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The Ten Most Popular Promotional Products of All Time

It’s been 150 years since the modern era of promotional marketing began and in that time almost every class of merchandise has been custom branded. Here we list the ten all time greatest promotional merchandise ideas based on popularity and proven return on investment. In the last 20 years the way we all do business has changed more than it did in the previous 130 years. But the effectiveness and popularity of these classic promotional gift ideas is unchanged and investments in these categories of product still comprise the majority of orders fulfilled. The list from 1 to 10 is based on distributor sales volumes reported in the USA and Australia but there is some variation in the order depending on location and the time of year. Cost effective, popular and practical, the ten promotional options listed below have been proven to deliver for marketers the world over.

1. Pens

As companies push towards the paperless office the custom ballpoint pen is still a must have business accessory. Mobile phones and electronic messaging systems are the first option for communication however it’s a pen people reach for when looking to take a quick note or write down contact details. The universal popularity of promotional pens is supported by the vast range of styles and price points. Ranging from cheap giveaways costing less than 20 cents through to high-end gift pen options produced by world famous brands people will rarely dispose of a working promotional pen so your bargain offering could hold its place for years, keeping your branding visible and your message in place.

2. Coffee Mugs

Just about everyone starts the day with a cup of tea or coffee and often their emotional stability and motivation is dependent on it taking effect. Placed on a desk top a branded coffee mug carries unmissable branding. The right mug will become a regular part of the recipient’s day. Again, like all the most popular categories above the range of mugs available includes something for every situation and promotional opportunity. Coffee consumption continues to grow across the world and as a result promotional mugs are here to stay.

3. Stress Balls

While some marketers view stress balls skeptically but in reality they are compact 3D models which can be fun and deliver a proven therapeutic benefit. It’s cheap to produce your own custom shaped stress balls. and many manufacturers have found there are few better ways to make their clients aware of a new product offering than to produce a soft, 3D model of their latest product. Even better, people often keep stress ball on their desk as an office mascot keeping your branding message prominent

4. Confectionery

Everyone loves sweets and lollies or knows someone who does. A gift which appeals directly to the kid in all of us, promotional confectionery is the perfect low cost “thank you” gift. There are few better ways to leverage your investment in attending a convention or trade show than to hand out branded lollies at your stand. From salesmen hoping get a foot in the door, through to a small inexpensive giveaway to include with invoices which encourage prompt payment, custom branded bags of jelly beans and mints have an impact far beyond their cost.

5. Notepads

Combined with a pen there is no simpler or more widely used office item than a custom notepad. Sometimes, despite being surrounded by electronic equipment with the combined memory capacity or a public library the simple expedient of writing a quick note and leaving it in a prominent place is something no electronic device can replace. Custom printed notepads occupy a prime space on a desk and with a logo print on each page they move around the workplace with the messages they carry. There are few people in business who don’t reach for a notepad some time in each business day to scribble down a phone number or a reminder of some task that needs their attention when the time becomes available.

6. Key Rings

Keyrings or “key chains“ as they are called in some regions of the english speaking world are a simple practical item which have been utilised by promotional marketers since the first days of the promotions industry. Not just a useful way to organise keys, a custom keyring is something people keep handy so your branding will always be kept close. In many ways the holy grail of promotional marketing is to provide people with a cost effective gift idea which will become a part of their daily activity and keyrings are a proven way to get your message into peoples’ hands for the long term.

7. Bags

Promotional bags combine basic utility with high level branding and the bag you give away today at a conference filled with discussion papers and catalogues can be used tomorrow for shopping or to carry sports gear for a workout at the gym. It’s no surprise that retails hand out custom printed bags to their customers. Next time you’re in any shopping precinct have a look around at the carry bags people use to transport their purchases. The branding is unmissable and often these bags have a life after their primary use. And of course there are many styles of bags, from simple printed paper bags through to high end promotional luggage, backpacks and briefcases all of which have a specific use and share the traditional advantages of utility and high branding visibility common to all products in the category.

8. Badges & Pins

As a simple and cost effective way to display your membership and support for an organisation, or alternatively to provide a thank you gift to supporters an sponsors custom made lapel pins and badges are hard to beat. Considered jewellery items by some people and with usable lives which can surpass that of the people organising their production lapel pins are both cost effective and highly sought after. there is even an active collector community of people who trade and collect lapel pins so your design could become a cherished possession which takes pride of place.

9. Drink Bottles

The fact we all need to drink, a lot more often than we need to eat is one of the reasons promotional drink bottles have such broad appeal. Take a look at this customisable range From Dynamic Gift. Combining large scale custom branding with a low unit price the range of printed bottle styles available extends all the way from simple plastic sports bottles through to the latest vacuum insulated bottles. For the education industry, local sports teams and as corporate gifts to staff promotional bottles also have a green edge as they can be refilled over and over avoiding the need to buy bottled water. These eco-friendly credentials along with the unmissable branding ensure that promotional drink bottles will continue to be popular as long as humanity needs hydration.

10. Wristbands

Ever since Lance Armstrong’s “Livestrong” awareness initiative the silicone wristband has become a widely regarded symbol of emotional support and been adopted by a multitude of organisations looking to take advantage of their cost-effectiveness and high level visibility. For community organisations with a limited budget promotional wristbands have become popular and effective way to raise funds and reward supporters and sponsors. As the popularity of wristbands has grown manufacturers have expanded the range of styles, sizes and shapes so much so that there are now enough wristband options available for every organisation to choose a unique option to represent their message.

There are hundreds promotional item categories. Those shown above are in the opinion of the author the ten classic for which every marketer could potentially find a use. Tell us below what would make your list of all time favourites.


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