2019 Promo Products Embrace USA-Made, Retail Quality

The “2019 Ad Impressions Study” by the Advertising Specialty Institute has many nuggets to help AccuList’s promotional products marketing clients woo targeted buyers. For example, promo products purveyors can point out how their items beat other ad media not only with high ROI, thanks to a cost per impression as low as a tenth of a cent, but also high impact, with consumers under age 55 preferring promo products over all other media for advertising, including newspapers, radio, magazines, television, internet and mobile. In fact, consumers are nearly 2.5 times more likely to have a positive opinion of promotional products compared with online advertising, per ASI.

Not All Promo Products Are Created Equal

When it comes to consumers’ favored promotional products, ASI’s study shows the highest ownership for writing instruments (89%), drink ware (88%) and T shirts (80%). Looking at numbers alone, outerwear is a big winner with the most impressions (6,100), the greatest memorability (85% of consumers remember the advertiser giving branded apparel), and the greatest staying power (outerwear is kept an average of 16 months compared with 9 months for writing implements, for example). But winning even with a popular category means keeping up with trends. Among the latest spotted by Promo Marketing Magazine at the 2019 Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) Expo is the boost in re-usable, environmentally friendly products now that cities and states are banning single-use plastic bags and straws. A return to natural and vintage is not surprising in this anti-plastic mode, with a rise in the popularity of wooden pieces, from cutting boards to awards. Plus, multi-function items continue to grow in popularity, with suppliers adding tech functions to classic promotional items, so that water bottles double as Bluetooth speakers and business card holders can be used to prop phones.

Design-wise, Think Retail Quality, Bundling, USA-Made

The marketers at Delta Marketing Group (DMG) get even more specific about trends in design affecting a range of product categories. As more retail brands become available as customizable promotional products, even non-brand items are starting to emulate the retail look and feel, the agency points out. Quality over brand-logo-blasting also is taking hold, for example with branded apparel using small embroidered patches, subtle custom tags, and understated tone-on-tone colors instead of large logo imprints. Creative materials and refined finishes are forecast to come to the fore in 2019, with bright colors, matte and soft-touch finishes, and heathered and burlap fabrics. DMG also predicts that gift sets packaging several cohesive promotional items together will peak in 2019. Watch for desktop accessories to gain popularity, such as branded mousepads, coasters and phone stands, etc., often bundled as a new-employee or a new-student welcome kit. Plus, with the advent of experiential marketing for events, promotional products are trending toward event-specific giveaways that complete the brand’s event experience. Finally, the made-in-the-USA trend stays strong, per ASI’s study. About 53% of consumers have a more favorable opinion of an advertiser if the promotional product is made in the U.S. versus elsewhere, and that sentiment is especially strong in New England, where 73% of consumers prefer buying made-in-the-USA items. For details from the ASI study, see https://www.asicentral.com/news/web-exclusive/january-2019/2019-ad-impressions-study/

Many Business Publications Fail to Fully Mine Audience Data

Business periodical marketers come to AccuList USA for help with audience building via multi-channel campaigns. But as data experts, we’d like to remind them that their audience data offers other revenue streams worth mining. Most publishers know that targeted audience data is key to competing for ad dollars; for improved subscriber response via personalization; and for better targeted content marketing, but a recent Adweek article by Jason Downie suggests several other ways to monetize audience data.

Building Valuable Off-the-Shelf Audience Segments

Downie urges publishers to build “off-the-shelf” audience segments that can be sold directly to advertisers, for example. Consider how a seminar promoter could use a business magazine’s data if the publication built an audience of people interested specifically in his topics or proven seminar buyers; the advertiser would be able to enjoy the benefits of tapping not just a business-engaged audience but a strategically targeted set of potential buyers more likely to convert. By creating off-the-shelf audience segments, the publication offers more options for ad clients and more targeted impressions from high-value users. Audience segments can also offer insights that can be further monetized. For example, analytics could show that seminar attendees are four times more likely to share content online. That makes them online influencers, and since influencers are extremely valuable, the publisher can demand a higher CPM. Additionally, an audience segment can open the door to new advertisers and marketers, including non-endemic spending. A business publisher’s analytics may show a subscriber segment visits golf sites as well as the magazine site, for example. The publisher can now woo clients looking to target “golfers.”

Using Data to Win RFPs

Another way publishers can take advantage of data is in the RFP process, according to the Adweek article, noting that the average publisher spends up to 1,600 hours per month, or 18% of revenue, responding to advertiser RFPs. Publishers can develop a customized response to an advertiser RFP, starting with first-party data to build out the RFP-requested audience and then enriching that database with third-party data appending. Digital campaigns can expand targeting by adding lookalikes. Author Downie advises running a portion of an ad campaign without audience or contextual targeting to identify additional audiences, interests, actions and behaviors of those who respond well to the campaign but were not included in the initial targeting.

Turning Data Into New Revenue Streams

Another option for publishers with high-quality audience data is to sell it as “second-party data.”  The data can be sold either directly to another company through a second-party data exchange or through a programmatic data exchange. Second-party exchanges are popular because they are private marketplaces one-to-one with another company, versus an open environment. And, of course, subscriber lists can be monetized as “third-party data,” earning regular rental revenue on the open market and via data brokers. For more detail, see the full article.

Format Drives Differences in Direct Mail Results

In planning direct mail campaigns, marketers often turn to standard industry benchmarks courtesy of the annual “Response Rate Report” from the Data & Marketing Association (DMA), soon to be a division of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). However, while general direct mail response rates for house lists (5.1%) and for prospect lists (2.9%) far outpace those of digital media, the mailing piece format selected can make a key difference in expected results.

Mailer Format Shifts Response Metrics

For example, an oversized flat envelope package tends to deliver the highest response rate: 6.6 % for a house file and 4.9% for a prospect list. Next most effective in terms of response are postcards, with a house file response rate of 5.7% and and a prospect names’ response of 3.4%. At the tail end, but still far above digital efforts, comes the standard letter format, with a 4.37% response rate for house names and a 2.5% response for prospecting.

Balancing CPM & ROI in Format Selection

Some marketers hesitate over the more expensive oversized flats, which have the highest cost per thousand (CPM) among formats at $481 for house files and $467 for prospect files. Which is why postcards continue to win fans among B2C and B2B marketers, with the lowest CPM among direct mail formats benchmarked. However, despite their higher CPMs, the solid response rates of flats mean they can deliver the highest ROI (37% and 30% for house and prospect names, respectively). Postcards and letter packages, meanwhile, are tied in terms of ROI, with house mailings garnering a 29% ROI and prospecting turning in 23% ROI.

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