Promotional Products: If It Ain’t Broke, Leave It Be
I wrote recently in this space about swag that went wrong for Goldman Sachs at a conference for women in tech. In fact, the comments on that post continue over in the Promo Marketing LinkedIn Group (If you’re on LinkedIn, and you aren’t already a member of this group, you should be—there are some very interesting contributors and some great discussions).
While some of the comments on the original post suggest that the gender kerfuffle over giving nail files and compacts to female attendees is little more than a molehill, but certainly not a mountain, it got the contrarian in me thinking. When it comes to sourcing promotional products, do you always try to “break it” to get your clients’ attention? Do you avoid ideas that have worked well, just to be that “idea” person? Is something new for “news’ sake” always a good idea?
Remember when Coca-Cola launched New Coke? If you do, you probably remember the Cola Wars that the brand was entrenched with against rival Pepsi. Coca-Cola was struggling against Pepsi’s campaign known as “The Choice of a New Generation,” and its answer was to toss out a 100-year-old recipe in favor of a product that had done well in focus groups doing blind taste tests, but was unproven at retail. You probably know how that worked out. Under much public pressure, Coca-Cola wised up, embraced the original, which was the core essence of the classic brand (and conveniently called it “Coke Classic.”). It not only regained the ground lost in the cola war, but it also managed to increase its market share.
How about the Edsel? Or Betamax? Does the fact that the Betamax disappeared despite being a better platform than VHS resonate with you? And the McRib? Well, let’s not even go there.
This was really a fascinating discussion about promotional product swag and throughout the conversation, one simple idea stood out: Give it a little thought. Think about your audience. Think about who they are as individuals—what motivates them, what might they be passionate about and what might they actually need and use? Think about your client and what his or her goals might be in terms of brand recognition and value he or she hopes to deliver as a part of the promotional product campaign.
Don’t be in such a rush to deliver either the latest “it” promotional product or the greatest “big idea” on which you take a chance and miss the mark completely. Product failures come in all types (Can you say “Quadraphonic Audio”?). From executives pushing an idea that doesn’t fit, to packaging that fails to identify—or maybe even misrepresents—to lower than expected margins, when it comes to working with your clients to deliver the very best in promotional products—for SWAG at an event or for any other initiative—we suggest doing your homework, making the case for your product recommendations and then standing your ground.
You’re the consultant and quite likely the expert when it comes to promotional product sourcing, so take that role and run with it. And when you deliver promotional products that really resonate with your clients’ intended audience, not only will you be a hero, your clients will be as well—which is the goal, right? Of course, that goes for safety and compliance of your selection. Unsafe products are the worst kind of product failure, so it’s a given that you’ll take safety and compliance into consideration, right?
So, where can you learn more? QCA, partnering with Promo Marketing, launches the first QCAConnect next week. It will arrive with your copy of Promo Marketing Magazine, and be available digitally to subscribers of Print+Promo at the same time. If you can’t wait, here’s a look at QCAConnect now. We’re working to raise awareness of safety and compliance issues in the industry, so we’ll release QCAConnect again in August and December, and add additional support with video, webinars and other online resources all year long.
Finally, if you missed the announcement this week, we are proud to add a 12th member to our Distributor Advocacy Council—Helm. Founded in 1943 originally as a trade publication bindery, Helm has expanded into branded merchandise, fulfillment and related support services while also establishing itself as the nation’s largest provider of factory-authorized automotive service and owner manuals. Welcome aboard!
Jeff is executive director of the Quality Certification Alliance (QCA). Prior to that, he was responsible for developing safe and compliant brand merchandise for Michelin. He has worked with brands in publishing, consumer products, broadcasting and film for over 30 years. Follow Jeff on Twitter, and QCA on Facebook.