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Friday, November 15, 2013

The Evolution of Promotional Products

Savvy business owners who knew how to market their business have printed their corporate logos and names on products that would certainly make their business known to the public eye. Promotional pens, mugs and other useful items are commonly used to promote a business or company. These products are called promotional products.

Promotional products or merchandise has been around ever since. The practice of giving out free products bearing a business’ logo or brand name in order to create a positive image of the business has been around since 1789.During this year George Washington used commemorative buttons for his election campaign. These buttons were used to create awareness about Washington’s campaign. Though giving out buttons is not solely the basis of why Washington won the election but it was a very successful advertising material.


Though giving promotional products started early, it was not until the late nineteenth century that an organized industry for creation and distribution of free gifts was established. During these times calendars, rulers and other wooden items were made as advertising materials. The thing that has really driven this boom is the rejuvenation of the newspaper industry. Publication owners saw the opportunity to provide some space or pages which are allotted for promotional products advertisement. This becomes an additional income source for publication owners, especially those that owned their own printing press. The owners were not only earning through newspaper sales but through advertisements as well.

The first printer owner that was considered as the pioneer of promotional products is Jasper Meeks. Meeks was from Coshocton, Ohio. He was the first to start the promotional product industry by convincing one local shoe store to supply local schools with book bags that bear the name of the shoe store. This idea was then picked up by another printer owner from Coshocton, Ohio. His name was Henry Beach. Beach was a competitor of Meeks and used the latter’s idea which ended the two men selling printed promotional bags. These bags were a big hit as they can be used for storing marbles, buggy whips, card cases, fans, calendars, cloth caps, aprons and hat for horses.

Creating and distribution of promotional items formally started in the late nineteenth century and was revolutionized by two men. Starting with Meeks and Beach, the number of companies that produce promotional items rose in 1904. This prompted 12 manufacturers to band together to create the first trade association for the promotional items industry. The association is known as the Promotional Products Association International or PPAI at present time. Today the PPAI has more than 7,500 members and over 22,000 distributors with 4,800 manufacturers among them.

As the industry becomes more sophisticated during the late 1950s, the UK and Ireland promotional item industry became a major corporate marketing group.

The actual growth of the promotional merchandise industry however was felt in 1970. Before this year owners were just giving away free gift without realizing the benefits they can get by doing these acts. After this year, people began to understand the effects of giving away promotional items. The businesses during this time were able to promote their corporate identity through these free gifts. Gifts featuring the brand, slogan or logo of the business was inked in the public’s mind thus the business was easily remembered. During the following years, the industry was on constant rise; however, the range of merchandise used as promotional items were limited. Old ideas and items were still used. Perhaps even the commemorative buttons were still utilized to promote a company. It was not until 1980 that more items were used as promotional gifts. In fact the distributors had a generic promotional product catalogs where corporate customers can take a look at the items on the catalog and brand these items as their own. The items will then become the customer’s promotional tool.

In the 1990s the “Catalog Groups” were created. This is a new catalog services that emerged for distributors from various sources. The group offers services to promotional merchandise distributor companies depending on their geographical group. This would give the distributor and improve buying terms, connections with other distributor and other support services from the catalog group.

The 1990s is the decade which can be considered as the decade of promotional products. It was during this decade that majority or promotional items were sold and bought worldwide. Most items were sold during Christmas season and other events where gift giving was observed. In Britain, giving of promotional items was not practiced in the early part of the 1990s as Britain is known to have multicultural citizens.
As time passed, business owner become inventive and innovative in marketing their brand. From calendars to bags, promotional pens to key chains, promotional items have certainly evolved over the passage of time. Owners have also not limited giving gifts during certain dates of the year. Giving out promotional merchandise is now done throughout the year. The purpose of this move is to support the promotion of brands, products and events for the entire year and continuously remind the consumers of the business.

Another change has happened for the industry during these years is that distributors are now taking a more targeted approach in handing out their catalogs to customers. In the past, distributors would just send blanket postal mailing to customers and wait for customers to come to the distributors. Due to stiff competition in producing promotional products, mails are now sent to target customers and aggressive follow up is done to get the client.

In present time, distributors and manufacturers have become more creative in reaching out to clients. Websites are now utilized to show the available range of merchandise a manufacturer can offer. Promotional items are cheaper too since they can be bought in wholesale. Also, ordering has become hassle-free as it can be done online and the items are just delivered to the customers.

Also, promotional products nowadays are no longer used solely for the promoting the business to consumers. Business owners also use promotional items to help motivate employees. Workers who have been serving the company for a long time are given specialized promotional products by owners aside from the recognition that they get. This is very effective in making the employees happy and keeps them motivated to work in order to achieve the goals of the company. It will also inculcate a sense of loyalty as the employees together with the rest of their families will only patronize the company’s products and services.

Promotional pens, bags, mugs, or even key chains may seem insignificant at first sight. This items; however are very helpful for a business and to an organization. These items help ink to the minds of consumers and to the public a business or an organization. These are great tools that can remind the public of the identity of the company. If you try to think about it, you would easily remember a company printed on the promotional pen you are using than those that you see in advertisements. This is how strong and effective promotional products are. Next time you are an in an event try to grab some of these products and try using them for your own company.


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