attention, especially in the early days of running a business. The only way to see success is to convince consumers that they should buy your product or service. Obviously, no organization can make money if no one knows about them or what they do. The best product or service doesn't mean anything if no one knows about it.

The question for you, as the owner of the business, is this; how will you use your finite resources to grow the customer base, generate leads, and boost sales? This is the problem that every marketer or business owner faces. the smaller the organization, the more limited your budget is, making it especially difficult to invest in effective marketing campaigns.

Maximizing Your Marketing Plan

Though large corporations have to follow this same principle, they have much more leeway than a solopreneur or small business owner. You don't have the resources to experiment with crazy marketing initiatives because you need results now with the available resources.

The goal is to execute marketing strategies that maximize your resources while increasing brand awareness. Since you don't have a ton of money to spend, you need to make sure that what you are investing is going a long way. This brings us to the concept of promotional products.

What are Promotional Products?

Promotional Products

First, let's define what this unique marketing medium is. Promotional products could also be called branded merchandise. They are items that companies invest in to spread awareness of their brand through giveaways, prizes, or selling directly to consumers. These items contain company information, such as the logo, the name of the business, or a slogan. The idea is that when people who own these items use them, others will notice the brand associated with the product.

There are two main purposes for custom promotional products; increasing visibility and building excitement about a brand. The visibility goal is obvious. when people use the item in public, potential customers can see the company's information. businesses will also use promotional items to build excitement with existing customers or even employees. When given as gifts, the recipient may feel more loyalty to the brand.

Pros and Cons

Pros & Cons of Promotional Products

While this method of advertising can be effective, especially as a budget-friendly option, success is not a guarantee. Here are some of the pros and cons that come with using promotional products for your marketing initiatives.

Pro: One-Time Purchase

While many marketing concepts require consistent investment, such as pay-per-click campaigns or purchasing ads in publications over and over, you can bulk order branded merchandise and be set for a while. the more you order, the less it typically costs per item. If you have the capital to invest, then this one-time purchase can reduce your long-term spending.

Con: Less Control Over Results

Once you have given an item away, you have little control over what happens next. That person could choose to wear a branded t-shirt every week, or they could toss it in the back of the closet where it will never see the light of day. This creates a risk that your investment will go to waste.

Pro: Repeat Exposure

In the scenario where the person wears the shirt with your logo every week, your venture is getting a ton of exposure. Maybe it cost $20 for one shirt when you ordered it. But every time the recipient wears it, two to three people remember the logo or the organization's name that was displayed. this repeated exposure could pay for itself very quickly if it generates leads for your organization.

Con: Choosing the Right Products

People have a lot of stuff. when you gift them with items that they can use, it can be hard to know which items will be used frequently enough to be worth the price. You may have to conduct a ton of research to determine the best place to spend your money.

Strategy Tips for Custom Promotional Items

Now that you know what they are and some of the pros and cons, it is time to discuss how to use them. You may think that no strategy is required since the goal is to increase visibility, so all that needs to happen is for you to purchase some items and then give them away. But it is a little more complicated than that.

Promotional Product Strategy Tips

Your Target Audience Matters

the most important factor that could contribute to the success of your campaign is whether or not you understand the target audience. If you have no buyer personas to work from, it can be tough to select the right products because you don't know what the ideal customer wants. Knowing the answers to some of the following questions can guide your decision-making regarding which products to invest in:

  • Where do your customers spend their free time?
  • What are their income levels?
  • What kind of car do they drive?
  • What are their hobbies?
  • Where do they vacation?
  • What jobs do they have?

These answers can help you develop buyer personas that can guide all your marketing efforts, not just promotional product campaigns. When you truly understand your target market, you are in a better position to provide value to them with the promotional products that you select. Take the time to research your audience and analyze their lifestyles to choose items that will catch their eyes and excite them.

Quality or Quantity?

Another important decision for your marketing strategy will be whether to focus on quality or quantity. Would you rather invest in 300 cheaper items that can be given away to more people or 15 high-quality items that could garner more interest from others? Promoting your business may require a balance of both high quantities of cheap items and a few more exciting products. This way, you will still have a good initial reach for the giveaways, but there are also some items out there that will be used often and are more noticeable.

Who Will You Give the Products to?

This is another important distinction for a product campaign. Giving things away willy-nilly is unlikely to accomplish much. This shows a lack of direction and focus for your marketing initiative. Instead, list out the various groups to which you can give these promotional products and think about the pros and cons of each group.


One group you could focus on is your fellow team members. Giving corporate presents to workers can develop more loyalty to the brand. Plus, it demonstrates that you value them as individuals and as team members, especially if the items you give away are appealing. While the main purpose is to care for your employees, the secondary result could be additional exposure to the business among their friends or family members.

Existing Customers

Customer loyalty is crucial for any company's success. Not only do you have to appeal to new customers consistently to increase sales, but you also have to hang on to those who have already made purchases. One way to do this is through giveaways. You can reward people for being loyal to your brand or even offer prizes for a referral program. Plus, owning a branded product can give the individual customer a personal stake in the company's success. If they really love your business and what you do, they might be enthusiastic about displaying the product to others and talking about the brand.

The Public

The final main group to which you can give promotional items is the public. While it might make more sense to reward your workers or current clients, there are plenty of reasons to give items away to members of the public. First, it creates a direct connection with a potential customer as opposed to hoping they see someone else with a promotional product. Second, it could give you access to a new audience that you have not considered among your target market. Promo products are powerful because you never know who they might introduce to your brand.

Most Popular Promotional Items

If you are not sure what products make great giveaways, then hopefully the following examples can help you as you form a strategy for this marketing initiative.

Tote Bags

Tote bags are super useful for consumers. They can be used to carry items to the office, to school, to the gym, to social gatherings, and to any number of places that they need to go. Custom tote bags that contain your custom logo can be seen by people in any of these locations, generating a potential lead. These bags are a higher quality item that will cost a bit more from your marketing budget but could see a high level of usage that will generate more impressions per product, making them the ideal choice for spreading awareness.

Promotional Tote Bags


When you look at people throughout the day, one of the first things you will notice is their outfits. What are the colors, designs, styles, and accessories that are immediately noticeable when you look at them? Whether it is in the office, in a zoom meeting, in the grocery store, at school, or while walking through town, custom logo t-shirts and other custom apparel will be noticed by a ton of people, even if it is only subconsciously. If you want to invest a little bit more to gain greater visibility for your organization, then you can hardly go wrong with some well-designed and fun t-shirts.

Custom Logo Printed T-Shirts

Custom Pens

On the cheaper end of the spectrum of promotional products are custom pens. These little devices may seem innocuous, but everyone needs them quite often. How easy is it to say "hey can I borrow your pen?" Pens are extremely cheap, even those that have a custom print of your logo on them. You could buy hundreds of them for a very low cost and distribute them to co-workers, classmates, friends, family, or even attendees at trade shows. You never know who will need to borrow a pen and then notice the brand name and wonder what that entity is all about. Plus, pens are useful, so they are unlikely to be thrown away or discarded before seeing some mileage that could result in exposure for your business.

Custom Pens

Stress Balls

Wellness is becoming a major focus in the business world. Organizations are learning how to invest in people with health initiatives and gifts that focus on well-being. In a fast-paced world full of challenges, giving people tools to handle stress could be a wonderful decision. Stress balls are another rather cheap but useful item that you can give away with your custom logo. They make the perfect desk accessory for overwhelmed workers, but can be used by anyone who gets a little fidgety.

Branded Stress Balls

Promotional Drinkware

Either on the go, at work, at a sporting event, or during mealtimes, people love their beverages. Full-time workers often need that coffee to get them through the day, as well as exhausted parents who have to get up early with young children. Sports fans want to keep their drinks cool while enjoying the game. Everyone has to wash down their food somehow. Drinking receptacles like mugs, stadium cups, reusable water bottles, and others can promote your brand while seeing plenty of usage throughout the week.

Mugs and Promotional Drinkware

Tech Accessories

The world runs on technology. From smartphones to laptops to Fitbits, people love their devices and are always open to finding new ways to accessorize their technologies. High-quality items like a wireless charger, a phone stand, wearable devices, headphones, a USB drive, and a Bluetooth keyboard can make things a lot easier for people from all walks of life. Add a logo to these promotional products and you have a perfect advertisement that will see a lot of use throughout the day.

Wireless Chargers & Promotional Tech Products


Similar to t-shirts, custom hats are an article of clothing, (or accessories if you want to be technical), that is highly noticeable to passersby. This makes it a potential billboard for your brand. A hat with a professional design that catches the eye could generate leads as it propels brand awareness forward when seen by others. You could go with a classic baseball cap or focus on something more niche like a bucket hat.

Bucket Hats & Custom Headwear Promo Items

Drawstring Bags

Drawstring bags are another useful item that can be a fun way to promote your brand at trade shows, local events, or in public. These bags are perfect for travelers or athletes who want a convenient way to carry a few items, and you can customize the design and colors to be very noticeable. Some of the best-selling promotional items are those that are most useful to the recipients, and drawstring bags are the perfect example.

Drawstring Bags for Promotional Giveaways

Things to Remember About Promotional Products

Things to Remember

Let's say you have decided to go all in on this type of marketing campaign. You have chosen the products you want to invest in and you are confident that your target audience will love them. there are a few things that you should keep in mind before, during, and after the campaign.

Design Matters

If your logo looks bad on a particular product, then it will not matter how much the item will be used. If it is ugly enough, people may not want it in the first place or will discard it at the first opportunity. It may be worth it to work with a professional graphic designer who can create appealing artwork with ideal color options and a fun layout. Otherwise, the message on the product will not matter because no one will care. Include a creative mind in the design process who can take advantage of full-color palettes and intuitive aesthetics.

Does Your Logo Work For You or Against You?

In some cases, your branding may be holding you back from serious growth. Though it may seem like this image probably has little effect on your profits, it is more significant than you think. A convoluted or cheap-looking image can undermine your credibility as a professional. You don't want people thinking that the logo was designed in five minutes using a low-quality graphics program. Instead, make sure that the image is refined and makes a statement about your establishment.

Measuring Success Can Be Challenging

It can be difficult to come up with accurate KPIs for a promotional product campaign (opens in a new window). After all, how can you know that a new customer found your website online because they saw some interesting stickers or mugs with your logo that directed them there? This is an obstacle that you will have to navigate. If you notice a sudden uptick in email sign-ups after a big t-shirt campaign, is there a way you can conduct a poll to discover how people found out about your brand? Maybe when they sign up for the emails, there is a bullet point that asks that exact question. You may need creative ideas to find KPIs that will measure the success of this campaign.

Remember the Message

Sure, the message of these promotional products is probably as simple as increasing awareness of your product or service, but they can go much further than that. everything from the design of the item to the product itself to where you give it away can make a statement about your business. If this statement does not align with the ideas represented in your values, then customers could be confused by your messaging. Make sure that your product campaign is aligned with your overall corporate values to avoid this confusion that might turn someone away from a purchase of your product or service.

Promotional Products Are a Fun, Unique Marketing Initiative

Businesses large and small can benefit from a campaign that uses promotional products. Whether you are large enough to trade on the New York Stock Exchange or you occupy a small corner lot in your town, this idea could propel your customer base and sales numbers to greater heights.

Stick a logo on some mugs or water bottles to help people drink what they love. Design some clothing and provide multiple color options to choose from. Give away something useful like a phone stand or a mouse pad to make life easier for someone. You can host social media contests with these items as prizes or offer them for sale on a unique landing page from your website. The beauty of this type of campaign is that it can be extremely versatile and you could find products that would appeal to any potential audience.

Any questions in regard to how we can help your business use promotional products to build on success? Reach out and contact us today!

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