Which branded products and brand items should I invest in? Well, the answer that to depends on one thing.
You guessed it:
Your target audience.
Just like everything else in the branding world, your promotional branded products and brand items need to have a focus and purpose.
It’s no good getting branded sunglasses if your target audience lives in the Arctic circle (or Newcastle for that matter!). Perhaps branded snow shoes would be a better option?
Branded products and brand items are often used as free giveaways for your brand. The purpose is to put you at top of mind for people when it comes to them requiring your products or services.
It’s a fairly simple marketing idea and it’s been used for years.
So which branded products or brand items should you invest your business’ hard earned cash into?
Let’s take a look, but first, there are a few questions you need to answer;
Who Are Your Customers?
When it comes to your marketing materials, you need to look back at your brand strategy, to help you make key decisions.
The first question you need to be able to answer is; who are your customers?
It’s no good planning a range of marketing activities or branded product giveaways without a clear understanding of the type of customer you’re trying to win.
Here are 3 basic questions about your customers that can help shape your decision when it comes to ordering branded products.
What Industry Are They In?
Knowing which industry your ideal customer is in is key. If they’re an airline pilot, they’ll have completely different needs to an office worker.
A pilot is likely to have a complicated shift pattern, flying all around the world can be difficult to organise. So maybe what you need for them, is branded diaries or calendars.
For the office worker; perhaps you need to consider branded pens or desk stationery.
It’s unlikely you’re going into business without knowing the type of industry your ideal customer works in, so just remember it when it comes to placing orders for branded products and brand items.
What Is Their Demographic Profile?
Age, family situation, car they drive, and so on, can all have a massive impact on the type of branded products or brand items you focus on.
So the more information you have about your target customer’s demographics, the better.
If you’re targeting young children with your products, maybe it’s giveaway gonks or cuddly toys.
If you’re aiming to capture the young adult cooking market, maybe it’s branded wooden spoons or spice mixes.
Having your target audience profiles to hand should help shape your purchasing decisions when it comes to your marketing products.
Are They the Key Decision Maker?
Here’s something that trips a lot of people up.
You might know your target audience and demographic, but they might not be the key decision maker in the buying process. This can be especially true in a B2B (business to business) environment.
And this is more of a general tip than being specifically for when it comes to ordering branded products.
But, here’s the deal:
Always make sure you’re going after the decision maker in the buying process. Otherwise your brand and marketing efforts could be completely wasted.
How Will You Be Distributing Your Branded Products and Brand Items?
This is a key question to answer before ordering your branded products.
There are multiple different ways to get your branding materials into the hands of prospective clients or buyers.
Let’s take a look;
At a Business Fair, Expo, or Exhibition
If you’re taking your business to a fair, expo, or exhibition, then you’re literally going to be placing your branded products into the hands of potential new customers.
Which has both advantanges and disadvantages;
- There is no cost for distributing your branded items, apart from the cost of your exhibition stand.
- You can talk to customers face to face and find out what they need, rather than bombarding them with giveaways.
- Your branded products can be used to start conversations, especially if you’re giving away something totally unique.
- If your giveaway is “too good” then you risk a lot of people swinging by for the free gift, even though they aren’t interested in your business.
- You’re not able to give away anything too big or bulky, because nobody wants to carry big and bulky things around all day.
- You’re under pressure to stand out from the crowd, because everyone else exhibiting will also be giving away branded products or items.
Posting Your Branded Products and Brand Items
If you’re posting your branded products or items, then you face a completely different set of challenges than if you’re handing them out at an exhibition.
- Your items can’t be too big or bulky, as they’ll be expensive to post.
- You need to stand out in your clients mailbox. Companies get a lot of mail, so how can you make yours different?
- Posting a lot of items will quickly start costing your business a lot of money.
- You don’t get a chance to engage with people directly.
However, with a highly targeted mailing list and a unique branded product, you can easily get the name of your company, and your personal contact information, into the hands of potential buyers.
And, in this day and age, who isn’t impressed by a bit of old snail mail?
What Do You Want People to Do With Them?
Deciding what you want people to do with your branded products and items will help you decide what type of products you go for.
We can assume that one thing you don’t want people to do with your giveaway, is put it in the bin. So, you need to give them something useful!
- What Is The Required Action? – I’ve often thought at Canny, that if we were to send out branded products, we’d send out desk pads or notebooks with our logo and contact details on them. The hope would be that this lives on people’s desks, and they use it to write or jot down ideas.
- Why Is This The Required Action? – Over time, they become familiar with our name and when they need design services, they remember us.
- Give Them Something Useful – By giving potential clients something useful, you’re keeping your business “top of mind” for when they need your services. The enquiry or sale might not happen straight away, but by being useful over a longer period of time, there’s a chance you’ll make the sale eventually!
The Three Branded Products Every Business Needs
Every business needs three branded products. And these aren’t branded promotional items or giveaways, these three items should be covered in your branding phase.
Sure, we now live in a digital age, but there’s no replacement for the business card.
If you’re out and about on business, meeting people, exhibiting etc, and you happen to strike up a great relationship – you need to give people an easy way to get in touch with you.
And the business card is your answer to that. Always have some to hand whenever you’re off representing your business.
Something to Takeaway
Apart from your business card, you need to give people something to takeaway.
Usually this will be a flyer or a brochure. This should outline your unique value proposition or services, so when you go your separate ways, your lead won’t forget everything you just told them.
Having something that doesn’t cost a fortune, but gives people the right information about your business, is as valuable a branded product as you can get.
Roller Banners / Exhibition Stand
This is an important piece in any brand related puzzle. And it catches a lot of people off guard.
You may not be expecting to exhibit anywhere anytime soon, but it’s always handy to have a roller banner that you can pop up at a moments notice. We recently used ours when our office building decided on an impromptu visitors day and exhibition event!
And if you’re not going to use it straight away, you can always pop it up in your office, helping visitors and passers by understand more about what you do.
The Different Types of Branded Products and Brand Items
Now that we’ve been over the basics, let’s take a look at a range of common branded products and brand items that you can get your hands on.
Some of these won’t be right for your business, and you should always refer back to the questions above, as well as your brand strategy to help you make your decision.
But, here’s a brief overview, with the positives and negatives of each branded item;
Stationery is one of the things that most companies do tend to give away. This is because it can contain a lot of information about your company, and is relatively cheap to produce en-masse.
Flyers / Leaflets
Flyers and leaflets are quite often put inside “event bags”, frequently handed out at stalls, or thrust into the hands of unsuspecting passers by.
Flyers and leaflets are a great branded item if you’re looking to reach one community of sub-section.
How flyers and leaflets be used effectively:
If you’re a hairdresser opening up in a new location, and you want to post an offer through people’s doors. However, make sure there is an offer, and the offer is good, or you’ll get very little uptake!
Pros: Cheap to produce, contain a lot of information, small and easy to carry.
Cons: Nobody looks at them, wasteful, often get dropped on the floor.
Booklets / Brochures
Booklets and brochures are often weightier than a flyer or leaflet. They often feel like more money has been spent on them, and can be used to give to more targeted buyers.
They’re great for giving a full overview of your company or range of services, but you don’t want to go dishing them out to everyone, as they can get expensive to produce.
How booklets and brochures be used effectively:
If you go to meet a potential new buyer of your product, you might want to consider leaving them some literature to look through once you leave.
Pros: Feel like they cost more to produce, making people less likely to throw them away. Contain a lot of information and offer readers a “deep dive” into your business and services.
Cons: Can cost a lot to produce, run the risk of getting left on a shelf or desk without ever getting looked at.
Stickers are light weight and cheap to produce. They can also fit inside “event bags” or inside a brochure. However, stickers are really only appropriate for certain businesses.
How stickers can be used effectively:
Stickers can be utilised well if you’re a skate company, brewery, or something “quirky and unique.” It’s not often you’ll see solicitors and accountants handing out stickers!
Pros: Cheap to produce, easy to distribute, hundreds on a roll and easy to carry.
Cons: Can cheapen your brand, you can find your logo stuck in unsavoury places, can’t contain much company information.
Calendars / Diaries
Slightly more bulky than the other suggestions, getting a free calendar or diary can often be quite unusual. They’re more expensive to produce but can be more effective than flyers.
How calendars and diaries can be used effectively:
If you’re in the B2B sector, most people will carry diaries, it’s the one thing that people haven’t fully given up in favour of the digital.
Calendars often find homes in offices, particularly desk calendars, that are in turn seen by everyone that enters the office.
Pros: People use them, functional, remind people of your business.
Cons: Costly to produce, bulky to carry around.
Desk Pads / Jotters
Easily my favourite giveaway is the desk pad or jotter. And that’s because I use it frequently! I was actually given a free selection of desk pads from a print company, in turn, I ended up switching to them as my print supplier.
This worked because I was seeing their logo every day, and the next time I needed a quote, I thought to give them a chance. This is the exact affect you want to have on your potential customers.
How desk pads and jotters can be used effectively:
If you’re targeting creatives, journalists, or people in the B2B space, they’re always taking notes! For creatives, you want an unruled desk pad. Journalists might prefer lined.
A desk pad is a handy thing to be able to pull out and get your thoughts down quickly. People also use them to make notes, which are in turn handed over to others. So make sure your logo is on each page, so you’re hitting multiple people at once.
Pros: Cheap to produce, functional – meaning they get used, can use to hit multiple people at once.
Cons: Make sure the size is right, because nobody wants to carry a massive writing pad around with them!
Pens are one of those branded items that everyone gives out. They do it, because they’re easy to produce, and who doesn’t use a pen often?
However, the drawbacks are – if the pens are cheap – they’ll likely not work for long. The expensive ones can sometimes be too wide or not comfortable to grip. On top of that, most companies get their branding put right in the middle, the part your hand covers up.
How pens can be used effectively:
A good quality, comfortable to grip pen, with your logo put in the right place, can be effective. But I’d use it more as an accompaniment to a desk pad or jotter, than as a standalone giveaway.
Pros: Cheap to make, everyone uses pens at work – so people will use them.
Cons: People have their own pen preferences, if the logo is printed in the wrong place, your branding may go amiss.
Branded gifts and giveaways are often a better idea than stationery items. Bags can easily get full of stationery – but what about something a little outside of the norm?
If you’re at a conference or exhibition, giving out branded water bottles is a great idea. Often times, people forget to take something to drink, so giving them a water bottle allows them to fill up from the cooler.
If you invest into good quality branded water bottles, people will use them for years to come.
How water bottles can be used effectively:
Branded water bottles will get used. They’re not often given out, so a high quality water bottle, branded unobtrusively could just work out as a gift to give away.
Use high quality water bottles to ensure people will use them. The cheap plastic ones are a horrible solution, and I’d recommend staying well away from them. Have something unusual made!
Pros: People will use them, and people keep quality water bottles forever.
Cons: Can be quite expensive, and they’re quite chunky to take around an expo or event. (Maybe look for fold down water bottles)
Key rings, key rings, key rings. Honestly, does anyone appreciate a branded keyring? I have a keyring, it’s a solid silver steel loop. Easy. It came with my house key on it.
I don’t like bulk in my pockets, and unless it was a lifestyle brand, or a brand I loved, I definitely wouldn’t be using a branded keyring.
I once received a boomerang shaped keyring from Australia. It was horrifying, and it went straight into the “forget about me” pile – never to be seen again.
How key rings can be used effectively:
By putting them in the bin. Really though, I’m not sure. Unless you’re a fashion brand or lifestyle brand, I’d stay well away from them.
Pros: They’re cheap.
Cons: See above.
Contrary to my view on key rings, my partner uses a branded key ring. It has the number of a local taxi company on it. So maybe she calls them when she needs a taxi, and can’t use Uber?
Mugs / Cups
Everyone has a mug or cup they use at work, but do they use a branded one? I know at the office, the ground floor cupboard is full to the brim of cups, most are plain white – or have logos of the companies in the building.
Just like a pen, everyone has their preference when it comes to their mug. I like big cups, so I can get as much tea as possible in there!
How mugs and cups can be used effectively:
If it were me, I’d be getting several sizes of mug or cup ready – and then asking people which they’re most likely to use. You’ve got quite a lot of surface on a mug too, so make sure you get your company name/logo, and website or email address on there.
Pros: Everyone uses cups, if you get it right, you’ll find a permanent home on someone’s desk.
Cons: People have their own preferences, can be expensive to produce in high volume.
We’ve all been to the exhibition stand that had sweets. We’ve all probably taken a couple more sweets than we should have. We’ve also probably also told our friends that “x stand has sweets, go and grab some!” – no? Just me?
Really though, you don’t have a lot of branding opportunities with sweets. They’re a good giveaway, and can attract people to the stand, but the branding possibilities are limited.
Pros: Can draw people into your stand, they’re cheap.
Cons:: No branding opportunity, can attract people to your stand – just for the sweets.
Clothing is an interesting choice of branded product. You need to take into account different sizes and options. On the flip side though, people love a good bit of branded merchandise – and giving away clothing is often quite impressive!
T-shirts are a good branded gift, but just like stickers, they only work for a certain type of business. Not many people will want to wear a t-shirt with an accountancy on it!
T-shirts are great for fashion brands, beer brands, and other lifestyle brands.
How t-shirts can be used effectively:
T-shirts should be hung up in your stand, so it visually entices people over to talk to you. Then, when you get talking and find out if they’re a potential buyer, or have connections with potential buyers, you can hand out the goods.
Make sure your t-shirt is emblazoned with your logo design – so when people are wearing it out and about, your brand is gaining visibility.
Pros: They work to bring people into your stand, a free t-shirt is a great giveaway, people will wear them and people will become aware of your brand name and identity.
Cons: Because of sizing options – t-shirts can be costly to produce, if people don’t like the design, they’ll not wear it – free or not.
Tote bags can have the same affect as t-shirts, without the added cost of manufacturing multiple sizes.
Again, these work best for a certain type of brand, although, you can probably take advantage of this no matter your business sector. Sometimes, especially at a large exhibition or conference, people are just grateful for an easy way to carry around their free swag.
However, if you want people to use your tote bag for a longer period of time, you’ll need to invest in good design to ensure your bag looks great!
How tote bags can be used effectively:
Make sure they look great, and you should be able to convince people to use them in their day to day life! I know if I had a good looking tote bag, I’d use it to bring my essentials to work every day.
People like totes because they can look good, and are easy to fold away and store. So make sure your design is outstanding, the bag is of good quality, and you’re off to the races!
Pros: People like tote bags, they’re cheaper to produce than t-shirts, people use them frequently.
Cons: You’ll need to invest in a great design to go on the bag, or you run the risk of them look amateurish.
I’m going to say the same thing again, hats are great – depending on the type of brand or business you run. And that’s a bit of a running theme with clothing as a branded product. You need to make sure it’s appropriate.
Brewery brands can double down on free hats, because people love beer, and most people don’t object to a free hat!
How hats can be used effectively:
Hats are a good “one size fits all” giveaway – and a certain demographic loves hats. A stylish branded hat can attract people to your stand, but also spread for miles on social media.
If you get a couple of good looking people modelling your hats with the right hashtag, you could be onto a winner!
Pros: People love hats – especially people of a certain age, can be cheap to produce, can spread well on social media.
Cons:/strong> Only work for a certain demographic.
Something Crazy and Unique
Apart from the branded items and branded products we’ve already talked about – you could go all in with some silly, crazy, or unique.
Let’s look at;
- Stress balls – a lot of people work in high stress jobs, they’re cheap, and make a good little talking point.
- A slinky – who doesn’t remember these awesome toys from their childhood days? Great nostalgia trip but lack branding opportunities unless they come boxed.
- Pizza – well, everyone loves pizza! Again though, lacks branding options.
There are a lot of different things you could try, but you need to make sure it’s appropriate to your target audience.
Conclusion: Which Branded Products and Brand Items Should I Invest In?
Getting your branded products and brand items right isn’t easy. You can easily go wrong, so take notice of our tips above and hopefully it helps out.
Don’t fall into the trap of giving something away just to gain extra sets of eyes. The eyes you want on your stall or business, are highly targeted. Casting a wide net, and hoping some people are right for you, is the wrong way to approach give away material.
First, get your business branding right, then look at your branded products and items.
What do you think? What have you had success with in the past? Let us know in the comments below.
reading time: 19 minutes