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Promotional Products
Buyers Guide |
Selection and Usage

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Industry Baseline

Promotional products is a $20 Billion a year industry and continually trends with societal fashion shifts.  Study’s place it second to billboards for advertiser cost per impression (cpi) and offers a lower cpi than prime-time television advertising, national magazine advertising and newspaper ads, and a similar CPI to radio and Internet advertising1.  When considering the recipient of promotional branded products are often the exact market segment the advertiser is trying to reach, the resulting brand exposure perpetuates itself immeasurably.

Starting Point

Consumers first want products that are useful, especially the more practical items such as writing instruments and USB drives.  Enhanced usage increases with the addition of a stylish component.  With apparel products, attractiveness is a very close second to usefulness in reasons for keeping the product, with more than half of those who own apparel reporting they keep it because it is attractive

Impression Industry Survey Report 20151

Products Recipients Deemed Useful

Products Received Most Often

Writing Instruments


Writing Instruments


USB Flash Drives










Desk & Office Accessories


Health & Safety Products




Desk & Office Accessories






USB Flash Drives




Health & Safety Products


Ensure Product Purchase Effectiveness

Leeds Flash Drive Memory #1695-16

The following are initial questions to ask to create the framework for Promotional Product Integration into your marketing strategy.

  • What do you hope to achieve?

  • How does the target event fit into your marketing strategy and overall message?

  • How will you distribute the branded item?

  • How will you measure its success?

Visual brand exposure to the human psyche is a critical element of any marketing effort.  Without a clear plan and an understanding of how these products integrate into your marketing program, a sizable portion of your marketing budget is at risk.  Prosperity resulting from this effort requires thoughtful planning and positive engagement with the target audience.


Factor 1) Suit the Product to the Recipient

Factor 3) Interaction

Selective giving increases your return on investment and personalizes the brand to the recipient.  Do not hand out a branded product to everyone within eyesight.  Target carefully for the biggest impact.  Distributing a branded product to everyone at a trade show, lessens the item’s value.  Reducing the amount of branded products purchased while elevating the quality of the product, creates a desires effect on all those who are ‘fortunate’ enough to receive the branded message conveyed by the promotional item.

Ensure that the exchange of contact information from anyone who receives a promotional item.  With current customers, the information is already in place.  For new business opportunities, giving something without getting something in return is counterproductive.

Factor 4) Message

To complete your product gift planning, think about whether there is a way to relate the promotional item to a specific company service or campaign. If this the product is linked to the company’s message, then the promotional product message will reverberate as an ongoing mental message with the recipients.

Include a CALL TO ACTION.  The item fails if you do not give the customer a residual way to take a beneficial resulting action. 

Visual Inclusions:

  • Logo

  • Web address and / or QR code

  • Contact information

  • Tagline

With a limited ad space, make every effort to maximize the message content while balancing it against the visual reflections coming off the promotional piece.   Balancing both raises the probability of a lasting visually pleasing message that shines within the recipients community.

Accuracy is often overlooked but critical to the message and justifies the expenditure.  Check every pre-press proof. 

  • Is the copy clear and legible?

  • Is the phone number and contact info correct?

  • Are there any spellings errors?

Send the proofs around to the supporting team to verify accuracy.  The busiest of times is when details are overlooked.

Factor 5) Budget

For a single product purchase, here is the equation:

  • Total dollar budget available for the ad product purchase

  • Divided by the total number of targeted recipients

  • Equals the unit price available for the promotional product

This what is affordable and saves a ton of time when using the price search tool available in our Promotional

While budget is important, don’t overlook the value of high quality products.   Make sure the product is something the recipient is proud to display and the company is equally pleased to hand out.  The spirit of the moment when the item is given and received is as important as any other step in the first stages of a new relationship. 

When in doubt, buy less quantity while raising the quality level of the item.  This is true whether for an upcoming event or for marketing collateral inventory used throughout the year.  A good example is the pen given to you at the bank.   They are the least expensive pen in the industry costing less than $0.20 a piece.  They are hardly used beyond the walls of the bank and are disposed of quickly.

For our clients, we recommend a brand name pen, even at the lower prices.  Pentel, Scripto and BIC place their brand or moniker on the writing instruments they manufacture and the products last longer and feel more comfortable when writing.  This in turn generates a better impression with the organization’s brand displayed more often.

McGRAPHIX manages client productions with the largest Promotional Products suppliers in the industry.  For insight into this innovative brand management world, access our Promotional Products section.

For additional information or assistance, please contact McGRAPHIX.  We are always happy to help.


If you are appealing to a wide audience, then something with broad utilitarian attraction works best.  From the previous chart, we find pens, bags, drinkware and apparel items as coveted products. 

On the other hand, if the items are intended for a specific group, you’ll want something specialized for their needs.  At the heart of any marketing effort is some understanding of your target audience.

Situational Questions to Ask

  • Do they work in an office or at a desk?

  • Do they travel frequently?

  • What items might be useful?

  • What is their income level?

  • Are the decision makers buyers of your product or service?

Ensure it Fits Its Purpose

You may want to give something different to customers than prospects.  After all, one may want a different message for customers than for prospects who have not purchased from the organization.

Choose promotional products that are useful and helpful to the recipient, like the tote bag at a trade show, or a shirt at a golf tournament, or a thumb drive for tech event. An item, no matter the mental effort that went into its selection is tossed if not useful.  A recent industry study found promotional product usage achieved a 70 percent boost in brand interest and an 85 percent increase in positive brand impression due to the repeated brand exposure aspect of the product and subsequent usage.

Remember Quality Matters

Promotional items can leave a long lasting brand impression. Handing out cheap and useless products directly reflects on the brand impression.

Competition. What are your competitors doing?

If you’re at a tech trade show and most people will be distributing customized USB thumb drives, then we need to augment this with something more. Consider the factors and then find something that will be company unique. As an alternative, providing USB-powered tech products may attract prospects that would otherwise have passed by until they learned of the organizations branded products.

Factor 2) Event Consideration

Is the purchase part of a themed event?  If so, it is important to keep the ad products targeted towards the concept. For example, an ocean side event would be a good place to give away personalized beach towels, bottles of sunscreen and summer headwear, but a winter event is better served with ice scrapers, warm clothing and blankets.

For conferences, recipients may carry paperwork and brochures, as well as the other promotional products they will receive. Good quality tote bags, cinch packs and backpacks are something that they will keep and use, maintaining brand visibility during and beyond the show.

Gemline #1399 Nantucket Fashion Tote

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