How to choose the right promotional item

In the world of promotional items, brand recall is probably the most important factor to take into account as an exhibitor.

No one wants to invest loads of money in a promotional item that’s discarded after one day. Or worse, not even taken out the goodie bag!

So, to avoid the potential ‘throw in the bin when you get home’ calamity, we’re going to give you our expert advice and tips on everything about promotional giveaways.

Interested to find out more? Keep on reading…

how to choose promotional items

When are promotional items used?

Firstly, let's understand when and where promotional are items are used:

  • At events to enable a start of a conversation
  • At an event for brand recall
  • Charities use and sell them to make money
  • At an event in a goodie bag at the end of a conversation
  • In direct mail pieces as a conversation opener
  • In direct mail pieces to reinforce relationships with new and existing customers

Why should you give away promotional items?

Giveaways aren’t just for show – and they’re certainly not there to fill a goodie bag.

Promotional items can be used as an incentive to gain leads from prospective clients. If they’re not used as incentives, a branded promotional item will generate plenty of brand recall to the user.

While some event visitors may not require your services or products right now – they may do in the future. Just seeing your brand name on a pen, notebook, keyring or USB stick (to name a few) may be the catalyst to visiting your website, calling your phoneline and ultimately generating a lead.

So, what’s the main lesson here? Always brand your giveaways!

To summarise, promotional items:

  • Are ideal for brand recall
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Draws attention and provides a window of opportunity to interact with visitors

What promotional items should you be dishing out?

You need to consider every type of giveaway to choose from based on what effect you'd like it have.

Below, we’re going to talk about some real case study examples our marketing gurus managed to get their hands on at an event in a goodie bag.

We'll be showcasing the good and the bad, discussing why people use them as freebies and the benefits of giving them away in the first place. Branding has been censored.

Branded pens

Fully branded promotional pens

Starting off with the most popular giveaway out there. You can’t go wrong with a fancy pen. Everyone uses them. Which is a good thing!

Why? A common household and office item that's used throughout the day will cause more brand recall when your branding is on show and clear to see for the user.

Pens are great to show straplines or logos and the best examples we've seen tend to have bold text in white for coloured backgrounds or one solid colour for white backgrounds.

Our top tip: less is more! Don't use loads of text. A simple strapline and logo if the shape allows it is more than sufficient to create a professional looking branded pen. Always include contact information for customers to use should they need to get in contact.

Promotional item effectiveness rating: 7/10


Branded freebie bag

Often a missed opportunity for most, but a branded bag is great for leaving lasting impressions. Your branded bag can be re-used (hopefully) time and time again, meaning your brand name will be on show time and time again. On the other hand, it could be thrown away as soon as they get back to the office. So we would go for a more long lasting choice such as a canvas tote bag.

If you use branded bags for events, visitors carrying your bags will be a great advertisement of your presence. Which will likely result in more people researching your name or better still trying to find you on the day.

Anything to gain more on-stand visitors means more leads, more sales and a better ROI for your event.

Our top tip: make the most of the large surface area you can print on bags. Print on as much space as possible to better draw the attention of passers-by.

Promotional item effectiveness rating: 9/10

Power bank

Power bank

We're guessing this is a powerbank... but we can't get it to work!

Techy giveaways are great for the right target audience and event, but we recommend trying something a little different if you really want to wow the visitors.

If you are going to give away promotional items similar to these, have a member of staff discuss to visitors what it is. This might be a nice way to get a conversation flowing with a potential customer. If being used in a direct mailer, explain what it is on the mailer.

As this was used in a goodie bag with no interaction it really didn't do it's job. The powerbank also only displayed the logo - there was no indication of what it was or what the company could do for us.

Our top tip: if you're going to give away something 'techy', make sure it works. Make it functional and relevant to your target market. There's nothing worse than a branded promo item going straight in the bin.

Promotional item effectiveness rating: 4/10


Branded gin bottle

You're likely to attract the crowds if people know you're giving away freebies as good as these. Just don't give them all away too quickly!

Everyone will be curious enough to read the label and that's where the branding comes into play. Your company name will be the first thing recipients see.

We liked this particular example as it contained all the information we needed to know without looking overcrowded, the brand and what they did.

Promotional items that are current, on trend and desirable are definitely the ones to be using.

Our top tip: you can't go wrong giving away alcohol. It may be wise to only hand out your more expensive giveaways to visitors you have had a chat with/have an interest in your brand.

Promotional item effectiveness rating: 8/10

Sweets and chocolate

Branded sweets and chocolate

They’re called milk chocolate beanies if you don't work for that company, and as a tasty snack, you can't go wrong.

Any sight of food or treats at your exhibition stand is sure to attract a lot of attention. But there's one big drawback.

When you're finished, the packaging is going in the (recycling) bin. That also means your brand name will go in the bin as well as the chances of any brand recall.

As a lure for visitors on the day of your event, to enable you to start a conversation giving away food is perfect and we definitely recommend trying this. For brand recall, we suggest having additional freebies at the ready.

Alternatively, for existing customers, a sweet treat will act as a nice 'thank you for working with us'. 

So although we loved eating these delicious chocolate beanies, they did not work for us in a goodie bag. 

Our top tip: use sweet giveaways alongside other promotional items. They make great conversation starters, but make sure you have something else with a longer shelf life ready to give away so they don't forget about you!  

Promotional item effectiveness rating: 6/10

We want to hear from you

Do you use promotional giveaways? Why do you use them? Where do you use them? We’d love to know – start a conversation with us by leaving a message below!

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