Promotional products still have a low standing in the marketing mix of many companies. If this was different, the industry could profit in a very concrete manner from a growth in turnover. Marketing is the solution – not for one’s own company, but for the promotional product in general. Last year several good examples of how to go about it were provided.
A frequently heard statement when asking the industry players about their strategies and targets: “We want to expand our market share“. Especially in those regions where the economy is struggling, this is then often followed by the comment that “the market itself is not experiencing growth.“ One doesn’t need to dispose of a great deal of expertise to establish that this declaration is only true to a certain extent, since the market could be bigger: Promotional products are still underestimated by many marketing departments and advertising agencies and there are still countless companies, including major firms, that don’t attach much importance to promotional products. This is a stance that can only be changed by people who deliver convincing arguments and who carry out active PR work for haptic advertising.
An essential part of this PR work is collecting sound facts, which seriously substantiate the potential of promotional products, their effectiveness and their popularity among the recipients. It is necessary for the industry to collect such data in order to counteract the threatening disregard. Indeed, over the past years several international surveys have been published which deliver promising and far-reaching results – also recently: For example, the American industry service provider, ASI, presented the results of the “Global Advertising Specialties Impressions Study“ in Septem- Promoting promotional products The necessity for getting loud ber 2013. The latest edition of the survey carried out annually by the ASI is not only the most detailed survey carried out so far, but also the most international one, since recipients of promotional products worldwide, over three Continents were interviewed: In addition to the results from twelve major cities in the USA and three Canadian metropolises, the current survey also provided data from Sydney, Paris, London, Madrid, Rome and Berlin. In total, over 7,000 adult consumers were interviewed in 21 metropolitan regions, whereby also demographic differences, i.e. between age groups or men and women, were taken into consideration.
Loyalty, recall, efficiency
Regarding the recall effect of a promotional product, the survey brought good news: 80% of the respondents can recall the company that gave them a promotional product. In the USA, the percentage is even 86%. Textiles achieve the highest recall of all product groups included in the survey with a 95% recall level. The level of memorability is directly linked to the popularity of the respective product, thus it is no surprise that textiles also head the field in this category as well: 75% of the respondents explained that they had a more positive opinion of the promoting company after receiving an item of clothing. The average percentage is however also quite impressive: On average 53% of the respondents have a more positive image of the promoting company after receiving a promotional product.
Moreover, limited to the US market the survey determined a cost per mille (CPM) for promotional products and compared this to other advertising disciplines. With a CPM of 0.4 per contact, the promotional product offers a higher return on investment than advertising on TV (1.3), in magazines (1.3) and newspapers (0.5). Only radio spots (0.3) and online advertising (0.2) are more cost-efficient.
Promotional products worldwide
In addition to the hard figures on the efficiency of promotional products, the international differences and similarities also proved interesting. For example, all of the interviewees were asked to name three different items that they had received within the previous twelve months. The result: Writing instruments and T-shirts top the rankings worldwide. Also popular: Bags, calendars, office accessories and headwear.
The most important criteria, which determines how long a recipient keeps a product, is – according to 77% respondents – the extent of its usefulness, followed by its attractiveness. Whereby there are also significant differences here from product group to product group: For example in the case of textiles, their attractiveness is as equally important as their usefulness. The contact rate is deduced from the “life cycle” of a product. The people conducting the survey calculated a contact rate based on how long a product is kept by the recipient and on the estimated number of people, who come into contact with the product during its usage. Subsequently different products in different regions were compared. The clear winners worldwide: Writing instruments, bags and textiles. Conclusion: Promotional products are versatile, the recipients keep them for a long time, they have a high reach, evoke empathy and are more cost-efficient than most other advertising media. As such, the ASI survey makes a positive contribution to the discussion and confirms other polls carried out on a national level in recent years.
The latest example: The BPMA (British Promotional Merchandise Association) also presented up-to-date facts in September 2013 that prove that the promotional product can significantly influence purchasing decisions. This is based on a representative survey carried out by the independent London online market research agency, Atomik Research, in the scope of which 1,000 randomly selected British consumers were interviewed. On-pack products and give-aways were the main theme of the survey – and as the results show, the Brits are evidently a nation of “gimmick hunters”: In order to get their hands on a freebie, three out of ten British consumers quite consciously abandon their regular brand. Depending on the product in question, the readiness to be “unfaithful“ varies vastly: Kitchen accessories are evidently very appealing, here 48% of the respondents allow their purchasing decision to be influenced by freebies, followed by mugs (42%), branded glasses (39%), cuddly toys (34%) and cosmetic bags (30%).
Regarding the promotional products that the respondents already possess, the classics clearly head the field: 62% of the respondents own a writing instrument, 35% a mug, 33% a key pendant, 25% a T-shirt or sweatshirt and 25% a glass. The consumers particularly tend to keep products that are useful – 82% of the respondents agreed on this point. Further important factors are quality (20%) and whether the item is a novelty (26%).
Customisations are incidentally widely accepted: 47% of the interviewees don’t even mind if the branding is prominent, although 33% prefer a discrete form of individualisation.
“The survey substantiates the findings of earlier surveys and demonstrates once again that if the right products are specifically selected to match the target groups, they are coveted, stay in the possession of the recipients for a long time and increase brand awareness,“ summed up Gordon Glenister, Director General of the BPMA.
Nevertheless, pioneering recognitions and evidence are of little use if they are not continually publicized to a broad audience. A task that not only falls under the responsibility of the associations or individuals, but indeed a matter, which requires the cooperation of the entire industry. The BPMA demonstrated in September earlier this year how to go about organising PR campaigns for the promotional product with their nationwide publicity campaign – the debut edition of the “Promotional Products Week“, during the course of which the latest survey was also published.
The week kicked off with the “Big Tweet”, a rally call encouraging all members and interested parties to tweet about the week and engage with their customers. Additionally, the survey information was sent to an extensive range of media contacts. According to official statements, in total 120 association members – distributors and suppliers alike – participated one week long in a range of different activities, including networking and informative events, mailing campaigns and meetings with decision-makers from the world of politics and business.
Furthermore, students from a London design school, the Brunel University, also played an important role. They were namely kitted out with branded T-shirts and hoodies and armed with a variety of promotional products. Steered by members of the BPMA, they met up with association heads around London including the Direct Marketing Association, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and the Marketing Agencies Association. The students also visited top advertising agencies, helping to demonstrate why promotional products should be used in integrated marketing campaigns. The sampling didn’t stop there either; many products were also distributed to travellers on the London Underground.
According to the BPMA, numerous regional and national media as well as marketing bodies covered the Promotional Products Week. The feedback from the business, politics and agency sectors was allegedly also very promising. Hence, the organiser Gordon Glenister came to a positive conclusion: “Promotional products have been at the forefront of delivering incredible impact for brands over many decades, and are known to be one of the most cost effective and interesting ways for consumers to interact with a brand. With today’s present economic realities, brands are looking for fresh ways to relate to and communicate with their audience and the Promotional Products Week has enabled us to show them how merchandise can help them do just that. I think it will be considerably bigger next year and I am sure there will be more members keen to participate.” The latter is not only desirable, but in fact essential: “Activities like this are extremely important, and we need the whole industry to get behind it,” added Glenister. “We need scale as an industry and the association can only deliver so much.”
Showing how it is done
However, sometimes one almost gets the impression that some industry players don’t want to share their insider knowledge. On many websites of promotional products distributors one can search in vain for reference lists that are for instance obligatory for advertising agencies. The same applies for best practice stories: In this connection, the industry could also learn a lot from the agency scene, which is very active in this respect, because creative competence can be best demonstrated, by showing how it is done.
“It is the concrete examples that convince and inspire,“ stated Brit München, Project Manager of the HAPTICA® live. “Which is why we show how creatively promotional products can be implemented.“ The event initiated by WA Media, the publishers of eppi magazine, sees itself “as a profiling campaign for the promotional product”, as Michael Scherer, CEO of WA Media, stated. In addition to approx. 60 exhibitors, who present their products, the HAPTICA® live, which is scheduled to take place in Cologne on March 26, 2014, offers a special exhibition with countless best practice examples. In addition to this, high-calibre marketing specialists share their experiences in the scope of a lecture programme. Furthermore, the Promotional Gift Award 2014 is presented at the HAPTICA® live and all of the winning products are showcased there in a separate exhibition. This focus on the application of promotional products is the centrepiece of the ‘Experience of Haptic Advertising‘ and is to be further expanded in 2014,“ commented München.
Whether the “Experience of Haptic Advertising“ or the “Promotional Products Week”: A vital element of the PR work is taking a professional approach, in terms of the industry as a whole. The promotional products industry is not taken seriously enough by the marketing world – whereas other relatively young segments such as event marketing for instance have long since gained more recognition. This may to an extent be due to the fact that the industry still has no generally recognised qualification or training course.
This could however change in the near future – at least in Switzerland, where the industry association, Promoswiss, has asserted itself so that from autumn 2014 onwards young people can complete a 3-year commercial business apprenticeship specialising in promotional products in the communications industry, which is officially audited and approved. “The commercial apprenticeship has a high standing in Switzerland, which I would say is even held in higher esteem than state approved vocational qualifications in other countries. In Switzerland, around two thirds of the school leavers complete an apprenticeship,“ explained Michael Mätzener, Training and Apprenticeships Department Head at Promoswiss. “It would be a huge success if we manage to place ten apprentices in 2014. That would after all be 10% of the apprenticeship jobs offered within the entire communications industry. An enormous step also European-wide.“
Because there is nothing standing in the way of similar models being applied in other European countries, it does however require a lot of commitment – as well as thinking outside of the box. PR work within the industry has to be carried out in the course of everyday business, sales discussions and daily marketing activities. The result will be a sustainable benefit not only for one’s own market share, but also ultimately for the market as a whole.