The Dilemma of Promotional Products - What Giveaways Really Work?

August 20, 2019

There are countless promotional products and items handed out as promotional giveaways at trade shows and various other experiential event marketing activations. Perhaps it’s a snazzy key chain or custom-labeled water bottle. Then again, the items could be the ever-popular koozie, a plastic branded squeeze bottle, or a nifty nylon drawstring bag. Endless numbers of attendees have walked away from an event with a promotional bag loaded with koozies, pens, pencils, squishy anti-stress toys, plastic cups and branded candies…each of them intentionally branded so guests can open up their goodies at home and be reminded of the brand experience.

But do these items truly achieve long-term brand reinforcement?

- Those branded koozies often make their way into the trash at a cookout where it was left behind.
- Candies get eaten.
- Key chains end up in pockets, if they get used at all.
- Pencils and anti-stress toys often end up in the hands of children and grandchildren.

Marketing dollars down the drain.

So what doesn’t find its way into the trash or tiny hands? What fosters brand affinity, stays in the hands it was intended for, and even attaches itself to a memory?

A custom-branded photo.

Sometimes, these photos are taken using a green screen photo booth. Sometimes, a custom border is applied to a photo shot against a natural background. Whatever the method, it’s always tied to an interactive photo booth, photo station, or photo kiosk located onsite at the event where custom branding and messaging is applied to an attendee's photo...not just the result of someone taking a photo on their own smartphone.

Commemorative photos are without question the most personalized and cherished promotional item of all even though they’re rarely thought of as a promotional product in the first place (you won’t find them offered in promotional product catalogs, for instance). Ironic.

Promotional items are chosen with the intent of causing consumers and guests to not only remember an event, but to remember who was responsible for putting on the event. A commemorative photo does just that…with an added element that can’t be found on the typical promotional giveaways that you do find in catalogs- a picture of the attendee.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the ubiquitous nature of photos somehow diminishes their value. Quite the contrary. There’s a reason why society is inundated with photographs from smartphones, social media and countless other channels. Because photos have been and will always be one of the most personalized and valuable assets a person owns. More than high-ticket material items? Yes. Need proof? Think about what happens when tragedy strikes and a person’s home catches fire…they always seek to save the 3 P’s:people, pets, and photos. If they’re unable to save anything else, they always try to save the 3 P’s.

Pictures chronicle a person’s life events. Pictures are not only in the present, they’re in the past. They mark time. They’re constant. They’re consistent. This alone should sell you on the absolute, undeniable importance of considering custom-branded photos as your go-to promotional item for event giveaways of all kinds: corporate gifts, ideas for wedding favors, or trade show giveaways like Durango Boots has used for several years at the CMA Fan Fest tradeshow in Nashville (registration required to view case study video).

Pictures are a constant force in our culture. Koozies and keychains aren’t.

Unlike so many of the other branded promotional items that are handed out at experiential marketing events, corporate meetings and tradeshows, pictures find their way into a frame or photo album – not the trash. The expenditure on these branded promotional products is only justified if they truly achieve long-term brand reinforcement with the attendee…if the attendee keeps and displays it. And that’s what people do with photos. They keep and display them. Whether in a photo album, frame or posted on the refrigerator, pictures can be found in homes across the globe. They hold their value. They serve as conversation starters. They are reminders. Photos are indeed a marketing force of reckoning…the most personalized of all promotional items you can offer someone to amplify brand impressions and ensure long-term brand reinforcement.

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