Think of modern marketing and you will immediately think of the importance of digital channels. After all, digital platforms, whether social media, YouTube or websites offer companies the chance to reach potentially huge vast audiences, offering affordable scale and reach that many physical forms of print and promotional marketing can’t come close to.

However, it’s surprising to know that physical forms of marketing like promotional marketing are still profoundly powerful when it comes to customer engagement. So much so that they can often trump digital efforts in their impact when deployed in the right way.

In this article we’re going to explore some of the most popular forms of promotional merchandise and why the tactic is still so powerful in our digital world.

The role of promotional merchandise

Two of the key advantages to promotional products over digital media are increased longevity and increased brand recall.

The Advertising Speciality Institute (ASI) carried out a substantial piece of research in 2016 which found that promotional items are typically retained and used for eight months. When finished with, they are often passed on – up to 67 percent of people do this, further extending lifespan and brand reach. Additionally, the British Promotional Merchandise Association (BPMA) has found that the ROI on promos is more attractive than for outdoor and radio advertising, and equal to both print and TV.

The most popular promotional products

Research has shown certain promotional product categories were growing in prominence. Those products most in demand from customers were USB accessories and mobile phone accessories – reflecting growing use of personalised digital products and the importance of utility for promos, followed by promotional sweets and bags. Promotional bags still retain the top slot for most popular promotional products though, followed by pens and pencils and then plastic giveaways, confectionary and a wide variety of clothing items, which may include custom hoodies, t-shirts and even hats amongst other things. (see image below).

Let’s explore some of the most popular promotional product then.


Promotional bags pass the utility, brand and desirability test for potential customers. They can be used in a multitude of ways and be filled with useful branded material and collateral at events – and they can look great. Even better, there is a huge range of branded promotional bags on offer, including recycled jute bags which offer sustainability benefits and eco-friendly credentials, functional tote bags which can be used as sports or shopping bags and even high-end laptop bags for luxury brands or for special clients.

USB sticks

Changing patterns of flexible and on-the-go work mean that customers need USB sticks to save and share digital files. These low-cost items are a wonderful way to engage with large volumes of visitors to a trade fair. They can be branded, cost very little and pass the utility and value test. What’s more, they can be pre-loaded with your branded presentation.

Mobile accessories

Our reliance on our mobile phones has become almost universal, so branded mobile phone covers, phone wallets and car mounting phone holders are always in vogue, useful and offer plenty of branding opportunities whilst being highly in demand. It’s important to make sure that what you’re offering here is also stylish as well as useful, as people just won’t want to be seen with them otherwise.

Branded reusable coffee cups

All of us are aware of the impact that plastic is having on the environment and reusable recycled coffee cups are becoming very popular as a result. Invest in quality coffee mugs and they will be used every morning by your audience – with your brand displayed prominently to everyone that passes.

Post-it notes

A time-served favourite, post-it notes are always popular because they are always useful! Brand them up and your users will have them to hand on their desks regularly, seeing your brand and remembering your company every time they use them.

Branded pens

Perhaps the most obvious promotional product, branded pens are always popular because, like post it notes, they are just so useful to have lying around. You can choose cheap and cheerful coloured pens with your brand on for an event or invest in high-quality branded fountain pens in beautiful presentation boxes for special clients for Christmas.

Using Promotional Items and Digital Channels Together

There is no need to choose between digital and promotional offline channels when it comes to creating an integrated and effective marketing strategy. In fact, the two approaches can complement each other perfectly. For example, both channels can be used to build your brand.

Social media can be used to create branded content and viral marketing which builds word of mouth. It can also be used to create a buzz. Then, promotional products can be given out at a face to face event as part of a brand-building campaign launch pad, to position the brand and to encourage potential customers to engage with its representatives face to face to drive conversions.

In short, it’s time to look again at promotional materials as part of your integrated marketing strategy and take the time to select those which best represent your brand values and your target customer groups. Your brand and conversions will thank you for it.

About the Author: Steve Hill is the Director of Bag Workshop, a leading UK supplier in promotional bags and custom branded bags. Having worked in marketing for over a decade, Steve stepped aside to found three separate companies supplying bespoke marketing products under the Wurlin Promo umbrella. You can connect with Wurlin and Bag Workshop on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

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