Promotional items in branding are set to have their own share of the marketing budget. Experts believe that the  drive for  cost-effective platforms would guarantee emerging promotional mix a good place in marketing, writes ADEDEJI ADEMIGBUJI

From branded apparels to specially printed premiums, otherwise called promotional merchandise or souvenirs, advertising items are more than colourful clever giveaways.    They’re brand ambassadors that can improve a company’s bottom line at low-cost budget. The right promo items – presented with a strong support programme – have the power to build a better, enduring brand.

Called unrented media as a below-the-line media tool, they are articles of merchandise (often branded with a logo) used in marketing and communication programmes. The items are usually imprinted with a company’s name, logo or slogan, and given away at trade shows, conferences, and as part of guerrilla marketing campaigns.

The use of T-shirts, caps, key chains, posters, bumper stickers, pens, mugs, mouse pads, clocks and diary, among others, as the promotional conveyance or media is not new in marketing. It is as old as the world itself. Findings revealed that the first known promotional products in the United States (U.S.) were commemorative buttons dating back to the election of George Washington in 1789. During the early 19th Century, there were some advertising calendars, rulers, and wooden specialties, but there wasn’t an organised industry for the creation and distribution of promotional items until later in the 19th Century.

Jasper Meeks, a printer in Coshocton, Ohio, is considered by many to be the originator of the industry when he convinced a local shoe store to supply book bags imprinted with the store name to local schools. Henry Beach, another Coshocton printer and a competitor of Meeks, picked up the idea, and soon the two men were selling and printing bags for marbles, buggy whips, card cases, fans, calendars, cloth caps, aprons, and hats for horses. The idea later became popular in marketing and politics across the globe.

In 1904, 12 manufacturers of promotional items got together to form the first trade association for the industry. That organisation is now known as the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), which currently has more than 10,000 global members including Nigeria. PPAI represents the promotional products industry of more than 22,000 distributors and approximately 4,800 manufacturers.

Though, it is commonly used by brands to support other marketing efforts, but also it is not uncommon to find value merchandise display tourism, campaigns for governments, political parties and their candidates.

Communication expert believe that “most people remember a brand, and feel more favorable about the brand after receiving highly-perceived value merchandise.”

Not all branded items or value merchandise are created equal. There’s a brand treasure, and there are trinkets and trash, but providing customers brand treasure according to a study can increase positive perception of the brand by over 70 per cent.

Last year, Global Advertising Specialties Impressions Study stated that branded items reinforce the advertiser’s connection with the item hence, bonds them with consumers and customers.


Why it is becoming popular

The PPAI president in Nigeria and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dugo, a brand promotion items company, Mrs. Ngozi Nzegwu, said the use of promotional items is gaining momentum in the marketing mix in Nigeria. She said while traditional advertising platforms such as television, newspapers, magazines and billboards, among others, are becoming expensive and hardly create the bond and experience for customers, they have become the tools for building brand awareness. Nzegwu said: “Brand awareness is the most common use for promotional items. Marketers also use promotional items to facilitate employee relations and events, tradeshow, traffic-building, public relations, new customer generation, dealer and distributor programmes, new product introductions, employee service awards, not-for-profit programmes, internal incentive programmes, safety education, customer referrals, and marketing research.

“The days of high saluting of advertising in the papers so that you can be seen is gone. These days when recession hits the globe and marketing budget in Nigeria is not immune, so, it is what you see and touch and feel that gives you the lasting impact. “So, that is where promotional products and whatever tools of expression to keep your brand in the face of your clients play a greater role. Promotional items branding is a constant reminder to build. I call them the gifts that keep giving.”

Nzegwu also explained that worldwide, the use of promotional items has been embraced by government officials and political parties and their candidates as well as non-governmental organisation. “Promotional items are also used in politics to promote candidates and causes. Promotional items as tools for non-commercial organisations, such as schools and charities are often used as a part of fund raising and awareness-raising campaigns. A prominent example was the live strong wristband, used to promote cancer awareness and raise funds to support cancer survivorship programmes and research,” she noted.

Using Promotional Merchandise in Guerrilla Marketing (a marketing strategy in which low-cost, unconventional means (including the use of graffiti, sticker bombing, flyer posting, etc.) are used in a (generally) localised fashion to draw attention to an idea, product, or service) is a recent and popular phenomenon. Items are branded in such a way to create a unique visual effect, attracting more attention and displaying a strong marketing message. Promotional products become particularly useful in this type of marketing, due to the wide range of products that can be tailored to specific campaigns and the various ways in which they may be printed.

In July 2009 published research demonstrated that the top 10 promotional merchandise products were pens, bags, clothing, plastic items, USB memory sticks, mugs, leather items, polyurethane conference folders and umbrellas. The July research from a representation industry focus group also found that the current fastest growing product was hand sanitiser, which at the time coincided with the outbreak & growth of swine flu in the UK and Ebola in the world.



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