Have your clients become completely inaccessible to you?

With everyone isolated to their homes, it may seem that way. But what if that’s not entirely true?

You need to be smart about your marketing efforts in order to secure the longevity of your business. Economic crises happen – for multiple reasons. While this lockdown is unprecedented, the resulting economic downturn is not the first South Africa has experienced. You need to think long-term when you’re choosing your promotional merchandise. What will work in your favour and keep your brand top of mind, no matter the circumstances?

The majority of people work for 8 hours a day, and if you’re fortunate enough to be able to work from home currently, you are most likely sitting in one place all day. If your current or prospective client is using your branded materials or promo gift in their home office, you have secured the most valuable advertising space in the world – right on their desk!

A well-selected promotional product can become a permanent billboard of your brand and your message. There are many types of promotional merchandise out there, from the newly popular power bank to the traditional notepad. With all these options, which item, pairing or set is the most useful for which objective and in which context?

We have some of the answers.

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Where do promotional items fit in the customer journey?

Doesn’t it make more sense to stick to online marketing right now? After all – most of your consumers are spending more time online right now.

Even in this predominantly digital world, promotional items continue to have a place in an omnichannel marketing approach. 96% of people who use promotional merchandise in their marketing testify that these items spark word of mouth (90%), prompt product reviews (91%) and gain new customers (89%). (Source)

Additionally, research shows that 62% of people recall the details of the company that provided them with a promotional item. (Source)

In today’s digital world, so many giveaways come in the form of impersonal discount codes or email link. However, despite the technology, humans are still very much the same, and people still love something that they can touch and feel. This is especially true in a new reality where physical contact is taboo and social distancing is encouraged.

Receiving a free tangible object is exciting for most people, and usually far more interesting than any digital promotion. In short, promotional merchandise has a place in each stage of the customer journey, namely:

  1. Creating brand awareness by attracting an audience and leveraging them as walking billboards.
  2. Driving consideration through continuous visibility and engagement with the merchandise.
  3. Converting prospects into customers by incentivising their first purchase.
  4. Converting customers into advocates by adding a special touch.
  5. Motivating your colleagues to feel part of the company and to perform better.

[Related: Omnichannel Marketing – An in-depth example and how to guide]

All the stuff - Photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash

Almost anything can be promotional merchandise

Types of Promotional Items

A quick Google search for ‘promotional merchandise’ reveals a number of companies that provide more than 100 items that you can brand with your own design and message. There’s a lot. So to make it easier for you, we have placed the most popular merchandise into neat categories (with links to the merchandise we offer). These are:

1. Tech Gadgets  
Tech gadgets that you can use as promotional merchandise include items such as USBs, portable speakers, power banks, Earphones and cell phone stands.
2. Business Stationery
Notepads, Notebooks, Pens, Calendars, Sticky Notes, Mousepads, Folders.
3. Household products
Mugs, Bookmarks, Stress-balls, Lip-balm, Placemats, Jars, Mints, Posters.
4. Utility products
Bags, Wallets, Magnets, Lunch Boxes, Flasks, Bottles, Keychains, Lanyards, and Torches.
5. Toys
Fidget Spinners, Tile Puzzles, Stickers.
6. Leisure products
Sunglasses, T-shirts, Bottle-openers, Caps/Hats, Socks, Sweets.

Note, most items can fit into many categories. Stickers, for example, can be both fun decorations or utility items such as licence disk stickers.

What to do with all this swag - Photo by Hipster Mum on Unsplash

What to do with all this swag?

How and When to Use

Now that you know what is available to use and what influence promotional merchandise can have on your marketing, let’s tie it all together.

Creating Awareness

Audience: People who have not heard about your brand.
Context: Activation in a mall, shopping centre, business park, festival, expo or any other high-traffic area.
Call to action and tactic: Visit our store to claim a discount | Visit our website to start a free trial.
Merchandise: Products that will be carried or worn.

  • Tech Gadgets: Earphones, lanyards
  • Business Stationery: Folders
  • Household Products: Mugs
  • Leisure Products: T-shirts, sunglasses, bags, caps

Merchandise that is displayed prominently will get you more impressions from prospects. Pairing this up with a call to action and an incentive such as a discount can drive your desired action.

Tip: Use flyers or pamphlets to communicate this discount, and use urgency – such as an expiring discount code – to encourage immediate action.

Bonus: Using promotional merchandise in your influencer strategy

Influencers are individuals who have the trusted knowledge, authority, presence or relationship to influence the purchase decision of their fans and followers. This can be anyone from a well-known celebrity to an expert in a particular niche.

These influencers usually reach their followers via various media such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Youtube and so on.

Promotional Merchandise makes your influencer campaign more effective by giving your influencers something they can use to incentivise action from their followers.

[Related: Get effective distribution for your printed materials]


Influencing Consideration and Acquisition

Audience: People who are considering you vs your competitors.
Context: On your website, at a trade show, or on your mailing list.
Call to action and tactic: Get a free gift if you – sign up for a free trial, request a free sample or download our app.
Merchandise: Products that can be used frequently and visibly.

  • Tech Gadgets: Powerbanks, earphones, cell phone stands
  • Business Stationery: Notepads, notebooks, pens, calendars, mousepads, folders,
  • Household items: Mugs, bookmarks,
  • Utility products: Wallets, lunch boxes, bottles, lanyards/keychains
  • Toys: Fidget spinners

Merchandise that can be used frequently will keep your prospect engaged with your brand and can influence their decision to choose you over your competitors. Think of it as remarketing without having to spend more for each impression. You can then follow up with the prospect via email or phone, or through online remarketing, to drive the acquisition.

[Related: Retail Marketing – 5 tips to grow your retail sales]

Inspire Advocates

Audience: Existing clients
Context: Meetings, conferences, appointments, delivery of the order, celebrating anniversaries, celebrating birthdays.
Call to action and tactic: Review our product, recommend our product/service
Merchandise: useful items that convey a high value.

  • Tech gadgets – Cell phone stands
  • Business Stationery – notebooks, pens,
  • Utility Products – Flasks, bags, wallets
  • Leisure products – Sunglasses, socks

Bonus if you can supply more than one item that can be shared with an associate.

Inspire employees

Audience: Your colleagues
Context: Year-end functions, work anniversaries, special work events and celebrations
Call to action: Thank you for adding value
Merchandise: Useful items that convey a high value.

  • Tech gadgets – Cell phone stands
  • Business Stationery – Notebooks, pens,
  • Utility Products – Flasks, bags, wallets
  • Leisure products – Sunglasses, socks

This is a gift to say thank you, and not for promoting your brand. Therefore keep the branding to a minimum.

Do you want industry insider hacks sent straight to your inbox? Be the first to know about any crazy promotions we are running. Join over 2000 other successful business owners and subscribe to our newsletter.

Thank you - Photo by Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash

Measuring Success

Lastly, you need to know which promotional items are successful at driving action. This way you know what to order for your next campaign, or what to improve upon. Therefore, always pair your promotional merchandise with a call to action that can be measured.

Possible tactics to drive action online are:

  • Website visit – use a vanity URL unique to the item/campaign or a QR code
  • App download – use a QR code unique to the item/campaign
  • Email signup – use a landing page and form unique to the item/campaign
  • Free trial/sample – use a promotion code unique to the item/campaign
  • Purchase – use a discount code unique to the item/campaign

You can also use test one design, call to action or incentive against another to measure variations of one item against another.

[Related: Integrating print and online marketing – tools, tips and tactics]


Promotional merchandise can move your prospects from being aware of your brand to becoming loyal advocates. To get this right, you need to ensure that you are providing the most relevant merchandise in the most relevant context and with the right tactic or call to action.

As always, to ensure you keep getting the most from your merchandising spend track the performance, measure the results and optimise accordingly.

Every marketing plan should look to include promotional products. When tied in with an effective marketing strategy, it can add value to any campaign and create a memorable experience. Online marketing is certainly the way of the future, however, unconventional marketing strategies shouldn’t be overlooked. Keep your brand top of mind, no matter the circumstances, by using promotional merchandise.

  1. Promotional merchandise (Wikipedia)
  2. Unlocking The Why Behind The Buy
  3. Is Promotional Merchandise Still Worth the Investment In A Digital World?
You might also like…
  1. Omnichannel Marketing – An in-depth example and how to guide
  2. Get effective distribution for your printed materials
  3. Retail Marketing – 5 tips to grow your retail sales
  4. Integrating print and online marketing – tools, tips and tactics
  5. Get print-ready for your next expo, trade show or community event
  6. Non-Traditional Marketing Collateral: Making Print Marketing Work For Your Business

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