Promotional Marketing's Four-Letter Word
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.