Does promotional merchandise still work?

Making the most of your marketing budget

In a world where digital marketing is growing more accessible by the day, it’s often easy for marketers to neglect more traditional methods of attracting and retaining new business.

Traditionally viewed as one of the oldest forms of advertising, promotional merchandise is still being utilised by businesses large and small across the globe. The concept of getting “free stuff” may seem appealing as a novel sentiment, but with consumers looking to lower their levels of single-use waste, is promotional merchandise really the way to go?

Now, it’s very easy for a promotional merchandise company to talk about promotional merchandise with a positive spin. So, we’re here to help shine a light on some of the facts and figures about how effective or ineffective custom branded giveaways can actually be in an ever-growing digital world?

Let’s dive into the facts.

Let’s get physical

Unlike alternative digital promotional marketing methods, custom branded merchandise is one of the only forms of tangible long-lasting options available. A recent study by the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI) found that promotional merchandise is kept by consumers for an average of eight months. Rather than having to create an immediate impact and conversion; like a PPC campaign, branded merchandise provides businesses with the opportunity to create multiple impressions, day after day, use after use.

A promotional product’s lifespan obviously differs depending on what’s chosen. Although novel gift ideas may create a larger immediate impact, ASI found that practical products such as custom branded umbrellas are kept for an average of 14 months. When compared to digital marketing techniques, promotional merchandise has unparalleled longevity. Findings showed that a custom-branded bag was traditionally kept for around 6.7 months, resulting in 3,300 impressions.

When you consider the price per impression, it becomes clearer to see why certain promotional gifts are still a popular choice by millions of businesses across the globe today.

Why do people use promotional merchandise?

There are a number of reasons how and why businesses utilise promotional branded merchandise as opposed to alternative marketing methods.

  • Promotional marketing – For promoting your services, offerings, incentives, or campaigns, custom branded gifts are utilised to help create impactful and effective impressions.
  • Saying thank you – Whether it’s rewarding a colleague for their tireless work or saying thank you to a customer for giving a referral, there are thousands of gift options designed to show gratitude. A recent study by found that 54% of British employees feel under-appreciated in the workplace. A simple branded gift can help generate improved positivity and productivity.
  • Experiential and event giveaways – Promotional merchandise can be the difference between being memorable or forgettable at events, exhibitions, and trade shows. A token of your brand gifted to visitors can help your business be remembered long after an event has taken place.
  • Retail and souvenirs – If you’re looking to promote your organisation and generate income directly, promotional merchandise can be created to retail quality with branded packaging to reflect your brand identity perfectly.
  • In-house uniforms and gifts – If you’re looking to promote your organisation in-house or to create synergy between employees, nothing creates a professional brand image quite like custom branded uniforms, stationery, and practical office products.

The potential uses of promotional merchandise are almost endless, allowing you to promote your organisation however you see fit.

Raising brand awareness however you want

Much like all forms of consumer marketing, promotional products are designed to create positive emotional reactions when we receive them. In advertising terms, it’s the difference in left and right brain thinking where the impact of an emotional message with a brand message builds potential for more effective, successful activation. This means your branded message will be seen more often, creating long-term brand building.

Due to the vast range of clothing, bags, drinkware, stationery, gadgets, etc, there are no limitations to how you promote your organisation. Whether you want to showcase your organisation’s colour scheme, brand identity, history, or future, the opportunities are endless and your campaign can be run to your own parameters.

Research by the British Promotional Merchandise Association (BPMA) found that 88% of customers who received promotional products could recall the advertisers’ names and services when asked at a later date. 83% of the sampled recipients liked receiving the gifts and were thankful.

Another BPMA study found that there are six key qualities that typical recipients look for when receiving a promotional gift:

  • Is it useful?
  • Is it relevant to the customers’ needs?
  • Is it reusable or sustainable?
  • Is it free to me?
  • Is it produced ethically?
  • Can it be disposed of ethically?

If your promotional merchandise can hit these criteria, you can really boost your brand awareness with your customers.

Knowing your target demographic

Knowing exactly who you’re targeting is key to utilising promotional merchandise. The wrong promotional gift option to the wrong customer could give the opposite desired outcome and can waste your marketing budget.

Fortunately, there are promotional merchandise options for every demographic of customer. Regardless of age, gender, behaviours, occupations, and lifestyle, there truly is something for everyone.

With that in mind, the BPMA research offered some interesting insights into the most likely demographics to receive branded merchandise. The customers who are statistically most likely to receive promotional merchandise are between 35-44 years old, whilst women aged 65 years and older are the least likely. 

If you’d like to find out more about utilising promotional merchandise, speak to a member of our team today. Call us on 01234 841741 or email us at