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/

Use Direct Mail to Push Trade Show Attendance Ahead of the Pack

After many years of supporting the marketing of trade show and conference managers and exhibitors, AccuList USA can attest to the continued power of direct mail in building audience. While exhibitors who do a pre-show campaign 1-2 months before a show can increase attendance by up to 50%, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, a post by the NextPage agency recently explained how direct mail will push those pre-event promotional efforts several steps ahead of competitors.

Make Direct Mail an Engaging, Personalized Invitation

Show marketers looking for an edge with multi-channel audiences will embrace direct mail’s higher response rates and retention rates, urges NextPage, leveraging the deliverability of a tactile and visual attention-getter in an era of crowded digital mailboxes and websites. By combining variable printing with segmented list targeting, savvy marketers can create a pre-event mailing that is highly personalized. Custom shapes and dimensional options, textured paper, intriguing folds, eye-catching graphics and taglines, and more will then help mailings stand out and engage.

Include Incentives That Spur Booth Visits

NextPage also advises including an incentive in the mailer to spur booth visits, such as a raffle ticket or product sample. Creativity pays off, and the blog cites some incentive success stories. For example, trade show expert Marlys Arnold uses scavenger hunts in pre-show campaigns, with a direct mail piece that lists five questions and gives a web address where attendees can print off an answer sheet to fill out and bring to the show. She reports earning satisfying lines at her booths compared with more passive giveaways. In another example, independent copywriter named Mark Johnson wanted to target subscription newsletter marketers at a Las Vegas Conference and created a special website with case studies and a free offer that he touted in a postcard. The free offer was an exclusive 30-minute consultation with Johnson to review current marketing campaigns. Johnson rented the conference association’s membership list and mailed the card only to qualified leads five weeks before the show. Out of 400 pieces mailed, 406 people visited his site, and he generated five solid leads!

Use Targeted Lists of Qualified Prospects

Yet the real key to success with a direct mail campaign is targeting of qualified leads, starting with a list of current clients and prospects and moving on to lists of registered attendees, association members, subscribers to relevant trade publications and newsletters, multi-channel buyers of relevant products, etc.  Marketers can then segment and tailor messaging by geography, industry, product interest, title, firm-ographic data (such as number of employees) to increase response.

For more direct mail advice, see the blog post.

Promotional Product Marketers Can Hone Proven Tools

AccuList USA recently completed a proprietary analysis of the top-performing direct mail and e-mail lists for promotional products companies to help buttress the continued success of this evergreen marketing tool.

A Message About Proven Success

Promotional product providers already have some powerful arguments in wooing business-to-business and business-to-consumer marketers. For example, per industry surveys, eight in 10 consumers have one to 10 promotional products, 53% use the giveaways at least once a week, and 60% retain the products for up to two years. Before receiving a promotional product, 55% surveyed had done business with the advertiser, but after receiving a promotional product, 85% did business with the advertiser. With promotional products delivering such regular, repeated brand exposure and enhanced outreach, it’s no wonder the U.S. promotional products industry is forecast to generate $24 billion in 2018, growing at 2.5 % annually.

Many Industries Worth Wooing

Plus, while not every industry is a good target for a promotional product pitch, prospective buyers abound. A recent post by Designhill, a graphic design platform, cited some top promotional users they have supported. Real estate promotions lead in distributing branded notepads, keychains, calendars, magnets, door hangers and more, for example. The education sector often offers writing instruments, apparel, water bottles, folders, and frisbees at college fairs, seminars, expos and open houses. In today’s competitive healthcare market, clinics, hospitals, outpatient clinics and surgery centers go beyond branded tote bags to first-aid kits and custom ice packs. Nonprofits are big consumers of tumblers, tote bags, wristbands and lanyards, while banks, credit unions and insurance firms opt to reward both employees and new accounts with everything from travel bags and mugs to fidget spinners. With the midterm elections ahead, don’t forget that political candidates are a big market for flags, stickers, decals, apparel and hats (following in MAGA footsteps). On a global basis, the top 25 promotional products purchasers include seven from the consumer-goods industry, six from the communications industry, and a dozen more from pharmaceutical, technology and automotive industries.

Targeted Data Available for Mail, Digital & Social

The key to success is targeted data. Promotional products are visual sales, which is why direct mail and catalogs using targeted mailing lists have such a role in the industry. Now social media options such as Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and LinkedIn also allow for visual, targeted promotions, including video. And tools like AccuList USA’s Digital2Direct can link highly targeted direct mail with social media advertising on Facebook, or send direct mail with timely opt-in e-mail to the same recipients. In a digital world, house e-mail databases, enhanced by LinkedIn connections, lead capture forms or event contacts, are very cost-effective marketing tools for promotional products—as long as the e-mail database is accurate, up-to-date and targeted, which is among the data support services that AccuList USA also offers promotional product clients.