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|The Case For Promotional Products
By Dick Kern
Reprinted from the Winter 2001 issue of
Richard Kern is editor-in-chief of Imprint.
these tough economic times, everyones looking for the most cost-effective
way to get their ad message across. If you think TV, radio and print are the
sale masters of measurable media, heres convincing proof that promotional
products are clearly in the mix.
Lets face it. Everyone would like to see their businesss logo, their companys products, their organizations mission and message splashed across the airwaves in an award-winning, critically acclaimed TV spot during the Super Bowl, Academy Awards, NCAA Basketball Tournament or some other program with hundreds of millions of attentive viewers.
That would be pretty cool, right?
The reality, of course, is that most of us probably dont possess a Super Bowl-sized budget, but you still need to come up with a promotion for next months product roll-out, trade show exhibit, direct-mail program or customer service/retention campaign thatll make you look like a marketing genius and let you hang on to your job for another six months in todays economically-challenged, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately? environment.
Consider, for a minute, the power of promotional products. You want to talk ROI? Lets look at what in the ad biz is known as cost-per-impression, or CPI. A few head-turning examples:
The Measurement Thing
One of the perennial stumbling blocks with promotional products is that theyre often relegated to a category called unmeasured media. Professors Marjorie Cooper and Charles Madden of Baylor University have dealt with the issue of measurement as it relates to promotional products. Heres how they see it:
For mass media such as television, radio, magazines, newspapers and billboards, the measurement of peoples interest in them has to do with the size of the audience and the number of times the audience is exposed to the advertisements. These two measurements are known, respectively, as reach and frequency.
Reach is technically defined as the percent of the target audience thats exposed to the advertisement at least once in a given measurement period. Frequency is defined as the average number of times a given member of the target audience is exposed to the advertisement. Additionally, gross impressions, calculated by multiplying the number of exposures by the size of the audience, is an aggregate measure of the total number of exposures that the advertisement elicits over its lifetime.
While these measurements may have, by their very nature, a number of faulty assumptions associated with them, theyve nevertheless been embraced by the advertising community for purposes of media planning and budget justification.
A Similar Set Of Measurements
But thats mass media. What about something more specific, in particular, imprinted products? Developing and utilizing a similar set of measurements for promotional products can accomplish two objectives:
On the other hand, television programming the vehicle that delivers TV commercials to the viewers can be easily divorced from the commercial. A good example is zapping, where viewers immediately switch to another channel whenever any commercials come on or hit the remotes mute button, killing the sound so they dont have to listen. Many TV watchers wait until commercials to visit the bathroom, make a quick phone call, prepare a snack, and so on. As a result, viewers see the regular programming without the accompanying advertising.
Medium And Message
Promotional products have the advantage that recipients are hard-pressed to separate the message from the valued medium. The measurement of effectiveness represented by intrinsic value is reach the percent of the target audience thats exposed to the message at least one time. If the promotional product is delivered to a recipient, the message has absolutely been delivered at least once. This is very different than the delivery of a television commercial, which may or may not be delivered to the audience along with programming thats being watched. Consequently, the measure of reach for promotional products is, in fact, far more accurate and substantive than the measure of reach for either television or radio.
Frequency is represented by promotional products environmental compatibility. For mass-media advertising such as television, the viewer must choose to be exposed to an advertising message. Promotional products have a definite and obvious advantage in that they become part of the environment; that is, imprinted products are useful in a utilitarian or decorative sense, apart from any additional advertising function. And as such theyre often placed where they will be encountered over and over again.
The average number of times that a promotional product is encountered by the recipient in a given period of time represents the frequency with which the recipient is exposed to the message.
How To Do It
How about that? We have academics marketing professors, no less arguing convincingly for the superior reach and frequency of promotional products. Some pretty heady stuff. But I know what youre really interested in is practical application. So here are a few real-life examples of how a small but creative investment in promotional products paid off big for the end-user (thats you):
Fish Lures Clients
Lona Jensen Temporary Services, a 15-year-old firm based in San Francisco, wanted to improve its share of the temp market with a specialty but in an unusual way. We needed to break through the clutter of pens, mugs, rulers, key chains, etc. that our competitors use to get the attention of temp service users, explains VP Bruce Jensen.
Jensen turned to Robert Anthony, a local marketing firm, for help. Only one condition: The promotional item had to be orange, Jensens corporate color.
We did a lot of advance research, including interviewing some temp users, to get a better handle on the market, explains Robert Anthonys President Robert Stankus. But we still couldnt come up with a product we knew would command attention.
The situation remained unresolved until one night when Stankus passed a pet shop with lighted fish tanks in its window. Then inspiration struck.
The result: a glass fishbowl bearing the Jensen logo and phone number, hand-delivered to pre-selected temp users. What made the gift interesting was that it contained a live goldfish, along with an imprinted container of fish food.
A further touch was the inclusion of a card proclaiming Gulp! in large letters. The inside copy described and deflated the three biggest fears companies might have about using temps. It also held a golden opportunity card good for a 25% discount on the first order and an entry form to win a temp for an entire day free of charge.
Altogether, Stankus says, about 250 fishbowls were distributed. When follow-up calls were made, 100% of the recipients remembered the fishbowl, and 70% made appointments to meet with the temp firm.
Local Tie-In Resonates With Recipients
To help boost the citys profile, the Memphis, TN, Chamber of Commerce created several unique and aggressive mailings targeting corporations around the country. The objective was to inform them of the advantages Memphis offers as a corporate/business location.
One recent mailing included four jars of Smuckers jams. The enclosed copy read: Spread the word, Smuckers is jammin from Memphis. The chamber chose Smuckers for a simple reason the J.M. Smucker Co. has had its processing facility and distribution center in Memphis for over 30 years. Its story was used to show recipients that they too could be successful in Memphis.
Another mailing tied into sports. Since the mailing was conducted during the World Series, chamber President David Cooley thought a baseball theme would work best. A select group of 277 prospects in the telecommunications, medical instruments and food-processing industries were chosen to receive a mailing containing a set of 15 Donruss baseball cards, manufactured in Memphis by Leaf Inc., North America.
The cards were placed inside a custom box with graphics depicting a pitcher throwing a baseball If expansion is in your game plan read the cover copy. Inside the box was a photo of a baseball glove with the actual package of cards attached to the center of it. The copy continued: Catch Memphis stats for a winning season. The stats were a list of the advantages of locating a business in Memphis.
The major difference between the baseball mailing and its predecessors was that it represented the first time the chamber had included a response mechanism. Recipients were asked to mail back a reply card or call a toll-free number to receive a complete set of 700 baseball cards valued at $39. Of the 277 packets mailed out, 71 companies responded a 25.6% response rate.
Pre-Show Mailing Boosts Booth Traffic
VTechs ultimate mission was to make its Tropez digital phones a success in a market dominated by AT&T. Rather than go head to head, VTech President Steve Johnson chose to establish Tropez as a different type of cordless phone, choosing to introduce it to the electronics trade at the summer Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
Prior to the show, VTech produced a creative mailing that included a logoed beach towel along with product information literature. The package went to 350 top retailers and included an invitation to visit the Tropez booth at the show. The towels were packaged in briefcase-sized cardboard boxes wrapped in a poster featuring a photo from the companys ad campaign. And since both the towels and posters were rather large, they also subtly alluded to Tropezs wide-area coverage. Total cost of the mailing: $8,000, or $225 per prospect.
Other pre-show mailings for other exhibits also used products that suggested coverage. These included a golf umbrella and a sweatshirt. The products were selected because they called to mind an image of leisure, and all were white with a blue imprint. The mailings were timed to arrive a week or so before each show, so the recipient would have time to set up an appointment to talk with a Tropez rep on the show floor.
The mailers were designed to entice people into our booth, Johnson says. We knew theyd be much more likely to open a big package to see what was inside than if wed sent a traditional envelope filled with product literature. Johnson estimates that, to date, over 90% of the targeted retailers have been introduced to Tropez, and many are now selling it. At the CES, VTech generated more than 2,500 leads.
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