I am always amazed at the promotional products I receive at trade shows that make no sense at all. The promotional item may be a very good product but it doesn’t reinforce what the company actually does.

I declined yet another stress ball today. Just a round ball with the company logo on it. No message, not call to action, nothing. What do I want with that?

Why are you attending trade shows? I would hope to promote your company and sell more product or services, right? If that’s the case then I would recommend you take a look at all your promotional materials.

Look at your giveaways, booth, signage, brochures and even the apparel the team wears to make sure that they are furthering your intended message to your target audience. That will make your show experience that much more successful.

Your Promotional Item Enhances Your Story

Promotional Item Piggy Bank

Piggy Bank Promotional Item Furthers Bank Message

I just came from a trade show where most people had booths that told their story and giveaways that reinforced their message. One bank had piggy banks (I keep one on my desk for loose coins, pays for happy hour once a quarter!).

A wellness center was offering hand massages and handing out branded aromatherapy candles (it’s going in my bedroom to help me de-stress at the end of the day), and a hospital was giving everyone a sanitizing spray for their smartphone (love it already).

As you can see, each of these promotional items reinforced the brand and will most likely be used time and time again.

So think about your target audience when you are determining the right promotional item for your business. For instance, if your target audience is individuals of the Millennial generation then you may want to concentrate on items for their smartphone, earbuds or other tech accessories. You might want to skip the car accessories because if you are in an urban area, they might not even own one!

Promotional Items Reflect Your Brand

Promotional products are a long lasting reflection of your brand and of your services. Why? Quality promotional products stay around a long time if they are useful. In most cases, if you are using quality products your message can stay in someone’s car or on their desk for years. Yes, I’m talking years! Look at your desk, don’t you have a favorite coffee mug that you’ve had around for 4-5 years (the average is 5 years).What about a bag (duffel, grocery or tote)? I know I have one that I take to yoga that I’ve had for at least 5 years (it fits everything so well). The average for bags is a little less at 4 years, but you get the idea.

That’s why it’s important for your promotional item to be an extension of your brand story. I have had people call me years after I’ve given away a journal notebook and ask us to help them with a project. People move from company to company and their needs change so if you give them something useful they take it with them.

Stylus Pen Promotional item

Promotional Pens have Staying Power

Have Contact Information on Your Promotional Item

My company phone number is the same as it was when I started more than 25 years ago. My website is up to date (we update our specials every month) because I know people keep our promotional items.

We always have promotional pens with our logo on them. Pens are a great item because people love pens and keep multiple pens (think your car, your desk, in the kitchen) everywhere. So we gave nice pens to board members of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce when I was the Chair. Years later we got a call from a company 1000 miles away wanting to order the pens. They couldn’t remember where they got the pen, but web address was on the pen (so they could contact us) . The pen had literally traveled for 5 years and 1000 miles to bring us that order.

If your company name or website does not tell your story and the promotional product doesn’t remind them either, then they may not remember what you do three, four or five years later.

Trade Show Booth Should Tell Your Story Too

Booth display with dramatic graphics

Brand your Booth to Stop Traffic

Another area that needs to maintain your brand image and tell people what you do is your trade show booth, tents and banners. Are your graphics showing your products, services or benefits of using you? Have they recently been updated and include dynamic images?

Is your booth inviting people in or easy to pass by? Is your team dressed in a uniform style so that people know who to speak to?

We just did a tent, banner flags, table throws, team shirts and giveaways for a company’s launch of a new product offering. They just had their first event and it was a huge success. They felt because the graphics were so bold and inviting that people were literally walking across the event area to see who they were. And, if you have a great promotional item, they will literally seek you out!

Like Promotional Items, Booth Needs to be Quality

You know it makes a difference. You’ve been to shows where you just keep walking. You don’t even slow down because the booth is so mundane. The promotional giveaway the same thing they’ve given out for the last 3 years.

You’re paying a lot of money to participate in these shows so all your elements need to contribute to your return on investment. Don’t lose a key opportunity because you didn’t want to spend another $500 or $1000.

So, as you work on your marketing plans remember that the promotional items and all the materials you give out at any event needs to maintain your brand message. Don’t make it a throw-away item.  And don’t make your booth area just like everyone else’s. It doesn’t cost any more to stand out.

Danette Gossett

Danette brings more than 30 years of experience developing advertising campaigns, direct marketing programs and sales promotions to her clients. Prior to starting her companies, she worked for New York advertising agencies including Saatchi & Saatchi & Lowe Marschalk.

Her corporate marketing experience included National Advertising Director for Avis Rent a Car Systems, Inc., and Director of Marketing Services for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. Read More