CEO Live

Guest blog: Products evolve as promotional tools

Posted by Taylor Rogers on July 10, 2014


By Scott Foresta

Advertising and promotional products are the bread and butter of every industry. It doesn’t matter what business a company is in if no one knows about them, so being seen and getting word of mouth out are key. Marketing tools like promotional goods are particularly important for small businesses, which often lack the high advertising budgets of bigger industry giants. As a result, they often seek innovative new ways to capitalize on their marketing potential.

An Ohio resident, Jasper Freemont Meek from nearby Coshocton, is credited as having pioneered what were then cutting-edge methods of advertising in the late 19th Century. According to apocryphal accounts, Meek witnessed a student having a difficult time carrying books home from school. He saw a potential need, and he began distributing bags with a client’s store name printed in a large font, capitalizing on a new market for getting a brand name known. That kind of recognition of a potential new niche is what advertising and promotions are all about.

Promotional marketing has grown into an $18 billion-a-year industry, and for good reason: it’s the least expensive form of advertising, and it works. In the embroidery and promotional marketing industry today, wearable products like shirts and sunglasses remain one of the most preferred methods of advertising, and hard goods like these will never go out of style.

Office products also enjoy a long-standing popularity. Calendars, one of the earliest promotional products in history, are still one of the most popular. Coffee mugs and mouse pads are also common requests.

But while there will always be a demand for office products and accessories in the marketing business, certain trends do rise and fall over time. There was a time when pens and business cards were the predominant method of promotional marketing, and even though these products will never completely lose their appeal, they have been somewhat relegated to the sidelines in recent years.

There’s been a rush in the marketing world to embrace new modes of technology and the demands they create. Practical, everyday objects like hand sanitizer holsters, USB drives and cell phone cases make ideal promotional items. They’re highly desirable and are used frequently enough everyday that they become a highly visible marketing platform.

Rather than relying on direct reference—say, a business card that one may refer back to when in need of those services—these kinds of products rely on person-to-person promotion. They function more as a billboard than a business card, distributed by the company to be seen by others at work or in public. Noticing someone else’s cell phone case on a bus or in a waiting room helps solidify the name of a business in a potential customer’s mind by associating it with a practical, relevant use.

Promotional marketing is all about being seen and heard, but the most important factor is for a business to keep abreast with current trends and the subsequent wants and needs of consumers.

Scott Foresta and his father, David, opened EmbroidMe in 2006 at 4922 Morse Rd. in Gahanna. Services include promotional products, embroidery, garment printing, custom apparel, screen printing and personalized gifts. 614-933-9194 or Gahanna@embroidme.com.