Look around you – at your desk, your purse, or your wardrobe. You will most probably own a promotional product. Promotional products are mainly the free items that include the company’s name, logo and message on them.

Examples include pens, polo shirts, mugs, calendars and other free giveaways. Promotional gifts are considered one of the very first techniques used in advertising.

According to ASI (Advertising Specialties Impressions Study), promotional products are still the most highly viewed form of advertising amongst customers despite the fact that TV and digital marketing have been growing rapidly.

This is the main reason why companies still follow this giveaway advertising technique to this day. According to research, American businesses spend $20 billion per year giving promotional products.

For modern marketers, promotional products and newer forms of advertising can even go hand in hand.

How to use promotional products featured image

In addition, Fortune 500 companies such as Pfizer, General Motors and AT&T spend $85, $80 and $58 million, respectively, on free giveaways. This verifies that promotional products do work, but what exactly makes them effective?

Promotional products brand awareness stats
Even seeing your logo once can have a huge impact on consumers. Image credit: 4imprint.

What Makes Promotional Products a Great Marketing Tool

Promotional products have been consistently popular for centuries. The key of this is that they just work. Here are some of the more specific reasons that promotional products are an effective advertising method:

Principle of Reciprocity

In order to succeed in promoting your company, you will have to understand how customers think and react. That’s why many successful marketers often employ psychologists in order to understand customers more and appeal to them.

This theory states that when a person gives, nothing is lost.

People give and others receive. Then they also give and others receive. This process is essentially trading, which was a benefit to society at the very early stages when scarcity of goods and services existed.

Evolution has embedded in our brains that when we get something we should give something back. This proves that promotional products are an effective technique of advertising since it attracts, engages, and compels consumers to buy.

Reciprocity can work in two different ways:

  1. On customer that receives the promotional product,
  2. On the customers that use and share the free product with their friends/family.

For the consumer that receives the freebie, this could convert the person into a customer that would buy the company’s products.

On the other hand, for the person that uses the promotional gift, the more applicable the free item, the more the consumer will be likely to use it. Therefore, more other potential customers will see it.

This will make your company’s name and logo more well-known to more people. In turn, they might be converted into customers if the promotional gift is of good quality, or uses attractive branding.

Sense of Accomplishment

Giving away promotional items after events provides the participants with a sense of accomplishment. This is because they feel that they have done something worthy to earn a free product.

This principle relates to employees as well. If employees are expected to attend their company’s events parties, it is most likely that they are not too motivated to stay there. Thus, promotional products can be used to encourage employee loyalty to the company.

This is because it will make your employees feel that their time spent there as well as experience were worthy. Obviously, this has to be something that your employees will actually appreciate.

A new mouse mat is unlikely to cut it.

In addition, promotional products also help to remind the employees of the good times they had during the event.

Each time they use that free gift that has the company’s logo inscribed on it, they will recall the memories they formed during the event. This helps to foster a sense of loyalty, which can improve employee retention.


According to the ASI Global Impressions Study (2010), a promotional product is kept for 5.4 months. If we take a free bag as an example, it is kept for around 6.7 months which results in 1,078 impressions/views per month.

The main reason behind this is that the more useful the item, the longer the item will be retained. Around 75% of customers retain a promotional gift for its usefulness.

Useful items include travel mugs, bags, facemasks and items of clothing.

Promotional products impressions infographic
Different kinds of impressions will offer differing numbers of impressions. Image credit: Fairware

Encouraging Empathy

Empathy is the ability to comprehend others’ emotions. However, empathy also has another vital role in promotional products. Empathy can support the customer in imagining themselves while using a certain product.

This allows marketers to use customers’ empathy to their own benefit in order to gain the needed benefits. This method is mainly used when marketing employees are giving demonstrations on using the company’s products.

Customers get to see similar people using the company’s product, which will let them imagine using the product themselves.

Freudian Marketing

Sigmund Freud’s theory states that customers’ decisions to purchase a certain product or not are determined through several unconscious needs. This means that touch, taste and smell are considered strong promoters that often cause an emotional action.

However, this effect cannot be achieved through visuals alone. This is the main reason why promo products are very effective tools concerning this theory since the free items make customers experience using the product themselves.

This is done through touch, taste and smell which are considered very controlling senses for generating memories.

As a result, the memories generated will produce an emotional response creating a connection to the product even though a choice has not been made yet on whether to purchase the product or not.

How to Use Promotional Products Online

These days, there is more to offering promotional products than simply giving merch out on a street corner. Instead, there are many massive benefits to giving away promotional products online.

Essentially, this offers a handful of key benefits for brands:

  1. It’s easier to ask for something in return for your giveaways,
  2. You can target your giveaways more closely,
  3. You can use giveaways to grow your audience on various channels.

Promotional products can be used as what’s known as a lead magnet. This is when you give something to your customers in exchange for details which will help you sell to these customers, most often a mailing list signup.

Similarly, if you give items away through existing marketing channels, you’ll know that your targets are closer to making a purchase.

Finally, giveaways are an excellent way to grow your audience, especially on social media. Competition style giveaways can be implemented to give out promotional products in exchange for social shares or referrals.

Use promotional products for social engagement
Promotional products can be used as giveaways to improve social engagement. Image credit: PeerToPeerMarketing

Why Freebies and Not Discounts?

Even though discounts usually benefit customers to get more value according to the paid price or save money, it has been stated that consumers are drawn to promotional items more than discounted products.

During one experiment, researchers found that customers desired to get free promotional products more than an item for a cheaper price.

Study results show that 73% more hand lotion was sold when the item existed in a pack as a free bonus item. This figure was compared when the hand lotion was offered at an equal discount.

This shows that customers consider free items as a better deal more than lower prices.

How Do Companies Choose Which Promotional Gifts to Give away?

Most importantly, promotional items should be relevant to your target audience and the company’s message. Businesses usually give away products that the target customers will use in the environment where they make decisions about using your product or service.

For instance, if the target audience includes corporations executives, promo products should comprise items that will be used in offices. This will make your company with them at all times and always on their minds when they make decisions.

Companies should choose promotional gifts that appeal to the consumer in order to help emphasise their marketing message. This distinguishes their company from other competitors in the mind of consumers.

Another method is to personalize promotional gifts to make them enjoyable.

Customers like to have their own names or pictures on the free items and not just the company’s logo. This will also make customers more keen to retain the promotional product which consequently will make the company on the customers’ minds at all times.

A vital matter to ensure the success of special marketing items as a way of advertising is to give away something useful, something their customers would actually benefit from.

This means the giveaways should be items that can be retained or saved for a long time, for example pen. Companies should avoid using promotional products that will be quickly used and thrown away.

Promotional Products: They Do Work

Promotional products are not just about the customer receiving a free item. They also influence other people in their networks which can give your business the social lift needed to put your company on top of competitors.

In addition, it can provide your business with the word-of-mouth marketing boost. Moreover, it also encourages new product trials, repeat purchases and brand awareness through incentives that motivate customers to try more items from your company.

This is why promotional products and giveaways have been rising rapidly through the years, even though there are many other successful different marketing methods.

So next time you’re thinking about holding an event, stop thinking about the money spent on promotional products but rather think of the benefits your company will gain in the future.

One comment on “The Psyche Of Consumers: How to Use Promotional Products

  1. This is a great article! I definitely agree that promotional products can help you get your brand into the hands of more people, especially when you’re trying to build awareness for your business.

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