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Specialty gifts good choice in tough times, say UC agencies

CBJ Admin
Saturday, Aug 1, 2009

Novelty promotional products have been given away to increase brand visibility and build customer loyalty since the early 1800s. But in tough economic times, does it make sense to spend money for promotional gadgetry to woo customers, or should you stick to more traditional forms of advertising?

Of late, there is a trend to give promotional items to customers not so much to sell products but to thank them for their business. Companies are also buying logo apparel – T-shirts and hats – for employees as a token of thanks, and are then encouraging them to wear the clothing in public to advertise their company. Both methods are an easy way to get your brand in front of potential customers numerous times and in many locations for little expense. And the choices are numerous. One supplier boasts more than 200,000 items from 10,000 vendors.

“Promotional items will always have a place in a company’s marketing mix, regardless of economic conditions,” said Mike McCloud, president and CEO of MMA Creative in Cookeville. “The challenge today is getting the absolute right item for the right strategy for the right price. Buying ‘stuff’ just doesn’t make sense anymore, not in today’s climate. But there are many clever and strategic ways to incorporate a specialty item that can send the right message at the right time.”

There are as many different types of specialty items as there are places to imprint your logo. With new digital and screening technology, logos can be printed, painted, etched, stamped or molded into and onto almost any surface imaginable, from stone to metal to canvas to silicone, even holographs.

And the type of items offered are as varied as the surface on which they are imprinted. An international bank holding company once gave away – in two hours – 800 plastic rings with a flashing logo that was so bright the moderator of the conference they were attending had to ask that the rings be turned off. Silly can sometimes be effective, but it does not always have lasting value.

“I find that those items that are useful and have some sort of permanence create the most market value for our customers,” said Roman Stone, president of WDStone & Associates in Cookeville. “There are a lot of cute, hot items available, but the ones with substance as actual décor or usefulness seem to be the ones our clients are most pleased with. There are millions of choices, but very few with long-term appeal that won’t be tossed in the nearest trash can.”

Writing pens and pads have been popular favorites for years; so are calendars and coffee mugs. The availability and popularity of items change as our lifestyles evolve. Today, items that are more popular are cell phone and iPod carriers, golf tees and towels, bumper stickers, sun visors, thermal cups and carabiner key chains.

But maybe you want to venture into newer products. If so, you can order your own custom bottled water, logo duck tape or T-shirts packaged in a variety of shapes and patterns. Environmentally friendly items are also available, from solar-powered calculators to reusable canvas shopping bags to organic apparel.

Whatever your preference, there are many sources available in the UC to help you with designing and manufacturing the right novelty – from silly to classy to classic – to help promote your company’s brand.

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