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10 Tips & Tricks for Choosing the Best Promotional Products

Katy Ward
Mockup of promotional products
If you’re in charge of ordering branded swag on behalf of your company, you’ll be keen to strike the best possible deal on custom marketing materials to promote your business.

If you get it right, you can generate a real marketing buzz around your brand and even secure new customers. Choose your swag poorly, however, and you risk having your organization mocked mercilessly on social media.

Finding the right balance can be tricky, and this dilemma has led certain brands to make some interesting choices. We need only think of KFC’s inflatable pool floats in the shape of Colonel Sanders or Burger King’s Japanese release of meat-scented perfume.

Although these are especially colorful examples, the question of how to find the right branded products is nevertheless relevant for every marketing team, whether they work with businesses, charitable causes, sports teams, or even their local church. In this article, we round up 10 top tips and tricks to help you find the right custom products for your business.

1. Quality is key

Every sports fan loves the excitement of receiving a customized jersey bearing their beloved team’s logo, but the buzz would soon turn sour if the stitching came apart after a single wear. And imagine your manager’s horror—even the players’ dismay—if they were to see members of the public ridiculing their team jersey on Twitter. 

When you’re distributing custom merchandise, the quality of these items is a reflection of your brand or cause. If any goods (even freebies) bearing your company’s logo are shoddily made, your customers, fans, or followers may start to wonder what kind of organization you’re running.

2. Know your audience

We’ve all heard stories of high-end luxury brands sending personalized gifts to their A-list Hollywood clients. While many organizations, particularly charities, may not be able to afford to customize every piece of merchandise they send out, it is nevertheless vital that you remember your target audience when choosing your promotional items.

Say you work for a good cause, and you’re in charge of organizing tokens of thanks for your most generous donors or fundraisers, your best approach would be to find a gift that aligns with their socially conscious values. In this instance, a simple gift such as a branded wristband or medal would be more appropriate than a bottle of champagne or a fancy piece of tech.

Likewise, if your company has a focus on community giving, your customers will appreciate gestures that align with these values, such as charitable donations or discounts for veterans.

3. Make usability a priority

Although you may feel tempted to opt for quirky or unique branded merch, this could be a risky strategy. Your items could prove so unusual that they end up being of little use and instead sit gathering dust in your customers’ basements.

We all use items such as pens, mugs, and notepads, typically on a daily basis. And as an added bonus, these are often unintentionally shared among large groups of people, in an office, for example, which could end up introducing your brand to an entirely new audience. 

If your client base is particularly tech-savvy, for instance, consider giving away essential items such as USB drives, phone chargers, mobile phone covers, or sanitizer spray for devices. These will come in far more handy than a novelty item that’s of little functional use. 

4. Get the headcount right

Before you organize any event that involves dishing out branded swag, it’s essential to plan the logistics of the day meticulously. Otherwise, you could find yourself facing a PR disaster. The last thing you’d want would be a room full of angry sports investors or disappointed charity fundraisers if you were to run out of the branded goods they’d been promised in their invites.

To avoid embarrassment, ask yourself some key questions during the planning process. How many people have you invited? Is there a possibility guests could attend who haven’t RSVP’d? Are there any health and safety concerns? The latter may be especially important if you have any vulnerable, elderly, or very young attendees.

5. Buy in bulk

When you’re in charge of procurement for an event with hundreds, or even thousands of guests, the cost is a key consideration.

This is where economies of scale come in. Many manufacturers and retailers will be willing to bring prices down if you’re purchasing in bulk. As part of your negotiation technique, be sure to mention any plans you have to host future events, making it clear you could potentially bring the seller more business down the line. And always remember to compare quotes from as many suppliers as possible in order to get the most competitive price on the market.

6. Focus on eco-friendly goodies

In 2021, being mindful of issues relating to the environment and sustainability is crucial to the success of any marketing campaign, especially if you have a Millennial or Gen-Z target audience. 

By choosing eco-friendly promotional products, you can help your company join the fight against climate change while also generating brand loyalty, which is a win-win situation. 

Some popular examples of eco-friendly merchandise include:

  • reusable water bottles
  • travel cutlery
  • recycled T-shirts
  • bags made from hemp, cotton, or other sustainable fabrics

7. Make sure your logo is consistent

Keeping your messaging consistent across your branded material is one of the golden rules of marketing. So, if you decide to incorporate your company’s logo onto your goods, make sure the image appears the same way on your USB drives as it does on your beach balls.

You should provide strict visual branding guidelines to all graphic designers working across your business to achieve this. These guidelines should contain approved copies of your logo with clear instructions on how and when these images can (and can’t) be used.

8. Harness the power of social media

Whether you’re working for a major bank, medium-sized charity, or local church, you’ll be well aware of the profile-building potential of Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram. Say you’re organizing a large sporting event such as a marathon, there’s the potential to have hundreds (or possibly thousands) of individuals running in T-shirts emblazoned with your logo. This is a massive advertising opportunity if snaps of the crowd make it onto social platforms, and by exploiting it, you could really raise the profile of your organization. 

So be sure to make your branded merch stand out in social shots and then reinforce the hype by creating your own hashtags and promoted posts related to the event through your official accounts.

9. Don’t forget the weather

When you’re planning an event with potentially hundreds or thousands of attendees, it’s easy to forget that the success of many such gatherings (as well as any promotional swag) can depend almost entirely on Mother Nature. 

It’s therefore sensible to choose gifts that reflect the season in which you are hosting your event. For example, even the most stylish sunglasses are unlikely to be of any use in the middle of November, while a branded umbrella will soon be forgotten about at the height of a heatwave.

Another top tip: consider how your guest will transport your swag from the event. If your giveaway is heavy or bulky and your guests are likely to be walking home, your gift may soon become a nuisance rather than a thoughtful gesture.

10. Consider virtual events

Following the past 18 months, it’s little surprise that many product launches, fundraising events, and conferences now take place online. Like any promotional event, a virtual gathering can be an ideal chance to give away free samples of your products, preview any upcoming releases you may have, or secure fresh donors for your charity.

And even if your event is virtual, you can still hand out promotional gifts. You may, for example, want to give away a digital journal. Or you could consider offering a free online class or a PDF of exclusive material.

Conclusion

Whether you’re working for a Fortune 500 company, a tech start-up, a charity, or an NFL team, the key to ordering the right custom products lies in understanding your customers’ values and then finding items that will serve a useful purpose for those individuals.

Although every target audience is different, following these 10 tips and tricks should help put you on the right track to choosing gifts that your customers will love and keep as a constant reminder of your brand or cause.

Katy Ward
Oxford graduate Katy Ward is a seasoned journalist and editor covering personal finance and software topics for Eleven Writing and Top10. Over a 15-year career, Katy has worked with several finance titans, including Barclays, Tandem Bank, and Yahoo! Finance.