It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book, but yet it’s still one of the most effective. Product-based marketing is still used by companies all over the world to generate excitement around their brand—and people eat it up whole.
Not sure what we’re talking about? Allow us to clarify. Do you own—or have you ever owned—a branded pen that you got for free at some event or conference? Perhaps there’s a mug in your cupboard at home with a big, bold company logo on it? If so, you’ve been a target of product-based marketing.
Not all promotional products are free—many are special edition items released to drum up awareness around a particular campaign or anniversary, such as the launch of a new service, the company’s 50th anniversary, a public holiday... Whatever the occasion, the objective is always the same: build or maintain brand recognition.
Let’s revisit that hypothetical mug in your cupboard. Imagine it’s from a car company. Even if you’ve never bought a vehicle as a direct result of owning that mug, chances are they’d be the first name you shouted out if quizzed on companies in that sector.
How effective is product-based marketing?
The simplest ideas are often the most effective and longest-lasting. Oh, so you want to make sure everyone in that office building knows about your printing services? Just give them a bunch of branded stationery. It’s so obvious, but has stood the test of time because it undeniably works.
A recent survey by the British Promotional Merchandise Association (BPMA) found that even in this extremely digitised era, promotional products can still deliver an equal or higher return on investment than other forms of marketing. Crazy, right?
Out of 14,728 respondents, 66% could remember the brand behind a promotional product they’d received in the previous twelve months and a whopping 79% said they’d be likely to do business with that company in the future.
Clearly, product-based marketing is something that consumers remain receptive to, even decades after it first became popularised. But like any marketing practice, its effectiveness is entirely dependent on how well-strategize its development has been.
So how do you get product-based marketing right? Zagwear is one of the world’s leading product-based marketing agencies and has provided us with some insight into creating memorable, high-impact promotional items.
Tip One: Build it around your audience
The number one rule of marketing persists: give the people what they want. Or create something they want, to be more precise.
It doesn’t matter how much marketers are painted as the consumerist overlords pushing products that nobody really has a need for. Any product, whether targeted at the general public or a specific end user, will fail if nobody really cares about having it.
In terms of product-based marketing, what does this mean? It means creating a product that your target audience will actually use, even if they aren’t already.
Don’t give them junk that clogs up their desks or living rooms or kitchens: offer them something that provides a solution to their problems or creates additional value in their day-to-day lives.
Mugs, pens and notebooks are admittedly overdone—with 66% of people owning a branded pen, 43% owning a branded notebook and 20% owning a branded mug—but there’s a reason behind their popularity: they’re primarily functional items that the vast majority of people need.
Plus, nobody really cares if their mug has a massive logo on it, as long as the coffee it contains is good. In other words, these items are a quick win for organisations looking to boost awareness.
A good way of identifying the best product type for your promotional item is to look at your existing offering and coming up with accessories that complement it.
What else might be useful to people when using your core services or product range? Stick a logo on it and boom, there you have it—a kitschy and cost-effective brand recognition weapon.
Tip two: Make it last
If you want to be a high-quality brand, don’t give out low-quality promotional products. This comes back to the “don’t give them junk” point we made earlier. Anything that is branded with your logo is a reflection of your organisation.
So if you distribute poor value or cheaply manufactured promotional items, the end user will think you’re poor value and cheap.
In some cases, your promotional items may be the first exposure a prospect has to your brand; and if the product is poor, it will also be their last. No one wants a poor quality pen that lasts less than a week, or a mug where all the paint comes off after a few rounds in the dishwasher.
These examples send a clear message to the end user: this brand doesn’t care about my needs for this product.
Cutting corners and being lazy with your product-based marketing can cause serious damage to your brand’s reputation—hitting both your wallet and your pride. So if you’re giving someone a pen, make it really easy to write with and super comfortable to hold.
It may sound trivial, but paying attention to your promotional items’ usability will ensure the product—and by extension, your brand—is memorable.
Tip three: Get creative
Okay, we’ve talked a lot about pens and mugs so far. Let’s move on to something else; let’s move on to the fun stuff! The very best promotional products, the cream of the crop, are the ones that demonstrate a brand or organisation thinking outside of the box: from Domino’s stain-proof onesie to Alzheimer’s New Zealand commissioning eraser shaped USB sticks to help people “save their memories”.
Products like these are essentially the golden rule of thinking about your end user’s needs in its most evolved form. The final boss of the product development game, if you will.
Admittedly, “be creative” isn’t really the most helpful advice. If we could all simply be creative at the drop of a hat, every person on the planet would have a fully realised product, campaign and organisation.
Creativity requires inspiration. Who do you look to for inspiration? Your end users. Dig deep into who they are, what they like and where your product-based marketing can fill gaps.
Tip four: Make it a status symbol or collectible
Brand loyalty is somewhat of a golden ticket. If your target audience is highly engaged with your brand, they’re likely to not only continue buying from you but to advocate for your products or services to new prospects. But brand loyalty doesn’t last forever if you don’t keep incentivizing people.
Product-based marketing is an ideal channel for topping up brand loyalty. You don’t need to work that hard to get people’s attention: all you really need to find a product your existing customer base will like and slap your logo on it.
BMW do this really effectively with their branded pens, which are something of a status symbol among proud Beamer owners. Old-school promotional items of all kinds also go for hundreds or thousands on resale websites as people clamor to get their hands on collectibles from their favorite brands.
Tip five: Use them!
The great thing about a promotional item is that it’s promotional in its own right, but can also be used elsewhere to drum up brand recognition.
One—or rather, two—of the most popular and recognizable promotional items in the UK, for example, are also the face of the brand: Aleksandr and Sergei of Compare The Market, a price comparison website. In 2011, the company began providing stuffed toys of the characters with every policy sold through their website.
The toys are so popular that they’re directly credited with doubling the net worth of Compare The Market owner Douw Steyn. Similarly, in the US, insurance provider GEICO has an entire eCommerce site built around the character featured in its adverts: the GEICO Gecko.
If you have other active marketing campaigns, TV or print advertisements or social channels, you should definitely consider featuring some of your promotional merchandise—it’s basically an ad within an ad!
Product-based marketing is a broad specialism. There are as many ways to create a great promotional item as there are promotional items to create—we’re sorry to inform you that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Besides, how boring would that be?
So what’s the holy grail of product-based marketing, the standard everyone should aim for regardless of what sector they’re in? Although it’s hard to boil down to a few points, we’re going to do our best. An amazing promotional item should:
- Be something your existing customer base is interested in
- Be something they’ll use regularly alongside your core product or service
- Be high-quality and long-lasting
- Turn customers into legitimate brand advocates
- Fit into your wider marketing strategy
Trying to come up with a groundbreaking idea isn’t easy. Most people who create outstanding products like those featured in this piece do so with the help of a specialist product-based marketing agency. Our best advice? If you really want to make an impression, get in touch with the experts.
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