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The Appeal of Promotional Products

Updated: Sep 24, 2023

Whether you call them promotional products, advertising specialties, tchotchkes or giveaways, those pens, mugs, gadgets, t-shirts and caps with your logo imprinted on them are an integral part of your marketing portfolio.

“Promotional Products cost less and are remembered longer than any other form of advertising!”

According to a 2021 consumer study by PPAI Research, a trade association for the promotional products industry, promotional products are overwhelmingly popular. Take a look at the statistics supporting the appeal of promotional products:

  • 94% of consumers surveyed said they “Like receiving promotional products”

  • 3 out of 4 consumers keep a promotional product because they find the item “useful”

  • 86.5% agree that promotional products are a “good way to learn about new businesses in the area”

  • 88% use logoed promotional products when it “supports brands or causes they know & like”

  • 83% say promotional products “make an experience more enjoyable”

  • 85.4% would rather receive a promotional product rather than a promotional email

  • 9 in 10 agree that receiving promotional products at an event “makes the experience more memorable”

  • 3 of 4 would “likely switch brands” if they received a promotional product from brand with whom they had not previously done business

Stats are from the Promotional Products Association International) (PPAI) 2021 Consumer Study, Produced by PPAI Research.

What are the most popular promotional products?

Although there are some regional variations, the Top-20 promotional products named as “favorites” in the United States are:

  1. T-shirts

  2. Pens

  3. Mugs

  4. Caps & beanies

  5. Electronics (chargers, speakers, USB memory drives, flashlights)

  6. Coolers & lunchboxes

  7. Insulated drinkware

  8. Socks

  9. Hoodies

  10. Backpacks

  11. Outerwear

  12. Pint glasses

  13. Performance wear

  14. Tote bags

  15. Stickers

  16. Umbrellas

  17. Water bottles

  18. Blankets        

  19. Calendars

  20. Sunglasses

However, almost anything you can think of could become a promotional item. The only limit to the possibilities is your imagination.

When used correctly, promotional products can be combined with other forms of advertising to become even more effective.

What is the Appeal of Promotional Products?

It’s clear from the data that your customers are nearly fanatical about promotional products, but what drives this behavior? The science of psychology can help to explain the appeal of promotional products.

Principle of Reciprocity

Companies and marketers have long used psychology to understand customers better, develop buyer personas, and target their audiences. The Principle of Reciprocity is an important finding that explains why promotional products work.

People give and others receive. Then, those who received also give and still others receive. With promotional products, this reciprocity can come in two different forms. The customer themselves might purchase from your company or they may tell their friends and family about the product and your business.

In order to elicit the reciprocity response from consumers, your promotional products should be useful, attractive, enjoyable and relevant.

Sense of Accomplishment

When you give away free products at events, it provides the recipient with a sense of accomplishment. They feel as though something they have done made them worthy of earning this free product.

Sense of Loyalty

Giving away free products also works when it comes to employees. You could give them these promo items at your company’s events or parties. They may help the employees feel as though their time at these events was worthwhile. It can also help remind the employees of the good times they had during that event. Every time they use that gift from you, it will foster a greater sense of loyalty to your company.


On average, a promotional product is kept for around five months, garnering an average of about 1,000 impressions per month. However, the more useful the item is, the longer it will be retained and the more impressions it will make. The most useful items are bags, items of clothing and travel mugs.

“Promotional Products have one of the lowest costs per impression ratios – about $0.006 per impression.” Research provided by the Advertising Specialty Institute, ©2022, All Rights Reserved.

A Positive Return on Investment

Looking at your financial statement and seeing that you’re giving away free items might be alarming at first. However, by the time these promotional products are out of use, they will have given you much more than a 1:1 return on investment. The appeal of promotional products is not just emotional, it’s financial.

Improved Brand Recognition

If you want to gain new customers, you need to make sure they are familiar with your brand and what you offer. The items you give out will help your customers remember you and what you do in the long run. If you choose the right product, the product and your brand will stay with them for a long time. It will serve as a constant reminder of your company.

Long Lasting Exposure

Other forms of advertising only stay in front of someone’s eyes for a few seconds. Useful promo items stay in sight most of the time. A trendy t-shirt will stay in the recipient’s closet for years. Plus, every time they wear it, hundreds if not thousands of people see your brand name. A USB stick that goes on their keychain serves as a reminder of your company every time they use it. Think of these items like a years-long commercial.

Better Than a Business Card

Every business person is familiar with business cards. You know that these are useful tools for introducing yourself and your business to potential customers. You might be surprised to find out that promotional products do the same thing, but with even better results. Almost three-quarters of people who receive a promotional item are able to remember the name of the company that gave it to them. The same can’t always be said for when you give out a business card. When the item contains your information like your logo, slogan, or even contact information, it can be much more useful than a business card.

Powerful Lead Generation

There is more than brand awareness to be gained from offering a promotional product. Companies benefit the most from a promotional product strategy when they are used as a lead magnet. In this case, you give something to your customers in return for more information about them. Most often, this comes in the form of a mailing list signup. You now have another opportunity to sell them on your business, products, and services.

Promotional products work well as giveaways on social media. Competition style giveaways can be used in exchange for shares on social media or referrals. The appeal of promotional products in social media contest marketing is a tactic that many companies are already using. In fact, 91% of Instagram posts with over 1,000 comments are contests.

Promotional Products Work

Promotional products influence not only the recipient, but they can act as “walking billboards” to influence others. This can give your company the social lift you need to get ahead of your competitors. It can also be an important catalyst for word-of-mouth marketing. Finally, promotional products also encourage product trials, repeat purchases and brand awareness by motivating customers to try more from your company. Although there are other marketing strategies that get more attention, promotional products should be an intentional and significant component of your overall marketing strategy.

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