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How Do You Choose a Promotional Product?

Alyssa Mertes

Published: April 10th 2023

Have you ever been to a restaurant and found it impossible to choose something on the menu? Everything sounds so good! Well, that exact same feeling can happen when you're shopping for promotional products.

Pens, water bottles, t-shirts, mugs…there are so many options, how can you decide on just one? This guide is here to help you whittle it all down and find the right promotional items for your brand!

How Do You Choose a Promotional Product?


You've got a cup of coffee, the computer is fired up, and you're ready to search online for promotional products. Follow these steps to find the best custom giveaways for your business or event.

  1. Step 1: Define your target audience.
  2. Step 2: Figure out your budget.
  3. Step 3: Narrow it down to a few giveaway items.
  4. Step 4: Print a brand-friendly design.
  5. Step 5: Think about distribution.


It's worth putting in some thought when you're purchasing swag. After all, the last thing you want is to make an unnecessary purchase. Every marketing dollar counts!

Define Your Target Audience

Don't be creepy about it, but before you settle on your giveaways, try to know as much as you possibly can about your target audience. Who are these people?

Break it down by either:

  • 1) Age
  • 2) Interests

Age Demographics

One easy way to define your target audience is by looking at their age. Each generation is defined by certain traits and interests, and you can use this information to choose appropriate promotional products!

Man with dog

Baby Boomers

Ages: 56 to 74

While 90% of Baby Boomers have a Facebook account, they're nowhere near as obsessed with technology as the younger generations. It's the Boomer's golden years, and many of them have already raised families and some are even retired. They're going to want promotional items that are all about indulging in their hobbies and relaxing at home.

Recommended items: Sleeping masks, slippers, blankets

Couple cooking

Gen X

Ages: 40 to 55

Gen X are a bunch of pop culture junkies who used to hang out at the local mall and watch MTV after school. They're former latchkey kids who are extremely independent and are now "adulting." Hand out promotional items they'll find useful in their daily lives, whether it's cooking utensils for the kitchen or supplies they can use at the office.

Recommended items: Car sun shades, food containers for leftovers, work bags

Mom with baby


Ages: 23 to 38

With the rise of computers in the 90s, millennials grew up being comfortable with technology. They're currently the largest generation, and it's estimated that by 2033 there will be 74.9 million people in this age group. Many millennials have children, and while they're homebodies at heart, they still like hanging out with their friends and trying new things like board games, wine tours, or hiking trips.

Recommended items: Scented candles, phone chargers, insulated water bottles

Woman with headphones

Gen Z

Ages: 8 to 23

Gen Z grew up with technology, social media, and streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu. They're used to these creature comforts and are always looking for trendy pics that they can share on Instagram. Some of the most common hobbies for this generation include watching TV, listening to music, and playing video games.

Recommended items: Laptop sleeves, wireless earbuds, webcam covers

Child playing

Young Children

Ages: 2 to 7

Kids are growing up in a digital world, and they love playing games on tablets and watching YouTube videos. Still, that doesn't mean they won't be happy to receive cute promotional items like toys and games. Pretend you're a kid on Christmas morning. What would you want to open?

Recommended items: Coloring books & crayons, stuffed animals, balloons

Demographics By Interests

You can also think about your target market less in terms of age, and more in terms of their interests. Take a look at a few examples!



Are you getting custom promotional gifts for your sports team? Think about the kind of things that athletes can bring to and from practices and games. These products should ideally be lightweight and easy to clean.

Recommended items: Sports stress balls, duffel bags, BPA free water bottles



Let's say you're heading to a B2B trade show, or a large networking conference. Your giveaways should be items that professionals can use while they're at their desk or in meetings. Choose products that look elegant and refined.

Recommended items: Mugs with lids, hardcover notebooks, engraved pens

Yoga Pose

Fitness Buffs

Don't sweat it! You can easily find great promotional items for your gym, bikeathon, or 5K. Just stick with products that will help people reach their workout goals. It's all about keeping up the momentum and encouraging motivation and strength!

Recommended items: Shaker bottles,, yoga mats, gym bags


Car Lovers

Whether the auto show is around the corner or you're a new mechanic that needs to advertise, car themed promotional items are a no-brainer. They can be small and simple or something more exciting, whatever your budget allows!

Recommended items: Car care items, bumper stickers, license plate frames

Guitar player

Music Fans

Bands, concert venues, and festivals all need a promotional strategy. Try selling custom items in your merch tent! Your fans are going to appreciate tech gadgets for listening to music, or trendy apparel they can wear over and over again.

Recommended items: T-shirts, Bluetooth speakers, clear bags for concerts

College students

College Students

You can be stocking your bookstore or hosting a job fair, but either way, you need to get into the mind of a college student. They're always busy writing essays, cramming for tests, and paying off those loans. Be thoughtful with your giveaways and try to choose something that helps them juggle everything on their plates!

Recommended items: Hoodies, backpacks, large flash drives

woman eating

The more specific you are about who your target audience is, the better you'll be at choosing promotional products! A little bit of foresight will help you pick items that your recipients will actually want.

Figure Out Your Budget

Once you've figured out your target audience, the next step is deciding on a reasonable budget. Most business experts recommend dedicating 5% to 10% of your total revenue to marketing. Promotional items are part of that equation.

Take a look at this chart for some budget ideas based on your business size!

Budget infograph
Budget infograph

These numbers are here to give you a general idea. They were calculated by taking 2% of your total marketing budget and dedicating that to your promotional products spend.

Keep in mind, this is by no means an official amount you need to meet. Adjust your budget based on your comfort level. Only you know what works for your business's bottom line!

If you do have it in the budget, you should consider splurging on custom merch that is more high-end. A fleece jacket will go a lot further in building your brand than a cheap plastic bag clip!

How Much Do Promotional Products Cost?

Woman on couch

Promotional products are a little tricky when it comes to calculating cost. They have tiered pricing, which means the cost per item, the quantity you're ordering, and the number of ink colors you're using will all impact the final total in your shopping cart.

Be sure to shop with a distributor that offers transparent pricing from start to finish! You should never be caught off-guard by the cost for your order.

Woman on couch

Narrow It Down to a Few Giveaway Items

Now that you know who is getting the promotional giveaways and how much you're spending, the next step is figuring out what to get.

Your best bet is to do the following:


#1: Jot down 2 to 4 product categories on a piece of paper. For example, "pens," "t-shirts," and "coffee mugs."


#2: Look around on the promotional products website, and see which items from each category catch your eye.


#3: Write down the item number of your top 3 favorite choices in each category.


#4: Check prices of each item and figure out which item is most in line with your budget.


#5: Decide on the final item or items and make your purchase!

Impulse shopping is a real thing. In fact, over 90% of consumers make impulse purchases, and they spend over $5,000 on these items every single year.

When you're shopping for custom items, it pays not to be so hasty. Take your time and make sure you're buying the right giveaways. You should never feel like you have to rush to make a decision!

Print a Budget-Friendly Design

Another thing to consider is the design that you print. Some promotional items have an unlimited number of ink colors you can use, while others only include one color in the price. It helps to know the difference, so you're not caught off-guard by the final total.

Let's look at custom mugs to see this in action!

1 ink color

One Ink Color

Customization Technique: Screen Printing, Pad Printing

A vast majority of promotional items are customized with screen or pad printing. Typically, you get 1 ink color in the design for free with this technique. Notice that the teal mug pictured here has the "Your Logo" design printed in white. If there were red, yellow, or purple in the design, the customer would have to pay extra per color.

2 color

Unlimited Ink Colors

Customization Technique: Digital Printing

Digital printing or sublimation are excellent techniques for printing colorful designs or photos. You can use as many ink colors as you want without an extra charge. Keep in mind, however, that items customized with these techniques tend to be pricier upfront.

It's important to think about the customization technique when deciding on a promotional product. For instance, if a colorful design is important to you, you can narrow down your options to only items that are printed with digital printing or sublimation.

Did you know?

If you want a colorful design or logo, you can also try embroidery! This is a good customization technique for hats, t-shirts, jackets, and other apparel items.

Think About Distribution

The final step in choosing a promotional product is to think about how you're going to be distributing these items. Are you selling them in a gift shop or merch tent? Maybe you're giving them away for free.

No matter what, you should consider the following:

Group of people

Number of People

Let's say you're torn between keychains and cooler bags. Keychains are going to have a higher minimum, so it doesn't really make sense to choose them if you only have a small number of people receiving your items. Cooler bags, in this case, might be the better choice.

Snowy scene


Are you purchasing promotional items for a specific event? Ask yourself – when is my event taking place? Beanie hats, ice scrapers, and touchscreen gloves are excellent for the winter, while sunglasses, frisbees, and beach towels are fun summer giveaways.

Bathroom products


You're going to have to carry these items around. If you're exhibiting at a trade show and have a long way to walk for set up, you might want to go with lightweight products like calendars or pocket notebooks.


Setup & Location

Where are you setting up your promotional items? Are you keeping them in a basket to hand out at the entrance? Do you have a table they are going to sit on? This can help determine which products are right for you.

When you think about distribution, you make your life easier in the future. You won't have to worry about having a ton of leftover promotional products, or choosing items that don't quite jive with your layout.

Plus, you have the opportunity to create a more concise trade show display or advertising campaign. Overall, it pays to be proactive and think ahead!

Why Are Promotional Products Effective?

It's worth being picky and taking your time in choosing the right promotional products. T-shirts, coffee mugs, and other branded merch are well-loved by everyone and are a great way to get your name out there!

Promotional products are an effective ad strategy for a number of reasons:

Icon product 6

85% of people will do business with an advertiser after receiving one of their promotional items.

Icon product 7

89% of people can recall the name of a business, even two years after receiving one of their promotional products.

Icon product 8

It isn't just about receiving these items for free. 66% of people who purchase promotional merchandise can remember the name of the brand.

Icon product 9

92% of people will keep a promotional product if it's useful.

Icon product 10

Promotional products are ranked as the #1 form of advertising and are preferred over mobile, TV, and internet ads.

Icon product 11

People use promotional items all the time! In fact, 45% of consumers use their giveaways at least once per day.

Icon product 12

44% of U.S. millennials claim that they're loyal to their favorite brands. This means they'd be happy to wear and use their branded merch.

Icon product 13

48% of consumers would like to receive promotional products from brands more often.

These facts, figures, and stats show that it's worth taking the time to choose the best promotional products for your brand. It's a marketing strategy that will pay off in the long run!

The Bottom Line

It isn't rocket science when it comes to choosing promotional products. Ultimately, listen to the age old advice and follow your heart… and your budget! You can't go wrong as long as you're picking branded merch that you'd be excited to receive yourself.

Quality Logo Products are experts on all things printed and promotional. Let our team of awesome, incredibly good looking, and fun promo nerds help you select awesome promotional swag today!

4 random promtional products 4 random promotional products tablet
Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products. As a promo expert, she's uncovered the world's first custom tote bag, interviewed the guy behind rock band ACDC's logo, and had a piece published by the Advertising Specialty Institute, a leader in the promotional products industry.


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