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13 of the Most Creative Promotional Products of All Time

Handing out promotional products is pretty simple. Simply contact your friendly neighborhood distributor (Quality Logo Products® is a great choice), order your pens, and give them out to people at trade shows, conventions, and even on the sidewalk. Pretty simple, right?

Some large and small businesses, however, have taken it a step further and put some serious thought into promoting their brands with some innovative products. They’ve developed full-blown campaigns, and after you see some of these unique promotional giveaways, you’ll be saying, “What!? Why didn’t I think of that?”

OK, you might not think that for all of these product promotion examples, but each of these companies created a memorable giveaway item and connected their brand with an issue, hobby, or problem straight from people’s daily lives. So let’s get right to it! Here’s the list of the most creative promotional products of all time.

01-straws (1)

yogastraw01

Image credit: Toxel

 

A few companies geared their promotional products toward people’s stomachs. The first one might be one of my favorites. The Y+ Yoga Center in Shanghai, China, imprinted a person on the bendy part of a straw to make them look like they were striking a yoga pose every time the straw was bent. Personally, the only time I’d be able to bend this way is if my likeness was imprinted on one of these straws. It makes for a fun promo product, because who doesn’t love a bendy straw? The straws were given out to customers at local fruit juice bars.

02-colgate

colgate-toothbrush-ice-cream

Image credit: The Inspiration Room

 

As fun as bendy straws are, our next example might appeal to people even more. That’s because it involves ice cream, and if you don’t love ice cream, you’ve never had a S’mores Blizzard from Dairy Queen. Try it. You’ll thank me later.

But this promotional product isn’t from an ice cream company. It was a toothpaste company’s campaign. Colgate Palmolive in Thailand gave out ice cream and cotton candy during Oral Health Month and other events throughout the year.The sticks on these sweet treats were shaped like toothbrushes with the message “Don’t Forget” along with their company logo. It was a simple, but very effective way to offer a healthy reminder and at the same time create a connection between the sweet treat and the Colgate brand!

03-ketchup (1)

vantage_stain_remover

Image credit: PSFK

 

Our next example is more food adjacent instead of food-themed. Vantage Detergent, a company in Brazil, offers 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.” These packets were a great way to grab customers’ attention in a quick and easy way.

About 100,000 of these custom packets were distributed to restaurants and snack bars around the city of São Paulo. They were gone in three days. The company found out later that a lot of customers ended up taking home the packets as souvenirs.

04-hand

Rubber_hand

Image credit: Adrants

 

Some promotional products border on the line between “Oh, that was really creative” and “Wait, they did what?” This next example fits right on that line. Brussels Airlines was looking for a way to raise awareness about pickpocketing. So, they slipped rubber hands into passenger’s unattended bags at the airport with the message, “This hand just slipped into your back. Beware of Pickpockets.” The airline’s logo was imprinted just below the message.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. And no, I’m not going to encourage you to go putting weird objects into people’s bags at a convention or trade show. (In fact, I’d strongly urge you not to do that. Ever.) But again, just because it’s weird doesn’t mean it wasn’t effective. Sure, people might have freaked out that a rubber hand was now in their bag, but you can bet most of those people watched their bag with an eagle eye after that.

05-cancer

SkinCancerDubai

Image credit: Copyranter

 

Pickpocketing is just one example of using promotional products to raise awareness for some cause or foundation. Friends of Cancer Patients wanted to raise awareness about skin cancer so the company handed out beach towels to sunbathers in Dubai.

However, these towels were black and cut in the shape of coffins. Yep, coffins. The towels were imprinted with the saying, “Over-exposure to the sun causes skin cancer killing 20 people every day. Protect yourself.” A bit of a shock value promotional product, but still effective nonetheless.

06-cockroach

drin_roach

Image credit: Hoaxes

 

The next product to make the list is not for the faint of heart. I wouldn’t say I have a phobia of bugs, but there was one time when a spider decided to join me in the shower, and let’s just say I sounded like I was at a One Direction concert.

So when I came upon this next product, I was glad to know it was from a few years ago and I wouldn’t run into it. 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 cockroaches’ belly along with contact information for D.D. Drin. If it was me, I probably would’ve tried to crush the thing before I even thought, “Hey, maybe this is a promotional product.” I’m hoping the cockroaches were made of durable material.

07-eraser

alzheimers_awareness_erasers

Image credit: The Inspiration Room

 

Playing off the services your company offers is a great way to come up with a creative promotional product idea. Alzheimers New Zealand handed out working erasers that had been hollowed out and fitted with a USB drive. On one side the company imprinted the message, “Alzheimer’s Erasers Your Memories. Save Them.” The reverse had the company’s logo directing people to their website for more information.

The company gave out the USB drives to local organizations and local politicians seeking to raise awareness for the company. The campaign was so popular that it won the Silver Design Lion at Cannes International Advertising Festival in 2010.

Sometimes you need to make sure whomever you give your promotional products to has a sense of humor. Novocortex, a digital marketing business, helped a newly formed Dutch car insurance company recruit customers by making it seem like their cars had been scratched.

Of course, no damage was actually done, and instead the “scratches” were printed on static paper that stuck to the vehicles. “We repair your damages as easily as you remove this sticker,” was imprinted on the sticker along with the car insurance company’s name and contact information. Novocortex actually filmed people’s reaction to the campaign and put it on YouTube. Check it out below.

08-scratches

Again, if you’re going to go this route, make sure your target market can laugh off the fact that you pretended to damage their car and won’t scratch up your own car in retaliation.

09-dents

Polomagneticcrash

Image credit: The German Car Blog

 

In a similar scenario, Volkswagen was looking to promote its Polo model as a tough vehicle even though it’s small. So it had magnetic panels made that were printed with scratches and dents. The magnets were put on the cars of unsuspecting individuals along with the message, “Volkswagen Polo, small but strong.” The company reported more than 2,000 contacts as a result of the magnetic panels.

10-whoopeePromotional Whoopee Cushion

 

Speaking of pranks, if there was a symbol for tomfoolery I would vote for the whoopee cushion. This next example involves that quintessential prank product that most of us have probably used on someone (or had it used on us.).

11-toilet-paper

schoolofart02

Image credit: Toxel

 

Have you ever been in the bathroom and desperately needed a piece of paper to write down something really quickly? No? Yeah, me either. Well, the School of Visual Arts in New York looked to lend a hand in that area if, you know, a friend was in that type of predicament.

In fact, the school took several different everyday items (toilet paper, napkins, sugar packets, and tray liners) and made them look like notebook paper. At the bottom of each product was a simple imprinted message: Think, followed by the school’s name. Once again, you’re left with a unique promotional giveaway that connects items we use every day with the company.12-strong-dogs

Iams barbell

Image credit: UK Corporate Gifts

 

Don’t worry, pets weren’t left off this list! Catering to our furry family members is a great way to inspire some creativity. Iams, the pet food company, handed out promotional Frisbees in the shape of barbell weights. Each disc had “Strong Dogs” imprinted along with the Iams name letting customers know that their dog would be stronger if it eats Iams Dog Food. Plus, Iams knows most dogs love Frisbees. This promotional product has “winning” written all over it.

13-hot-sauce

FringeTabasco

Image credit: Fringe Television

 

This last example wasn’t a mainstream promotional product given out to a widespread audience, but it was still a great example of promoting a brand. A lot of television networks will send out press kits for upcoming shows with promotional items inside, and the showrunners at the TV show Fringe did it right.

In the press kit for an episode that aired in 2009 they sent Tabasco sauce with the label “Observers Are Here.” In the show, Observers are people who have to eat spicy foods in order to stay alive. It was a really fun way to stay within the theme of the upcoming episode.

So there you have it. A baker’s dozen of examples involving some really creative ways to brand products we’ve all probably used regularly in our everyday lives. As I was looking through all of these examples there was one theme that really stuck out at me. They are all memorable. Even years after some of these products were given out, they are still being talked about today and even increasing sales.

Also, all of these companies established a message that uses the products to cater to their brand. Sure, a construction company can get Steam Roller Stress Relievers. That’s easy, and while it’s effective at drawing attention to your company, it doesn’t have the same sustainability as say, fake bugs slipped under doors.

All of these companies didn’t take an easy approach. They took ordinary products and made them extraordinary by coming up with a creative message. So if you haven’t already, take a look at our website, and let the creative juices start flowing!

Has your company handed out promotional products in a creative way? Have you received any creative giveaways? Perhaps you even saw a some really great product promotion examples at a trade show. We want to hear from you! Let us know in the comments! 

expand your brand



Shaun Zinck

Raised in the Chicago suburbs, Shaun is a recovering journalist, but still considers himself a news junkie. You can probably find him browsing the endless depths of the Internet reading about both news and sports, or watching the latest viral videos on YouTube. He enjoys cooking dinner for his wife and annoying his two cats until they scratch him. You can connect with Shaun on .

Comments

  1. Bret Bonnet

    Wow. Some of this ideas a pretty bold. I love the Iams Frisbee idea, but the Brussels Airlines one is a little over the top. I can just see Paul Blart Mall Copy, aka. Homeland Security here in the US, getting in a tizzy over this. Now that’s a video I’d like to watch on YouTube!

    Before you know it rubber hands would be on the America’s Most Wanted list.

  2. Rondell Caraos

    Those are all pretty awesome ideas and I wish that I though of some of them! The yoga straw and the flyer for the dogs are hilarious! Those 2 are my personal favorite! The rubber hand creeps me out a little bit and I’m sure somebody could really get affended and try to sue the company for putting something in their personal bag. Very creative ways to promote their companies! I can’t wait to brouse our site again and try to come up with something really cool for my clients that really do not know what they want to do. Promoting your company is one thing but thinking outside the box is a much cooler way to get your point accross! Great job on this article Shaun!

  3. Anthony

    Awesome! The Frisbee idea is very awesome! It probably got a lot of people to double take at some of the dogs catching those! The Yoga Straw is pretty creative and it totally something that would catch people’s eye. I believe that if you have a product that can attract people just from the aesthetics of the item it will totally help promote your business! Great article! 😀

  4. Angie

    Fun article Shaun. The hand would have scared the living daylights out of me. I would have thrown that thing across the airport. It’s an unique idea. I agree that the frisbees were an excellent promotional product. It took a standard item and made it memorable with the custom mold. The message ties into the item . . . perfect.

  5. Erin

    I LOVE these creative ideas – it’s always great to see companies really go the extra mile to grab some attention. Getting a double take from viewers is quite the feat in this advertisement saturated environment we live in. Even something as simple as changing the shape of the package or product to evoke a different response i.e. the coffin towel or ketchup stain pouch, really packs a punch among all the other “standard” competitors in the market.

  6. Dan

    Great post, Shaun!

    Toilet Notebook Paper is my FAVORITE, obviously…no one wants a great idea to be flushed from your brain.

    The coffin shaped towels, although MEGA depressing, show the great effect and long-lasting impact a promo item can have on the world.

    I really liked the “Fringe” hot sauce as well…I love when TV networks and movie studios embrace creative ideas like this! I would be elated to get my hands on an “Orange is the New Black” kosher meal OR a bag of “Survivor” rice.

  7. Dan

    Great post, Shaun!

    Toilet Notebook Paper is my FAVORITE, obviously…no one wants a great idea to be flushed from your brain.

    The coffin shaped towels, although MEGA depressing, show the great effect and long-lasting impact a promo item can have on the world.

    I really liked the “Fringe” hot sauce as well…I love when TV networks and movie studios embrace creative ideas like this! I would be elated to get my hands on an “Orange is the New Black” kosher meal OR a bag of “Survivor” rice.

  8. Ashley

    These were fantastic! The faux-dents and scratches left on cars were my favorite. I couldn’t imagine finding a dent on my beloved Jeep. I would freak out. Clever move, Volkswagen…

    There were a lot of great public service announcements in this list, too. Those seemed to be the most effective. Promotional products are just the kind of thing where if you can come up with a creative enough idea, they can suddenly catch your eye and make you come to a revelation you never thought of before.

    You would not believe the amount of things you remember on those days when your brain shifts into autopilot. Imagine strolling along, not paying attention to anything when.. WHAM! There’s a hand atop all the stuff in your Eco-Friendly Non Woven Tote Bag from Quality Logo Products! Talk about hearts dropping and eyes wide open until you make it home.

    That’s what makes promotional products the best marketing tool. When you consider the masses you can reach with something as simple as a pen, there’s no better route to take for your company!

  9. Troy Cameron

    What wonderful and unique ideas for promotional products!!! Very good info here, liked it.

  10. Jeremy Lawson

    Great collection of highly creative ideas. Love them all. Promotional products do play a key role in brand awareness and recall. Some simple designs also have great appeal. Also, most think of customers when designing promotional products, although these have an impact on employee loyalty and vendor retention.

  11. Johny Smith

    Wonderful blog and gives the unique ideas regarding the blogs of promotional products. your blogs images tells all the summary of the blogs.

  12. Jeff @ Acobs Global

    I love the eraser usb great design and very creative thanks for the post.

  13. Jeremy Lawson

    What a great article Shaun! Our personal favorites are the straws and Frisbees. Apart from the fact that they were so cool and creative, they are actually items that people or rather kids might not discard. The toilet notebook paper was awesome too, but people would rarely want to write while they are in the loo. The magnetic panels on cars might not be funny to some, but they will do their job of attracting consumer attention efficiently. Out of the box ideas like these, go a long way in building on the brand recall factor for a business.

  14. Victor

    wow. Some of the products are so interesting and innovative. I am sure to reference and recommend some of these cool gift ideas to my client. I am sure they will sell. Thanks a lot.

  15. Mark

    The eraser usb looks very unique and it fits the company’s brand. Great idea!

  16. Lisa Watson

    Hi Shaun Zinck, Thanks for sharing this important list. This list is very helpful for me, with the help of this list, I can promote my products too. i mean, how they are promoting their products ie. ice cream brush.

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