Step into any bar, and the first thing you'll notice are the logos. (OK, maybe that's the second thing—the first is the Bon Jovi song blasting about 1,000 decibels too loud.) But our point remains: There's branded stuff everywhere. It decorates the walls, it sits on and behind the bar, and it's worn by the bartenders, servers and kitchen staff. That's why landing a bar client is majorly cheers!-worthy for promotional products distributors.
But that doesn't mean it's easy. With most bars already well-stocked on glassware, coasters and other staples, it can be tough to convince buyers they need more. And many bars receive lots of promo gear from beverage distributors and the like, making it even harder to get buyers to pony up for branded products. If you don't pitch the right products or approach bar buyers the right way, your efforts could end in disaster.
So how do you break in? We talked to bar-industry sales veteran Gayle Piraino, founder and president of Gloucester, Massachusetts-based distributor GAP Promotions, to find out.
Promo Marketing (PM): There are a handful of products that bars are in obvious need of—glassware, coasters, etc. What are some less obvious products bars need just as much?
Gayle Piraino (GP): Some of the less obvious products that bars need are the most obvious to see when walking into any given bar. Things like signs, tap handles, shakers and glorifiers are all just as, if not more, important than the more obvious barware items like glassware and coasters. These items play a major part in creating the ambiance within a bar—without them the bar-going experience wouldn't be the same.
PM: What products do bars need most?
GP: The promotional products that bars most frequently are in need of are actually the more generic items. This includes things like T-shirts, bottle openers, Koozies and anything that is wearable. Sunglasses, for example, are one of the most popular items.
PM: How do bars typically go about acquiring these products?
GP: A lot of the time, bars actually acquire these products from the beverage companies and beverage distributors. The brands typically provide accounts with giveaways and other promotional products during new product launches, or when there is a particular product in their portfolio that is doing well in market. If it's not the brand itself giving the promotional products to the bars, oftentimes it will be a promotion or events agency doing it on behalf of the brand.
PM: If most bars already are receiving promotional products for free, what can distributors do to gain business with bar clients?
GP: The bars themselves are also able to reach out to promotional agencies. Together, the bar and the promotional agency can work together to create branded promotional products that solely feature the bar's brand. The salesperson should also know the quantities and budget the bar expects for a particular product, as well as what the bar wants to communicate in their brand messaging.
PM: Are there any products we might think bars need or use often, but actually don't get used much at all?
GP: Bartenders have certain tools and methods they use to be successful in their jobs. They use things like speed openers, rubber grips, towels and armbands, among other things. Since bartenders are used to doing things a certain way in their job, it is sometimes challenging to provide an account with branded promotional bartender tools. There is a risk that these items may not get utilized or that they may just be given away.
PM: What's one memorable bar promotion you've seen?
GP: One of the more creative and interesting ways accounts have used promotional products from us in the past was for the "Guinness &" program. We produced a few items for the program, including a table tent, back-bar pieces, display racks and A-frames. The table tent allowed consumers to explore various drink choices that mixed Guinness with a range of other products. The table tent itself featured a cutout of a Guinness pint glass on top, and below was a printed flipbook that contained images of the other choices consumers could mix with Guinness
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