You might think promotional products are pretty cut and dry. It’s putting a logo or advertising message on a pen or water bottle and calling it a day, right? That is an easy misconception to make since these are items that we often take for granted. Have you every stopped to appreciate your custom tote bag? Do you wake up and smell the rose-scented lip balm?
If you haven’t, you should. Promotional products are the #1 most effective form of advertising on the planet, because let’s face it, everyone (grandmas, kids, politicians, crazy people in costume) loves getting something for free. No wonder 85% of people have done business with the advertiser after receiving one of their promo giveaways, whether it was at an event or just for walking through the door.
The best part about promos is that companies, non-profits, startups, and entrepreneurs can get creative with the items they choose to give away. With that being said, take a look at 13 examples of creative promos in action!
Image credit: Toxel
The Y+ Yoga Center in Shanghai, China imprinted a person on the bendy part of a straw to make them look like they were doing a yoga pose every time the straw was bent. The straws were given out to customers at local fruit juice bars and the response was completely euphoric, with people loving these unique giveaways.
Y+ Yoga Center showed their clients they’re creative and original, which is important since they are located in the biggest city in China. Clearly, these promotional efforts paid off as their fitness center is recommended by Culture Trip as one of the best yoga studios in the country.
Image credit: The Inspiration Room
It might seem counter-intuitive for Colgate to promote with sweet treats considering that the toothpaste brand is supposed to be fighting against cavities. However, Colgate Palmolive in Thailand gave out ice cream and cotton candy during Oral Health Month. The sticks were shaped like toothbrushes and had the message “Don’t Forget” with the Colgate logo.
This promotional product is genius if you think about it. People are always going to eat desserts, but Colgate is there to make sure you can have your sweets and your clean teeth, too! Thailand is definitely doing things right. Dental tourism is a hot topic and many people travel overseas to get work done there due to the low costs, variety of treatments, and patient-friendly centers.
Image credit: PSFK
Vantage Detergent, a company in Brazil, offered a free packet of its stain remover in the shape of a ketchup stain. The packet read, “Stains. Hard to avoid, easy to remove. Vantage stain remover.” About 100,000 of these custom packets were distributed to restaurants and snack bars around São Paulo. They were gone in three days!
These packets were a great way to cause people to look twice, which is always good for brand exposure. Many customers took the packets home as souvenirs and family and friends asked for more details. This gave them a chance to talk about Vantage Detergent, a product that consistently gets five-star reviews.
Image credit: Adrants
Brussels Airlines wanted a way to raise awareness about pickpocketing. Their solution was to slip rubber hands into passenger’s unattended bags at the airport with the message, “This hand just slipped into your bag. Beware of Pickpockets.” The airline’s logo was imprinted just below the message.
While this might seem invasive, it’s a lot better to end up with a fake hand than have all of your stuff stolen. Most passengers appreciated this reminder and were more likely to trust Brussel Airlines for future flights. Today, they are the largest airline in Belgium and see people from countries all over the world.
Image credit: Copyranter
Sometimes people need a dramatic reminder in order for a message to really sink in. Friends of Cancer Patients raised awareness about skin cancer by handing out coffin-shaped beach towels to sunbathers in Dubai. The towels were imprinted with the saying, “Over-exposure to the sun causes skin cancer killing 20 people every day. Protect yourself.”
While this promo might seem extreme, it’s actually incredibly effective and memorable. Love it or hate it, this kept people talking about Friends of Cancer Patients and made the sunbathers less likely to continue basking in the sun. A win-win for both exposure and creating change that supports your mission.
Image credit: Hoaxes
Those with an aversion to creepy crawlies be warned, this promo might give you the shivers. D.D. Drin Insect Elimination took fake cockroaches and slipped them under people’s doors at their homes. “See how easy it is to get into your house?” was imprinted on the belly along with contact information for the pest control company.
This is a good example of guerilla marketing, which is an advertising tactic that involves promoting your products or services in an unusual way. There’s no telling how many people impulsively stepped on these promos in fear, but D.D. Drin sure made a memorable impression and got people talking!
Image credit: The Inspiration Room
Alzheimers New Zealand promoted on hollowed out erasers that were fitted with a USB drive. On one side was the message, “Alzheimer’s Erasers. Your Memories. Save Them.” The reverse had the company’s logo directing people to their website for more information. These were handed out to local organizations and politicians to raise awareness.
The non-profit’s campaign was so popular that it won the Silver Design Lion at Cannes International Advertising Festival in 2010. Since then, the organization has taken their mission to the national level and continues to focus on their mission of moving towards a world without dementia.
Novocortex, a digital marketing business, helped a newly formed Dutch car insurance company get new customers by making it seem like their cars had been scratched. The fake “scratches” were printed on sticky paper that had the message, “We repair your damages as easily as you remove this sticker” with the company’s name and contact information.
As you can imagine, people had a mixed bag of emotions when it came to this marketing strategy. Novocortex filmed these reactions and put them on YouTube. Whether they were angry or confused, this sticker caused people to pause and read the message left by the company.
Image credit: The German Car Blog
Volkswagen was looking to promote its Polo model as a tough vehicle even though it’s small. Similar to Novocortex’s strategy, the car manufacturer had magnetic panels made that were printed with scratches and dents. The magnets were put on random cars along with the message, “Volkswagen Polo, small but strong.”
The company reported more than 2,000 contacts as a result of the magnetic panels. This was an easy way to get more people interested in Volkswagen’s Polo. Today, the make is still going strong, with the 2018 model including fancy features like emergency braking, detection sensors in the wing mirrors, and a premium media system for music.
The Whoopee Cushion might seem like a lewd promotional item, but when used right, it can actually result in a pretty memorable marketing campaign. Take for instance the St. Paul Saints, an American professional baseball team that gave these giveaways to the first 2,500 fans who came to the Metrodome to celebrate the 30th anniversary of “Inflation Day.”
This giveaway reminds Saints fans they can persevere through anything, namely the crippling blizzard that caused damage to their arena back in the 1980s. The Whoopee Cushion brought a sense of humor to the affair, and according to Executive Vice President Derek Sharrer served as “an opportunity for fans to relieve themselves with a deflating of their own.”
Image credit: Toxel
Your dad might refer to going to the bathroom as “doing paperwork.” The School of Visual Arts in New York poked fun at that phrasing by changing items like paper towels, napkins, and toilet paper and making them look like notebook paper. At the bottom of each was the simple message: Think, followed by the school’s name.
As a place for creative minds, it only made sense for the School of Visual Arts to give students an opportunity to jot down notes or sketch drawings while doing their business. The college has been going strong since 1947, with notable alumni including Academy Award winner Jared Leto and “Courage the Cowardly Dog” animator John R. Dilworth.
Image credit: UK Corporate Gifts
Iams, the pet food company, handed out promotional Frisbees in the shape of barbell weights to show their brand is “stronger” than others. Each disc had “Strong Dogs” and the company name imprinted and were handed out in Australia to increase brand awareness.
This promotional product is perfectly suited to the audience, which in this case is both dogs and their owners. The giveaway was noticeable enough to get attention at dog parks and many people raved about the clever marketing. Meanwhile, Iams has stayed out of the doghouse with an estimated worth of $3.8 billion.
Image credit: Fringe Television
It is not uncommon for television networks to send out press kits for upcoming shows with promotional items inside. The creative minds behind the TV show “Fringe” made a memorable impression by sending out Tabasco sauce with the label “Observers Are Here.” This was in tandem with a 2009 episode about eating spicy food to stay alive.
The Fox show was about unusual crimes and situations, with the hot sauce tying in directly to one of the episode’s plot points. It was a clever way to get people to tune in as they were wondering what was the deal with the hot sauce. “Fringe” was a modest hit for the network with 3.2 million viewers during the season finale and 3 Emmy nominations.
If these brands prove anything, it’s that there are no limits to your creativity. Go ahead and be daring! Have a fun element at your next trade show like salsa dancing or a pirate theme. You could even take it further by bringing along treasure like metallic water bottles or tote bags. Talk about a great way to make your competition walk the plank!
Do pirates make you cringe? Leave the scallywags behind and march to the beat of your own drum! No matter what, you’re going to make an impression on customers by thinking outside of the box and doing something different. Get creative with your marketing and promotional products, and before you know it, you’ll have a bunch of new customers running through the door!
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Alyssa loves food. A LOT. Particularly pizza and popcorn, but she knows beggars can’t be choosers. When she’s not stuffing her face (which is rare), she loves watching movies, playing volleyball and softball, and engaging in any number of interesting shenanigans. If she had to pick a spirit animal, she’d be an otter because they are playful and love to laugh. Most of the time she’s laughing at herself, whether other people are laughing with or at her is to be determined.
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