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History Shows That Promotional Products Work!

     Welcome to the wonderful world of promotional products.  For those of you new to the industry, here's a simple definition: Promotional products are generally useful, and often decorative, items imprinted with a company's name, logo or message and used in marketing and communications programs.  The ultimate intent, of course, is to generate more revenue for the company handing out the promotional goodies by giving potential customers something to remember them by.  Though use of promotional products may seems like a simple marketing solution today, the industry itself had a somewhat staggered start.
     Want to learn more?  We invite you to wander down a path paved with little known facts and lots of research.  Let's start in 1789, when George Washington was elected president.  Research shows commemorative buttons were given out to the public during that time.  Though all aspects of a political conversation are being avoided here, it should be noted that this was the first known usage of a promotional product.
     Wooden specialties, the Farmers' Almanac and advertising calendars can all be traced back to the early 1800's.  However, it wasn't until the latter part of the 19th century that a great quantity of promotional products were marketed, thus leading to the industry as it is known today.  In 1914, the first trade shows became a part of the promotional product industry.  Now, trade shows play a vital role and are held several times each year.  When an industry trade association was formed in 1904, representatives from 12 promotional products manufacturers issued operating procedures.  By 1906, the association had 56 members.  Records show that in 1928, 132 members participated, and a recent study shows membership of more than 6,500 and 1999 sales of nearly $15 billion.

Making Them Work for You
     So, now that you are familiar with how the industry was started, you may be wondering how this form of advertising could work for your company.  Whether you are looking for a way to motivate your staff or recruit more business, this industry could be of some assistance.  Promotional products are used in several ways.  Chief executive officers of companies award employees with desktop accessories or apparel, glassware items or technology toys with logos engraved, screenprinted or embroidered as an incentive to continue working hard.  Oftentimes, companies will buy a product with their name on it and give it away at VIP openings or fund-raising events.
     Research shows that customers, both new and old, who receive promotional products return sooner and reorder more quickly and more frequently than those who receive no promotional incentives.  According to Southern Methodist University, new customers of a dry cleaning company that received promotional products over an eight-month period spent 27 percent more than those who were only given coupons.  Additionally, the promotional product recipients were also noted to patronize their dry-cleaners 49 percent more than those who received only a coupon (in each of the eight months studied). 
Build Customer Goodwill
     Baylor University conducted a study in 1992 on the attitudes of customers toward companies.  The study involved a textbook publishing company and 4,000 educators.  The customers were given one of three of the following items: a thank you letter, a pocket calculator and a letter, or an inexpensive highlighter and a letter.  The study showed the attitudes of the customers who received a promotional product were much more positive toward sales people and the company than those who were only sent a letter of thanks.  Customers who received the pocket calculator rated the ability of the sales peoples 34 percent higher than those who were sent just a letter.

Generate Customer Referrals
     Along with the study done on customer's attitudes, Baylor University performed a study to see how likely customers were to give sales representative referrals with and without a promotional incentive.  The study was done with 20 Mary Kay beauty consultants.  Out of the 20 consultants, half distributed promotional gifts to customers.  Both groups asked for referrals of friends and associates whom they could contact in the future.  Research shows that providing promotional gifts increased the likelihood of generating more customers.  Customers who received a promotional product were 14 percent more likely to provide leads.

Increase Trade Show Traffic
     In a study done by Exhibit Survey, Inc., it was shown that by using promotional products, companies can have an advantage over other exhibitors for customer attention.  
Before a trade show, an exhibitor sent invitations to nearly 5,000 registrants.  Along with the invitations, small groups received from zero to three gifts--before, at and after the show.  Research showed that the response was greatly higher for the members who received a gift set before and at the show than those who just received an invitation.

Employee Awards & Incentives
     In 1994, Baylor University randomly surveyed 1,500 regarding their opinions about employee awards and incentives.  The results showed that employees work hard and are motivated to win awards, and they encourage their co-workers to work toward awards and incentives as well.  A 1999 survey by the Incentive Federation, Inc. revealed that incentive programs are highly effective and cost efficient.  The survey was sent to 4,000 executives in a cross-section of U.S. companies who were already users of merchandise and travel items for motivation/incentive purposes.  The study indicated that American businesses spend about $23 billion annually on merchandise and travel for motivational use.

Research information and statistics courtesy of Promotional Products Association International.