Like the many years before it, 2018 is nearing its end just as fast as it came. And with the ever-increasing pace of innovation nowadays, it’s not hard to see why. As customers’ wants and needs change over time, companies have to respond and change their strategies to reach those same customers; and over the past year, these companies have indeed shifted their approach towards their promotions and marketing campaigns, particularly in the area of promotional products or giveaways. With that in mind, here are some of the trending marketing practices companies are applying to promotional products over the course of 2018.
Two brands are better than one
Branding nowadays has evolved quite a bit over the years. It started out as a way to simply identify the companies who make the products we purchase; more recently, we have begun to use it as a sort of label that helps us define our very lifestyles. Clothes are not just clothes anymore, they’re Uniqlo or H&M; cars are not just cars anymore, they’re Fords or Toyotas; not even sticky notes are just sticky notes anymore since we probably call them Post-Its. And as we’ve seen in recent years, consumers love it. People love putting labels on things, whether it be varieties of rocks, trees, or clothes. And being identified or associated with a certain brand name gives off a very particular feeling that you can only recognise when someone makes a comment about someone wearing a Rolex or scoffing at the idea of driving a Toyota Prius. It’s that unique blend of emotions that makes people gravitate towards brand names.
Companies, of course, are not blind to this. That is why many of them who sell services or non-retail products are turning to established retail product manufacturers to release special collaboration products that promote the brand names of both companies. Over the years we have seen a lot of these co-branding promotional products on the market, and often from rather unlikely sources. One interesting example is a limited run of fountain pens released by German pen manufacturer Lamy in collaboration with popular online messaging app LINE. Another one is that of Porsche Design, the merchandise and brand licensing arm of Porsche, collaborating with Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei for a set of special edition smartphones that incorporate Porsche Design’s sophisticated aesthetic.
Now, you might be thinking: “My company isn’t as big or as popular as Lamy or Porsche. How can I do a cross-brand promotion like that?” You have to take note, however, that your brand doesn’t need to be immensely popular to create a co-branded promotional product; you can do the same with any other company or organisation that you as a company would like to support. A good example of this is the long-running collaboration between Apple and the anti-HIV/AIDS nonprofit PRODUCT(RED).
Out with the old, in with the new
As time passes, empires rise and fall, trends come and go, generations are born and they pass away. And as it stands right now, the two largest consumer groups that have the most significant influence on the market are the millennials and those from Generation X. It’s no surprise, then, to see that the market’s expectations of a company’s core products and their promotional giveaways have changed quite radically over the past couple of years thanks to the steadily increasing buying power and influence of these younger generations.
Quality over quantity
Although collaborative cross-branding is a great way to create new and exciting promotional products, they are all rendered useless if the resulting product is itself not up to the standards of either of the brands involved. One must remember that promotional products will have the name of your brand on it; therefore, each promotional product you give away serves as a tiny yet significant mirror of the state of your company. If the recipients of those giveaways – whether they be existing clients or prospective customers – see that your giveaways are shoddy, cheaply-made, unreliable, easily broken, or otherwise flawed in any way, your customers will reflect each and every one of those flaws back onto your brand and your business. It is important, then, to choose well-made, high-quality objects as your promotional products.
High quality promotional products do have some objective monetary value to speak of, that’s for sure. However, you also have to remember that value isn’t just about money. In fact, customers can see that a product has high value to them even though they aren’t necessarily expensive. Two ways you can go about this are through utility value and aesthetic value.
Utility value refers to how useful your promotional product is to your customer, regardless of whether or not the product itself has high utility value in most cases. For example, multi-tools like Swiss knives or Leatherman multi-tools might be useful for a variety of cases, but they probably won’t be finding much use in the life of a customer who works a 9-to-5 office job. Aesthetic value, meanwhile, is all about the look and feel of the promotional product. Again, the product does not need to be expensive, but with decent packaging and an eye for presentation, you can definitely make it seem expensive at the very least.
Apple of the eye
And while we’re on the topic of aesthetic value, creative design is on the checklists of a lot of customers’ promotional product demands. After all, if your core products follow a specific design language that your customers really like, there’s no reason to not do the same to your giveaway items. In particular, the latest trends in product design are pointing towards experimenting with unconventional materials to achieve unique colour and texture combinations to achieve new aesthetic heights. Cork is by far one of the most interesting materials entering the design palettes of a lot of companies, owing to its ability to blend in with both earthy and industrial themes as well as its sustainability.
With all of this in mind, there are a few things to take away. First off, one should note that these trends are just that, and because trends come and go, everything in this article can go out of style at some point. Another thing to note, however, is that you don’t always need to follow the latest trends to make your promotional products as effective as possible. By aligning your customers’ needs and wants with the core products or services of your company, even the most basic, tried-and-true giveaway items can be effective ways to give a little back to your customers and improve customer retention and brand loyalty.