What’s hot and what’s not in tech promotional products

I always look forward to getting the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI) State of the Industry report. Compiled of survey responses from real distributors and suppliers in the promotional product world, it gives a good snapshot of what’s really selling (or not) in the real world. And the 2012 report offered some interesting insight into what might work for your event, meeting or trade show.

In the day and age we’re in, one might naturally think that all manner of electronic, computer and tech gadgetry would be the “it” promotions to have. That may or may not be the best choice. Let’s look at the numbers.

In 2011, the electronics category was 2.4 per cent of the market; in 2012, it was 2.3 per cent. A drop, but not necessarily a large one for this category. This would be items such as calculators. However, in my opinion, people often misclassify “electronics” to mean computer-related items, maybe even mobile. So it might be difficult to really tell much from this statistic.

Then let’s look at computer items specifically. Those had a precipitous drop from 3.4 per cent of the market in 2011 to 1.7 in 2012. This may be explained by the fact that USB drives were given their own category for the first time in 2012, accounting for a whopping 3.3 per cent of the entire promotional market. So if you add 3.3 per cent and 1.7 per cent, you get 5.0 per cent of the market. Looking at it from that angle, computer related promotions are on the rise. As with electronics, computer related items could cover a multitude of items, some even low tech selections such as mousepads. Again, misclassification might be an issue.

In other posts, I’ve staunchly discouraged promotional USB drives for a variety of practical, technological and environmental reasons. With the rise of accessibility to cloud-based data using web browsers on mobile devices and smartphones (and even some not-so-smart phones), I just can’t see this segment doing well for the long term since most phones do not typically have USB ports built in. Laptops are being supplanted by mobile tablets.

Speaking of mobile devices, one trend that has been identified is that people are ditching their watches and desk clocks in favour of using the clock on their smartphones instead. And the promo numbers prove it. The clocks and watches category dropped from 1.1 per cent in 2011 to 0.7 per cent in 2012.

So if you’re thinking about tech-y promotional items for your next event, what should you consider?

  • Choose for the afterlife. One temptation is to use a tech gadget that can be used at an event. Okay… then what will your attendees do with it after the event is done? This is one of the difficulties I have with USB drives. Let’s say you want to use them to distribute meeting materials. Your attendees load the documents on their laptops. Then what?
  • One for all. The other difficulty with choosing tech promotions is that many of them are designed for specific devices such as iPhone, iPad or Android. But what generation should you buy for? Suggest buying items such as screen cleaners, removable cell phone stickers or styluses which can be used on many different devices.

About the Author

Heidi Thorne is a promotional products marketing expert and speaker who has a background in the tradeshow and hospitality industries. She is also editor of the Promo With Purpose Today blog (www.PWPToday.com) and author of SWAG: How to Choose and Use Promotional Products for Marketing Your Business, available through major online booksellers or at www.BuySWAGBook.com.

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