Bagging Up Success with Promotional Totes
While studying abroad in Europe during my junior year of college, I purchased my favorite souvenir during a trip to London’s Portobello Market: a canvas tote bag. It was simple enough—text on the front and an image of colorful row homes on the back—but I fell in love. Even better, local schoolchildren drew the image to raise money for charity. It was then I realized the power of the tote and its potential in a promotional product lineup. Capitalize on this classic staple by brushing up on the latest trends within the field. Promo Marketing spoke to experts on promotional bags and totes to learn what makes a successful promotion.
The beauty of a bag is that it’s applicable to all markets—everyone from college students to nurses needs a way to carry their belongings. Gary Semrow, chief marketing officer for American Ad Bag, Woodstock, Ill., explained the item’s ubiquity.
“The nice thing about reusable non-woven totes is the potential market included in virtually every business in the world,” he said. “They are inexpensive and offer one of the lowest costs per impression of any product in the market.”
Semrow has the evidence to back it up. “According to the 2014 Global Advertising Specialties Impressions Study, consumers want products that are, first and foremost, useful to them,” he stated. “Bags came in at 87 percent usefulness. The survey also found that about 85 percent of promotional products recipients could remember the advertiser. With that being said, bags and totes cover nearly all markets.”
Function as Foundation
It’s functionality that keeps end-users grabbing for their bags and totes every morning, so it’s important to design for use. Jim Martin, president of Numo, Kaufman, Texas, agreed that utility should always come first with bags and totes. “A well-designed, functional bag actually gets used,” he said. “Ultimately, the goal of any promotional product is to be used, and therefore drive the message.”
This year, functionality is giving way to more specific features in bags and totes. “I think you might see more ‘intended’-use type bags—meaning bags that are intended for a specific purpose, such as cycling, rock climbing or dancing,” Martin predicted. “End-users are starting to look for bags that fill a particular niche/role in their activities.”
Semrow believes end-users are looking for a revitalized take on the classic tote, too. “For the new year, the style prediction I am seeing is the addition of [extra] features to bags,” he said. “End-users have been [using] the same reusable grocery tote for years and they want something fresh.”
For American Ad Bag, that means added features, such as wine-bottle holders and additional pockets. “Adding places to easily store and access personal electronic devices is gaining in importance,” Semrow added.
Of course, if your tote bags don’t meet the desired look the end-user wants, they’ll remain hanging in a closet. The style of the bag should follow as the second priority when creating a successful promotion.
Creating a functional and fashionable bag will result in what Semrow calls a “walking billboard.” “[End-buyers] want a look that will catch the public’s eye so their advertising is seen and read over and over,” he said. “One of the easiest things to double your exposure is to do a second imprint on the backside.”
In terms of color-ways and shapes, Semrow has the ticket. “Royal blue, red and black are still the leading colors,” he said. “However, the brighter colors, like lime, orange and Maui blue, are [quickly] becoming in demand.”
For Martin, the trending colors Numo has noticed are a little different. “I think earth tones are replacing grays,” he said. “Also, breadth of color availability will be big this year. Not only are end-users wanting purpose-built bags, but they are also wanting custom color options.”
For the actual shape of the bag, Martin kept it straightforward. “I think silhouettes will continue to follow retail trends, which, for now, means clean lines and larger sizes,” he said.
And if you’re looking for the apex of style and purpose, Semrow gave a tip: “Doing a multi-colored fabric on the outside, along with additional pockets on both the inside and outside of the bag, will add to both the fashion and functionality of the bag,” he said. He even has the evidence to back it up thanks to the history of American Ad Bag’s Collegiate Collection.
“A great customer of ours approached me wanting to do a two-toned bag that matched the university’s colors to send out in season-ticket packages,” he continued. “We took his request and made a royal bag with red trim and handles. The university loved the two-tone look and quality of the bag. After the promotion, I hung the bag in my booth and, after numerous requests for two-toned bags, our Collegiate Collection was born.”