“Brand Fill” is just one of the many terms for cheap, useless, and unwanted merch that is given out to people and is immediately thrown away. From a marketing perspective, you want to get as much visibility on your brand/promotion as possible, so no one wants their marketing to end up in the trash. And yet, I can think of countless times I end up sorting through a trade show bag to figure out what I’m going to keep and what I’m going to throw away. What separates a good promotional product from a cheap and worthless one? To answer that I believe there are several factors that make promotional products stand out and endure.
- Useability– Functional promotional items are more likely to be kept. Think of an umbrella, tactical flashlight, carabiner, Koozies, pens, drinkware. These are all promotional products that serve a purpose and fill a need. On their own, they have value because people can see themselves using them and they are less concerned with using something they got from somewhere else.
- Co-Branding– People like name brands. Several years ago, Yeti was the hot item. Everyone wanted the cooler and tumblers and there was limited ability to put your logo on them aside from a laser etch. If you gave a customer or potential customer a Yeti tumbler, they knew it had a high value and was a great cup. As a result, every Yeti item ever given out was kept and used. The same goes for brand names like Nike (for the most part), Under Armour, Igloo, Carhartt, The North Face, Tervis, and more. Products co-branded on brand name items last.
- Creativity– This one is a little more subjective but catchy phrases, cool designs, things that are funny tend to be kept. Because they are subjective, they are not as guaranteed as some of the other items on this list but a friend of mine has a pen that he would give out that is inscribed with “There is a 10% chance that this pen was up someone’s nose. – Arthur Greeno”. As you can imagine, his pen was kept by all who got one and it even made it onto their social media as well. You don’t have to go to that extreme to get someone to keep something but if you think beyond your logo and tagline, you can get people to hang on to your promotional item. In Arthur’s case, he’s known for creativity and it ties well into his brand, so it was a perfect creative message.
- Cause– Personally, I don’t think this is used enough in promotional items. Making an item mean something is so powerful. I’m reminded of a small white flag we produced for a non-profit named Hope Is Alive. The flag was for an event they held a few years (Night of Hope) back and the message they were pursuing was the idea of surrender. In this case, it was surrendering their addictions and their own ability to find freedom. They handed out these white flags and as a group waved the white flag. It was one of the most powerful moments in every one of those people’s lives and it’s a symbol of their steps towards freedom. Now, those flags are a symbol of that moment and are priceless to them. The same can be said for things like a charity walk for a loved one, a memento of a donation, or a historic moment. Anything surrounding those events becomes a memento of that event.
- Quality– “You get what you pay for” stays true today. People can tell the difference when something is cheap or quality. I recently got a sample t-shirt that was in a smaller size and gave it to my wife since it was a soft shirt. It’s a new technology called “Butter Wash” and it makes a screen-printed shirt feel amazingly soft. She wears the shirt all the time, not because it’s a cool logo, name-brand design, or anything she would want to promote. She wears it because it’s comfortable and loves the feel of the shirt. That shirt will be around for a long time. The term, “Brand fill” is often most closely associated with apparel because of how much energy goes into making clothing compared to the cost to produce. When you have an option for quality in apparel that can be the biggest factor in whether or not someone keeps your shirt or not. Think beyond the product and consider the end game and the impact of going with a lower-quality option.
- Personalized– A friend of mine recently turned 40 and I wanted to give him something that I thought he would keep. He loves Diet Coke, so I got him a personalized Diet Coke bottle with his name and a birthday message on it. As much as I know that he likes Diet Coke, I’m confident that he won’t drink this one and instead keep it in his office. Why? Because it’s a Diet Coke with his name on it. Try throwing that away. The same can be true for your promotional items. There is an increasing amount of ability to personalize in addition to adding your logo. These options are great for keeping and retaining customers and you indirectly stay in front of them as well.
- Association– Everyone wants to be a part of something. When done correctly you can have an item that becomes a symbol of what you are a part of. Lapel pins are a great example of this, but it can be done with other items as well. Challenge coins, car stickers/license plate holders, exclusive items, all are a status symbol of sorts that people will want to keep and even show off.
Hopefully, you will use this list as a reference point for selecting your next promotional item. I would make the case that the exact same promotional item could be kept forever or be thrown away depending on how you use them. With that in mind, when you can, think beyond the price and select products that promote your brand in such a way that they will stay with your customers. Build your marketing for something bigger than to just get into someone’s hands and for a purpose so they don’t get wasted.