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People Love Promos

Thoughts and opinions on the advertising specialty industry

I join the promotional products industry in my dismay over an article published by “Fast Company” magazine, which unfairly and inaccurately portrayed ad specialties as ”cheap conference swag” and went so far as to call for getting rid of promos altogether.

Ironically, the writer started out by saying what all of us in the industry can agree upon: “I love a good tote bag, particularly if it’s from a brand I love. I have an NPR tote I got from a pledge drive. I confess that I canceled and re-subscribed to the New Yorker just so that I could get a new version of the tote that comes with membership.”

After that, the article went downhill fast – and it’s flat-out wrong.

Every year, ASI publishes the Global Advertising Specialties Impressions Study, the result of thousands of consumer surveys taken worldwide. The study rightly concludes that promotional products are the most highly regarded form of advertising and that 85% of people can recall the advertiser that gave them a logo'ed item.

Further, our study shows, the average American owns 10 promo products. And, the cost per impression (CPI) of promotional products can be as low as 1/10 of one cent, lower than nearly any other advertising medium, making it a great choice for smaller businesses who lack million-dollar advertising budgets.

Along with widely distributing our annual study, which we encourage distributors to cite when helping end-buyers publicize their brand, event or cause through promo products, ASI went to Times Square to interview people from all over about their swag. In a subsequent video, we showcased a ton of positive consumer testimonials about the usefulness, effectiveness and attractiveness of logo'ed products. The testimonials were just a small part of the millions in positive PR the industry and its products have generated over the years.

The bottom line is this: ASI will continue to beat the drum for promotional products. But it’s up to all of us in the industry to spread the word as well, wherever and whenever we can. ASI will also keep encouraging end-buyers to work with legitimate distributors to find products that people will use, keep and appreciate for years to come.

I wish the “Fast Company” writer had talked to consumers like we did – or called me for comment. Unfortunately, she didn’t interview me (despite liberally citing our research!) or speak directly with anyone else in our industry (instead, she quoted from ASI stories). So, I posted my response on the magazine’s Facebook page, which I’m sharing below:

As more than one reader pointed out, lots of people love their swag – for good reason. Promotional products allow smaller co’s, schools and non-profits to spread the word about their cause or brand through an affordable, effective advertising medium, extending their reach just like major brands – without spending a ton of money.

I bet if the writer looked around her own office, she’d find plenty of swag she probably uses every day – like a “Fast Company” coffee mug (better than a Styrofoam cup she’d just toss!) or a favorite, well-worn T-shirt from a concert she enjoyed or a race she ran – a tangible memory, or solid evidence of a cause she believes in, all of which swag provides.

In fact, according to ASI’s research, all over the world, more than half of consumers report that they’ll give away a promo product they’re finished with rather than throw it out or file it away. Plus, about 80% of distributors in the swag industry are smaller, or family-owned businesses or start-ups (like college kids who help pay tuition by starting their own T-shirt business). In recent years, lots of those co’s have become more socially conscious, distributing more eco-friendly and American-made goods – while employing a lot of people in their community.

In my humble opinion, swag is awesome.