Branded Merchandise: Physical Strength in a Digital World

In a world where we encounter hundreds of online advertisements per week, it might seem like standing out in the crowd is a near impossibility. While digital marketing can be cheap and easy, it is also easily forgotten by your audience.

This is where physical marketing comes in. Consider the trade shows or job fairs you’ve visited. You probably took home a whole “swag bag” full of branded merchandise and happily put some of it to use in your everyday life. Personally, I have at least two pieces of promotional merchandise in my bag today: a branded pill case and a branded pen.

These promotional products have a huge return on investment, according to a study done in 2012. Out of the people surveyed, 66% recalled the brand name on the product they received in the last year. 87% of people keep the items longer than a year, and the majority kept the items because of their usefulness. In fact, the return on investment (ROI) for promotional products is higher than radio and outdoor advertising, and is on par with TV advertising.

Mugs are the item kept the longest.

Targeted Persuasion’s take on a promotional product came about while we were working on passing the NC Brunch Bill, which would allow restaurants to serve alcohol before noon on Sundays. We needed signatures on a petition and social media support for the bill, so we wanted to put our message in front of people who would be likely supporters. What better place to find drinkers than at bars and restaurants? So we created a branded coaster, below, and distributed them to North Carolina drinking establishments.

The coasters are useful to our target audience, and sat in front of them in the restaurants where they will drink at Sunday brunch. The brunch bill, of course, was a smashing success, with no small thanks to the power of physical object marketing.

The coaster was useful and it provided a strong call to action. It was related to the cause- allow these restaurants to serve alcohol on Sundays- and it told the audience what to do to support the initiative, and the two hashtags to use. The best branded merchandise will provide a call to action and perform a function related to the thing being sold.

Below, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best and some of the weirder examples of physical object marketing. 

  1. Rimmel Quick Dry Nail Polish: Fast

Rimmel’s new quick dry nail polish is advertised with a sculpture installed in an urban public space. The function of the product is clear- it dries extremely quickly, and the sculpture is fun and interactive.

  1. Save Memories with Alzheimer’s New Zealand

This one is both functional and contains a call to action. The outside of the memory stick is a working eraser, which says “Alzheimer’s Erasers Your Memories. Save Them,” with a link to their website.

  1. Dogs are Stronger with Iams

These are frisbees made to look like barbell weights, and the message is clear: with Iams dog food, your dog will be stronger. This one is particularly neat due to its functionality- you use it while playing with your dog, and you’ll be reminded of the food every time your pup brings it back to you.

  1. Y+ Yoga Centers and Straws

These bendy straws were given away at a juice bar in close proximity to the Y+ Yoga Center in China. They are fun and functional, and were given to health-conscious consumers who are more likely than most to attend one of the yoga classes.

  1. Abbott Vascular: Heart Shaped Stress Ball

Abbott Vascular’s anatomically correct heart shaped stress ball has an obvious message: keep your stress down to take care of your heart. Stress balls are a fun choice for professionals because it can be kept on desks as a functional trinket.

Keep branded merchandise in mind for your marketing. Bring a useful object to your target audience that they’ll keep and remember. Include a call to action if you can, even if it’s just a website link. You can also take this opportunity to be creative and have some fun with your advertising, keeping it relevant to your brand, of course.