Promo Marketing

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Editor

Embellished

By Kyle Richardson

About Kyle

A look at the daily impact of promotional products.
 

Compliance Chat

Jeff Jacobs
Promotional Products: If It Ain’t Broke, Leave It Be
Apr 18, 2014

I wrote recently in this space about swag that went wrong for Goldman Sachs at a conference for women in...



Jeff's Rant

Jeff Solomon, MAS
A "Condemned" Supplier Shares the Truth!
Apr 17, 2014

There clearly are companies who operate in ways that are contrary to the traditional supplier/distributor model we are comfortable with....



Selling Smarter

Rosalie Marcus
Speak Now and Sell More!
Apr 15, 2014

How would you like a powerful marketing strategy that can position you as a leader in your field, put you...



Promotional Fashionista

Colleen McKenna
3 Ways to Style an Imprinted Tee
Apr 15, 2014

Imprinted T-shirts are in with the fashion elite. Here's how they are styling the tees....



Beyond Words

Rebecca Kollmann, MAS+
Adapting Your Style
Apr 14, 2014

Many of us have taken a behavioral style inventory at some point in our careers. While the intent of these...



Guest Blogs

Guest Contributor
The Anatomy of Emotional Marketing
Apr 11, 2014

You've probably heard the old adage: "It's the thought that counts." This could not be any truer, especially in business. When...



Kiwi's Coaching Corner

Paul  Kiewiet
Without People, Brands Have No Meaning
Apr 10, 2014

Brands are built over time but can be destroyed in an instant. This is why is it critically important to...



The Hot Button

Mary Ellen Sokalski, MAS
Even Retirees Are Doing It
Apr 9, 2014

Even older clients who grew up with the "one-size-fits-all" adult T-shirt as their world are choosing to buy FASHION TEES....



Not So Technically Speaking

Dale Denham
Go Mobile or Go Home
Apr 8, 2014

I am, without a doubt, the most mobile CIO in the USA. Name one other CIO that is so committed...



Million Dollar Mindset with Greg Muzzillo

Greg Muzzillo
"Free Crab Tomorrow"
Apr 7, 2014

Joe's Crab Shack offers free crab tomorrow. That's because it's never tomorrow. All we have is today. I've talked to...



Quick Thoughts by Cliff Quicksell, MAS

Cliff Quicksell, MAS
6 Reasons Why Marketing Fails and How to Prevent It
Mar 31, 2014

When it comes to marketing, there are no guarantees. A great marketing idea that is poorly implemented or incorrectly presented...



Be Dazzled

Elise Hacking Carr
Go Green or Go Home
Mar 26, 2014

Earth Day is right around the corner. Need ideas for upcoming promotions? Here are three products that scream "I <3...



Be Bold, Be Different, Be Memorable

Rick Greene, MAS
5 Ways to Use LinkedIn to Land New Business
Feb 26, 2014

LinkedIn is a happening place. It is the unsung hero of social platforms and it can indeed be used to...



Mike's Blog

Michael Cornnell
Ads on NBA Jerseys: An Inevitability?
Feb 24, 2014

The NBA may be stating that they're no closer to on-uniform ads than they were in 2011, but that doesn't...



Big Picture Promo

Matt Kaspari, CAS
Meeting Clients Where They Are
Oct 24, 2013

Promotional marketing is at its best when it empowers a client’s brand, meets his or her objectives and fits within...



My Two Cents

Rick Brenner
For Promotional Product Sales, Protect Your Client's Brand
Jun 3, 2013

Whether you are selling to a global brand like Nike or to your local YMCA, no single asset is more...



Friday Sales-thought of the Week!

Dale Limes, MAS
Reverse Engineer Your Sales Success
Mar 18, 2013

Steven Covey reminds us that when setting goals ... "Start with the end in mind." That is to visualize the...



Editor's Notes

Nichole Stella
The Perfect Match
Mar 5, 2013

The Super Bowl has also become the Ad Bowl, where brands duke it out to see who has the funniest,...



The Sales Challenge

Bill Farquharson
Think and Succeed
May 29, 2012

What would happen if you woke up in the morning and your first thought was, "I am never going to...



Creating More Purposeful Sales Conversations

Lisa Leitch, CSP, MAS
Under 100 Days to Achieve 2011 Goals
Oct 20, 2011

It's hard to believe, but there are fewer than 100 days left to achieve 2011 goals! Are you on track...



Promotional Marketing's Four-Letter Word

 

We have a problem. The promotional products industry has been haunted by it for years, and it's only getting worse. It's an image issue, one that marketers and branders have been unable to shake because it's become inextricably attached to a demeaning epithet. And that phrase has become synonymous with our industry, for the worse. It's our four-letter word.

Swag.

I couldn't tell you when that word came to gain its current meaning, but it was well before my entrance into the industry. Working in a newsroom in the early 2000s, I first heard it referencing the giveaways you'd receive at press junkets. Everyone was happy to get those freebees (what writer doesn't want a new pen?), but "swag" still had a derisive connotation. The word is practically sneering. It diminished what otherwise would have been enjoyed.

What brings this to mind is, of course, last week's executive order requiring federal agencies to cut promotional products spending by 20 percent. Although the actual statement issued by the White House never mentions it, nearly every headline included, if not focused on, "swag." It didn't matter that the executive order required spending be cut in four other areas, or that those other areas were listed before promotional items. Look the news up on Google, and you'll find headline after headline about Obama killing swag.

Why? Because "swag" is a bad word. Swag means cheap, disposable, excessive and unnecessary. To the public, swag means junk. It tells the reader that the government is cutting spending on junk, and the reader likes to hear that. The story would have had a different spin if it said "educational materials" instead.

The White House's official statement on the executive order, titled "Promoting Efficient Spending," doesn't help. While it may not use the four-letter word, their phrasing is nearly as bad: "Extraneous Promotional Items." Who is going to read that and think promotions are anything but extraneous?

Government waste is bad; I don't think anyone would disagree with that. The problem is, these stories call promotional products waste, and make them the bad guy. And those writers think it's a guilt-free bad guy, because waste is always bad, right?

You and I understand it's not waste, of course. Refrigerator magnets with emergency phone numbers aren't a waste. Pens imprinted with helpful government website addresses aren't a waste. But a reader browsing headlines, and seeing "swag," may not know that.

The news also shows a lack of basic understanding regarding the industry. This quote, from a Washington Post blog, says it all: "The swag cutback, unlike what the GOP styles as Obama's 'job-killing' regulations, will have virtually no effect on American jobs. That's because most all of this stuff, even down to our official CIA baseball cap, is made in China."

Even if most all of those products are made in China, which they're not, that mentality ignores the jobs of American distributors, decorators, importers and shippers. It ignores the American marketers who use promotional products to inform, the nonprofits who need them to generate support, and the magazines like this one that focus exclusively on the industry. Tell each of them that the regulation will have no effect on their jobs.

It all betrays a gross misunderstanding of what the promotional marketing industry is, and that misunderstanding is pervasive. Many people think promotional products equals free, and free equals valueless. That's why I think this is an image issue. Audiences focus too much on the physical stuff, which is free, and not on why they are receiving it, which is where the value is found.

Fortunately, one thing this industry knows is getting a message out. From PPAI sending a petition to the president to suppliers and distributors speaking to the press, there's a push back against this misrepresentation. Will it result in Obama reversing his executive order? No. But if it puts a human, American face on the industry, and teaches what promotional products can actually do, then hopefully some benefit can be had. At the very least, maybe we can get people to stop using that bad word.

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