Chachkas (sp)…Freebies…Giveaways. Through the years, promotional items have taken on many names…most not very complimentary. We’ve all been on the receiving end of promotional items, and typically our overall impression is synonymous with throw away, little or no value, worthless, not an essential business tool. If you’re on the giving end, certainly this is not the desired response. Time and money have been spent with the ultimate goal of promoting your product and raising awareness of your brand.
Let’s use a few other terms. This time I’ll pick words that are synonymous with business in the 21st Century. How about runaway competition; skeptical, hard to reach audiences; slow growth; and low price focus? This second set of terms should shed a new light on the use of promotional items as part of an overall branding strategy.
Before you can appreciate how promotional products and branding fit into the solution, let’s expand on the problem. There were more than 33,000 new product introductions in 2004. The more staggering point, more than half of consumers could not name a single product that was introduced. It’s estimated that all of us receive 5,000 messages a day. Think about all the email, voice mail, snail mail, and advertising you receive, not to mention product emblazoned pads and pens, and most people can see how cutting through the communication clutter requires far more effort today than in the past. Actually success is generated more through strategic thinking than just effort.
What can you do about this? First, decide on a brand. My definition of a brand is “the sum total of what makes your business or product unique in the marketplace”. Absolute uniqueness is almost impossible to achieve in today’s world. Even Ipod is not absolutely unique. But they do have relative uniqueness by introducing break through products that are easy-to-use and cool. Their success is based on the fact that everything they do revolves around this identity. The product design, consumer experience, advertising…promotional products…everything reinforces this very focused brand. As a result, you know exactly what they stand for and you want one.
The brand building process is not easy in today’s climate. You have to have an intense understanding of your customer and your competition. You need to be critically objective about your products or services. And, even if you are able to wade through all of this information and decide on a brand that has relative uniqueness, you must determine if it is important to your consumer, and stands out from your competition. And then, you still have one huge hurdle. Discipline.
There is so much temptation to stray. To set short range goals that are too short. To evaluate too soon and abandon strategies too quickly all in an effort to run a marketing sprint that is almost assured of failure. Today’s marketplace demands that you and your organization run the marathon. Decide on a brand and then focus every molecule of your organization on that brand. Build products and services that support it. Relentlessly communicate the same brand message in many different ways and different media.
And that brings us back to chachkas. Once the brand message is established, some basic rules of thumb apply to the actual selection/purchase of promotional items.
o Set a budget and stay within it. Factor in the cost of promotional items into your overall marketing budget.
o Determine the purpose of the promotional products. Promotional products are often used to announce a new product or service; entice a prospective client to make a purchase; thank a customer; improve employee morale and to remind tradeshow attendees of your product or service.
o Once your purpose is defined, develop a program rather than a once and done project. For instance, distribute a series of products to potential attendees at a trade show. Each product can convey a different message enticing the prospect to attend your booth.
o Determine where or how it will be distributed.
o Buy enough, but not too much. Promotional products purchased for one purpose may not suit all needs.
Most important to remember is to develop a program of handouts that reinforce your uniqueness instead of giving away a pen with your logo on it that has little connection to your brand or message. By distributing a series of items your message will have greater impact and memorability. The items should make it easy for your target market to remember your brand, not just jot down their grocery lists.
Follow these simple guidelines and you can change the terms Chochkas (sp)… …Freebies…and Giveaways…into Brand Communicators…Results Generators…or Clutter Busters.
Barry Carbaugh is president of Barry Group, Inc. a strategic communications firm specializing in strategies for competitive differentiation and attitude and behavior change. The agency provides clients with branding strategy development, national, regional and local media planning and buying, creative development for print, broadcast, outdoor, interactive and collateral materials and comprehensive public relations planning. Agency clients include: Kinsley Construction, York County Convention and Visitors Bureau, New York Alliance Against Insurance Fraud among others.