7 Ways to Make Promo Items Pay!

promo itemsWhether you call them giveaways, promo items, logo merchandise, swag or chachki, promotional products are big business. Promotional products sales consistently top $20 billion annually, according to Promotional Products Association International (PPAI).

Like any other part of your marketing strategy, it’s all about knowing your audience, staying within budget and getting the best potential return on your investment.

Here are a few tips and trends to think about:

  1. Be Unique – walk up and down the aisles of any exhibit hall and you will see more pens, post-it notes and water bottle promo items than you can imagine. If you must go traditional, at least make it interesting. How about a pen that lights up or includes a scroll for your Marketing message, a post-it note in an interesting shape, or a collapsible water bottle that will be easier to take home.
  2. Make it Practical – what good is having your logo on a promo item that gets thrown in a drawer and forgotten, or worse yet, into the trash before it leaves the hotel. Tech tools are very popular as everyone struggles to stay connected. Yes, USB flash drives and power banks will make a bigger dent in the budget but they will be used! Selfie sticks, spare earbuds, wall/car chargers, cell phone pockets, or microfiber cleaning cloths are all inexpensive items that will be appreciated.
  3. Environmentally friendly – According to the Advertising Specialties Institute, 42% of people had a more favorable opinion of an advertiser if the promotional product they received was environmentally friendly. Reusable shopping bags are still popular because they double as a way to carry all collateral and other giveaways. Think about recycled notebooks or business cards/informational flyers embedded with flower seeds.
  4. Toys – whether they take them home to the kiddies or play with them at the conference, grown-ups like toys. I’ve seen high level professionals compete for something fun/cute.
  5. Venue appropriate and/or aligned with Conference theme – Beach events cry out for sunscreen, hats and fans; rain ponchos for SEC sports fans who don’t want to miss a moment of the action; golf tools for tournaments….you get the idea.
  6. Don’t forget the team apparel – A unified appearance reinforces the brand and makes it easier for attendees to know who belongs in your booth and can answer questions. Beyond conferences, spirit wear can build morale and make casual dress codes more manageable.
  7. Your employees need recognition too – We recently designed gorgeous 2-sided custom coins for a hospital to recognize employees who go above and beyond. Thank employees with service awards, holiday gifts, new hire welcome kits, employee picnic items, or instant appreciation for employee referrals.


Yes, the promotions business is huge. You can order online from any number of sites, but you should be ordering from a partner that will consult with you and be there when something goes awry. It’s no secret that a lot of items are imported, and standards aren’t consistent. Be sure your vendor has proven suppliers and can anticipate challenges, staying on top of things, and deliver promo items on time and on budget.