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Adding a Retro Feel to Advertising: 25 Throwback Promo Items That Channel Past Eras

Nostalgia is in. Whether your heartstrings tug you back to the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, or ’90s, you can bet there’s a customizable product to accompany you there. Thinking of adding a retro feel to your advertisements? Or perhaps you desire to share your fondness of past eras with your customers? I’ve got your back with these throwback promotional items!

Break out the poodle skirts and slick back that hair, because it’s time to attend the sock hop with your sweetheart! The ’50s era conjures images of muscle cars, classic diners, rotary phones, drive-in movie theaters, and pop icons like Elvis Presley or Marilyn Monroe. To make your promotions as bubbly as your memories, try customizing one of the following items:

From left to right: Diner Mug (this is a classic); Oscillating Fan (four words: The Seven Year Itch); Classic Car Calendar (they don’t make ’em like they used to); Antique Car Stress Ball (a modern twist on a retro favorite); Two-Tone Brass Key Tag (these are making a comeback).

The ’60s were far out, man! Sure, this was the time when psychedelic patterns, peace signs, and tie dye heightened in popularity, but it was also the time when rock and roll music gained some grit and changed the industry forevermore. If you can’t shake your nostalgia for this epic decade (or if you’re a manic Mad Men fan), then you’ll probably favor at least one of these vintage-themed products.


From left to right: Decanter Set (Don Draper would love this); Electric Guitar Stress Ball (a la The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Elvis, and more); Lava Award (like a totally rad lava lamp that you never have to turn on); Confetti Flyer (bears a striking resemblance to tie-dye); Flower Highlighter (flower power is back).

Disco balls. Bell bottoms. Avocado-green appliances. Ringing any bells? Say what you will about the ’70s, but many of the things we see in stores today (from clothing to décor and everything in between) were inspired by this era! Satisfy your cravings and show the world you like to boogie with one of these personal tributes.


From left to right: Glimmer Light Up Pen (the best method of stayin’ alive); Printed Poly Pro Tote (paisley, stripes, and geometrics…need I say more?); Non Woven Polk A Dot Padfolio (just look at that pattern!); Rocket Orb Promo Bouncer Stress Ball (the brightly colored disco ball that bounces); Expressions Umbrella (it’s SO groovy!)..

If Michael Jackson, Prince, and Madonna don’t immediately make you think of the ’80s, then something’s seriously wrong. This era was brimming with neon colors, leg warmers and leggings, puffy hair, and big attitudes. It also brought cartoons back into the mainstream and started the digital age with DOS computers. Don’t just stand there; bust a move with one of these 80s-esque items.


From left to right: Neon Rubber Sunglasses (do you wear your sunglasses at night?); Neon Flyers (nothing says 80s like neon); Encore Music Cooler (a retro cooler that plays music!); Flat Erasers (trade them with your friends); Rubik’s Cube (we dare you to solve it in under a minute).

Technology exploded during this time, spawning wonders like personal CD players and handheld Tamagotchi pets. If the ’90s was your decade of choice, then you probably owned high-top sneakers, wore glittery slap bracelets, and grew up with Nickelodeon TV shows. Oh, and you probably had a either a grunge band or a boy band disc in that CD player! Share your passion with others via one of these fantastic throwbacks.


From left to right: Retro Handset (remember when having a phone in your room was a luxury?); Glitter Frame (glitter galore for ’90s kids); Retro Specs (remember when barely being able to see through your sunglasses was exciting?); Neon Gel Pens (for the artsy ones in your group); Slap Bracelet (be the envy of your friends).

There are several other promo items that evoked nostalgia but didn’t quite make it into the featured portion of my post. For example, the Foam Koozie, one of the most popular koozies on our site, is making a comeback lately. We think it might be because of its thick, soft foam material that screams retro (remember when stuff like that was all the rage?). The Wood Desk Clock is a slick addition to any sophisticated workspace, and the curved handle and flannel pattern of the Automatic Stick Umbrella brings on all sorts of fashion compliments.

Showcase the attributes of your favorite decade by including an era-appropriate giveaway item in your next promotion!

Did you see anything you like? Are there other retro promotional products you would have liked to see in this post? What’s your favorite era?


Bubba is the Quality Logo Products mascot. He may have started out as "just a stress ball," but he's come a long way since the company's launch in 2003. Bubba has been immortalized in numerous vector artwork designs for internal and external promotions, and you can see him change outfits on the Quality Logo Products homepage whenever a holiday rolls around. Oh, and he thinks pants are for the birds. You can connect with Bubba on


  1. Eric

    Stumbled upon the “Motel/Hotel Key Tag” the other day, here, and the whole “throwback” idea came right to mind. Probably the first item I’ve come across that was purely, legitimately 50’s retro, without a doubt. I’d second a personal recommendation on that one.

    Cool and thoughtful post, Jill!

    • Jill Tooley

      Thanks! I love that item as well. It reminds me of the Bates Motel (although, that was technically 1960) but it would look cool on any keychain. Too bad most hotels/motels only use magnetic key cards now… 🙁

      • Eric

        Brings to mind my visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. One musicians made a point of collecting every – or almost every – set of hotel/motel room keys he was given. It amounted to more than a whole suitcase’s-worth. Can’t say that’d be half as cool today…if even possible!

        • Jill Tooley

          Wow, that’s awesome! You’re right, key cards wouldn’t be nearly as cool and it would take a hell of a lot of them to fill a suitcase. I suppose it’s possible, but you’d have to have the touring longevity and staying power of the Rolling Stones to make it happen! 😉

  2. Bret Bonnet

    Was I the only only person growing up whose grandparents’ or parents’ house had plastic on ALL their furniture?

    I think someone needs to make a throw back couch stress ball, plastic cover and all included.

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      They should just make the throw back couch and then you can get them polybagged! 😀

    • Jill Tooley

      My grandparents never had plastic furniture covers, but I know lots of friends’ g-parents who did. Too funny!

    • Amanda

      LOL. I knew a guy whose mom not only had plastic on all of their furniture, but also left the plastic on their lampshades, and had runners on each end table, coffee table, and had runners down the walking paths throughout the whole house! It was ridiculous! How anyone can get comfy on a plastic covered couch is beyond me. Just buy a used one, and use the crap out of it. haha

  3. Mandy Kilinskis

    I think an important question is: why doesn’t every single brand hand out glitter bouncy balls? And even more important: why don’t I have seven of them?

    Otherwise, great selection of items, Jill! All of these items would bring back nostalgia in a big way. I’d love to receive any of these. Especially the glitter bouncy ball, if that wasn’t clear.

    • Jill Tooley

      Haha, yeah, the glitter bouncy balls are pretty sweet! I particularly love that the glitter swirls around in there, so you’ll never see the exact same pattern twice. 🙂

      It would’ve been dangerous if I’d had one of those as a kid. It would have ended up on someone’s roof for sure!

  4. Joseph Giorgi

    “Remember when having a phone in your room was a luxury?”

    Haha. So true! I haven’t thought about it like that in a long time. Good call — get it? “Call”?

    Every time I read one of these “retro” posts, I start to miss the 90s all over again. Those were the days alright! It strange to think that there are kids growing up now who take all these modern conveniences for granted. Heck, they probably don’t even know what it’s like to walk 10 miles to school in 5 feet of snow — uphill, both ways — like we did. 😉

    Excellent picks here, Jill! You’re forgetting one crucial decade though: “the 00s.” So many great vintage items came out of that decade! Remember MP3 players? Those were the best! Now it’s all “smartphone this” and “tablet that.” 😀

    • Jill Tooley

      I thought I was SO rad with that clunky corded phone in my room! Never had my own line, of course, but it was nice nonetheless. I miss the 90s as well, and the 80s. You know, when MTV played MUSIC and not trashy reality shows. Seeing the popularity of Jersey Shore makes me so sad. Kids these days don’t know what they’re missing… [fist shake]

      I wanted to include the 00s, but it was a bit too soon to be considered “retro.” Plus, so much of the 00s was dominated by past trends making a comeback that it’s hard to judge what rightfully belongs there. Maybe I’ll tackle that one in a few more years! 😉

  5. Cybernetic SAM

    Excellent POST Jill! This was an awesome selection of items! All of which made me giggle! 🙂

    • Jill Tooley

      Thanks, Sammy! Always glad to make you giggle. 😀

    • Amanda

      I thought the same thing. Plus, this post is visually appealing! I love how you divided it into decades. Great job Jill! =)

  6. amy

    The 1950s pull at my heart strings more so than any other era and because of that I love the diner mug you’ve included. My parents have a few of this style mug and they’re awesome to hold. The walls are thick enough not to scald your hand when you hold them, but still warm them up on a chilly morning. Awwww, lovely.

    I really like the fan you included too! It’s small enough to keep on a desk for fluctuating temperatures in the office, but large enough to keep you cool. This was a great blog post, talk about creative. Awesome job Jill!

  7. Jill Tooley

    Thank you, Amy! I have a fondness for the 1950s as well. Diner mugs are getting really popular again in some restaurant chains – I know that Maid Rite used to have them and there are a few small diners in the area that use them to advertise local businesses to patrons (they ask other local businesses if they’d like to pay a flat rate to co-imprint a small ad on one side of the cup, and then they redo them every year). They are nice to hold, and there’s something so satisfying about sipping coffee or tea from them. 🙂

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