How promotional products can leave a lasting impression at corporate meetings and events

By Ben Moorsom

I think we can all recall a time when we’ve attended an event or conference and found ourselves with a pile of keepsakes and giveaways that we have absolutely no use for. While I’ll sometimes take these trinkets home and hand them over to my kids, there have been times when I’ve actually left them behind in a hotel room or tossed them into the recycling bin. I just can’t justify bringing more clutter into my home and have very little tolerance for ‘throw away’ promotional products that offer no value to the recipient.

From the perspective of the company giving out these mementos, this is the worst thing you can have happen. The point of branded promotional products is to create a lasting touch-point, something that can bring to life the message you’re trying to communicate in a tangible way. If the items you give out are a nuisance and create a negative impression, you’re better not to give anything out at all.
How promotional products can leave a lasting impression at corporate meetings and events
Because most of us are looking to de-clutter rather than accumulate more, companies must be more thoughtful and intentional when choosing products to give away. Promotional materials do have the power to emotionally connect with a recipient and leave a lasting, meaningful impression – if done properly.

This can’t be accomplished simply by leafing through a catalogue and picking something last-minute to give away. Branded products should not be an afterthought.

When choosing the products that will support your event, ask yourself:

  • What do I want my participants to remember/feel?
  • How will these products reflect my brand/corporate culture?
  • What can I create that will reinforce the message of my event?
  • And, what is something that my attendees will want and use?

Promotional products come in all shapes and sizes, but what matters more than how much you give away or how expensive it is, is how well thought-out the product is, how on-message you can keep it, and what type of connection it can forge with the recipient.

Here’s a great example: Debut Group recently worked with a client whose top sales people were being sent on a trip to Ireland. The destination in itself was hugely rewarding – but how would the company ‘tease’ the trip? How would they deliver the message about the trip to the recipients? The easy choice, or what we like to call the “low hanging fruit,” might have been a luggage tag or a travel tote. But, the people in this business travel often; they have all this stuff. These gifts would have no impact. The client had a budget of $150 per person. We were looking to create a lasting impression.

The solution: the traveller would receive a hand carved, wooden Irish wish box with a poem about the luck of the Irish and a brochure outlining the details of the trip. These boxes were original (made specifically for the participants of the trip), lasting (the employees could put photos or keepsakes from their trip in the box and keep it as a memento), and directly related to the event (Irish box for an Ireland trip). It also wasn’t covered with the company logo, something that’s worth keeping in mind. Sometimes it’s better to have the gift subtly represent your brand, rather than blatantly doing so. Sometimes a relevant or meaningful quote or saying is more impactful than the company name and logo. Your recipients will remember where the item came from, if it holds significance to them.

While some companies are opting to do away with promotional products altogether, we believe that people really do love receiving presents. If the gift is well thought-out, the impact can be invaluable for the company/brand. But not all budgets are created equally; some companies are able to spend hundreds of dollars per gift while others have just a few dollars to spend. The impact comes with the thought that goes into the gift rather than the amount spent.

Recently we worked with a U.S.-based company that was bringing its people to Montreal for an event. Because the travel expenses were high, the budget for promotional materials was limited. We wanted to give each attendee something before the trip to get them excited. It had to be quintessentially Canadian, without being cheesy (although everyone loves Quebec cheese!). What we settled on was the perfect Canadian gift, sweet maple candies made from 100 per cent pure Canadian maple syrup. Presented beautifully in a gift bag, this small token was novel to the American recipients who’d never experienced this delicious treat before. The impact was achieved. The gift was on message, on budget, and oh so yummy!

Three hot trends in the promotional products arena

When it comes to sourcing customizable products, gone are the days of cheap t-shirts and pens. There are so many amazing, quality products available for customization, all of which can make a great impact. Or, you can source your own, finding manufacturers that are ethical and aligned with your brand. One-of-a-kind gifts can often have more significance than items that people can just as easily buy for themselves.

  • Clothing: Five years ago women’s clothing options for customization were terrible. But, thankfully this is no longer the case. Big brands like Nike, Adidas, and Cutter & Buck are transforming branded apparel. You’re no longer just taking a t-shirt and screening the company logo on it (or handing women a men’s size small/medium and calling it a day). Instead, fashionable shirts and jackets are tastefully customized, meaning they are not only worn during an event, but afterwards as well.
  • Big brands: Lately many retail brands are crossing over into the promotional brand arena, bringing with them the emotional connection they’ve already formed with consumers. There are now many cool and cutting edge electronic-type gifts that can be customized. Things like Bluetooth speakers, laser projected keyboards, and mobile pocket projectors, all of which are not only stylish but useful. Big brands like Isaac Mizrahi, Oakley, and Sony are all coming out with high-end, quality products that can be branded.
  • Finding unexpected ways to propel your message/brand: There are always opportunities to think beyond the ‘typical’ and move into something a bit more unusual when it comes to branded products. Think, for example, of customizing hotel amenities like towels, robes, soap, etc. When attendees walk into their hotel room they’ll be surprised to find a personalized robe lying on the bed. Items like this are not only useful during their stay, but can help transport the feeling or message of the event into their home life.

There are many opportunities throughout an event to reach your audience in unexpected ways. The key is to think beyond what’s typically expected and find a way to create a lasting impression. With this comes the emotional engagement that brings about results. And, isn’t that what it’s really all about?

About the author

Ben Moorsom is President of Orange Tag Inc. and Chief Creative Officer at the Debut Group. Orange Tag goes beyond creating typical promotional products and corporate gifts to help companies engage with their people in a meaningful and impactful way. As part of the Debut Group, Orange Tag brings extensive event and communications expertise to the table, offering a more thoughtful approach to branded products. Aligned with Debut’s Brave Ideas™ philosophy, Orange Tag offers out-of-the-box solutions that are always on budget and on-message. For nearly a decade Orange Tag has been impressing clients by helping them impress their people. A boutique approach to branded merchandise; Orange Tag’s personalized service is unparalleled in the industry.

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