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A Complete Guide to Promotional Marketing in the Digital Age


A Complete Guide to Promotional Marketing in the Digital Age

Marketers could be forgiven for thinking that the nature of their game is now focused very much on the digital sphere, where so much consumer behaviour is influenced. The increasing focus on methods such as social media, search marketing, digital video and search engine optimisation has meant that more traditional offline methods such as promotional marketing appear to have taken a back seat.

Of course this couldn’t be further from the truth!

In this article for Startup Today, I want to explore how, far from being superseded by digital marketing, promotional marketing and other ‘real world’ tactics, are in fact thriving more than ever.

The Immutable Consumer Mindset

Whilst the environment in which we experience and consumer marketing may have changed the consumer mindset remains largely unchanged. Like the consumers of yesteryear, we still want products that will make our lives easier or more enjoyable and brands that we can associate with or empathise with. What’s more, as consumers and human beings, we value the physicality of things over and above representations of those same things on a screen or in the pages of a magazine.

In the B2B sphere for example, the final purchasing decision will still usually be made off the back of a series of face-to-face meetings and relationship building that happens very much in the real world.

Yes, it’s far more feasible to build up mass brand awareness online, but creating lasting experiences in a brand and its products will always be more effective if it occurs in the real world. Evidence backs this up, suggesting that promotional marketing can deliver a much higher ROI than other forms of advertising and is a crucial way of creating those all important customer touchpoints.

Brand Exposure in the Longer Term

Promotional marketing plays a vital role in driving long-term brand awareness. Physical products provide that sensory and real-time first-hand experience that online digital content simply cannot.

The British Promotional Merchandise Association (BPMA) has found that consumers tend to retain their promo items for a year or more, offering long-term brand exposure in comparison to a passing email, YouTube video or social media campaign.

This physicality of experience extends beyond pure brand awareness too. Promo marketing offers brands the chance to deliver a meaningful experience and connection with their customers. The opportunity to physically experience a product or service will stick in the mind thanks to its sensory experience, far more so than a passing visual.

And the promotional merch that consumers love the best? Why it’s still the humble branded pen. In fact, handing branded pens out at product launch events, meetings, trade shows, product exhibitions and other face-to-face opportunities is one of the simplest and most cost effective way of getting your branding out there (despite our addiction to screens, people will always have a need for a pen).

Cross-channel Marketing

Physical and digital marketing can also sit neatly together for smartly integrated campaigns. Planning well means that cross-pollination of campaign marketing activity is both possible and desirable. Marketers can also use technology in increasingly rich ways to track customer journeys between online and physical touchpoints.

A good example is the way in which physical promo assets can direct a consumer towards a digital asset – such as a branded bag with a campaign URL or a packet of sweets with a competition hashtag for a social campaign. USB sticks are ideal for more involved product purchasing decisions because they can be pre-loaded with corporate information such as videos or brochures. When viewed in reverse, websites and social campaigns can be used to drive customers to sign up and provide their data in return for physical promotional items.

A Quality Qualifier

Give away a quality promotional product and you will instantly give a sense of your brand’s inherent quality. It’s important that businesses invest in products that lend a sense of quality, as this is essential in fostering the right reputation and trust in the mind’s of consumers who come into contact with them.

What’s more this works in reverse too – a cheap promo can rapidly damage a well-established brand. According to Carrie Lewis, trade marketing communications specialist for BIC Graphic, one of the things that most influenced the perception of a branded pen was the quality of its ink.

Utility as a Driver of Promo Marketing

Utility is a powerful driver of promo campaign effectiveness. Simply put, offer your potential customers and clients something that is actually of use to them and your brand will instantly be favourable in their mind. Offer your customers utility and longevity and you will benefit from ongoing brand exposure as your product is used and even talked about for months, if not years, to come.

In short, there is plenty of life left yet in promotional marketing and the integration with digital marketing offers fresh opportunities to use promotional products in a more strategic, considered way than ever before. Don’t skimp on your promo budget either, if you want to ensure that your campaigns go with a bang.

Finally, make sure your promotional marketing makes use of every digital channel at its disposal. Joined up campaigns that exist both online and off, will always be greater than the sum of their parts and deliver the highest ROI. 

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 Bag Workshop on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

I am the founder of Startup Today. I am the main writer and have put in many hours of work into creating this blog. If you want to find out more about me then lets get in contact.

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