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Why Does Promotional Swag Work? A Study In Reciprocity

When it comes to promotional swag, what goes around really does come around back again, in a BIG way.

Understanding the Fundamental Importance of Paying it Forward

Custom Branded Merchandise

Let’s take a moment to break down the principle of reciprocity and how it is such a great way to explain why promotional products work so well as a form of advertising. Indeed, anybody who has been the lucky recipient of a random act of kindness can probably relate. Just think for a second about all those moments where somebody goes out of their way to do something that you are sure to appreciate.

It may be something as simple as waiting for a moment to hold the door, or it can be something much more committed, like when that one special friend rushes to help out in a time of need. At the heart of this impulse is the fact that receiving makes people feel good, and, therefore; they will naturally want to give back to the person who made them feel that way.

In these kinds of cases, most people can probably agree that, more often than not, anybody who is on the receiving end of a kind act will want to do something nice for the person who went out of their way to help out or do something kind. That is the principle of reciprocity in action. In fact, this instinctive drive to give back when we have been a recipient is so fundamental to human behavior that it is evolutionarily hardwired into our brains. Talk about a foolproof formula!

The Smartest Way to Get What You Give

The same type of model of reciprocity applies to promotional swag, and this helps to explain just why this method of advertising is has stood the test of time

Meanwhile, promotional swag still remains the most affordable and effective way to make a positive impact, and even in the age of digital media dominance, it still remains more than 2.5 times more effective than Internet-based advertising methods. It seems that people do still cherish some old-fashioned values, after all. 


Great Alternative to Internet Advertising

This helps explain why the promotional product industry clocked in record-breaking revenue in 2018 while managing to increase its rate growth by an astounding 4.9%. So anybody who tries to tell you promotional products are out of date needs to check their facts. The proof is in the pudding, and it looks like the principle of reciprocity is still alive and well.

That said, there is still a bit more to the story and this type of information can really help product promoters ensure that they lock in the loyalty of their employees, clients, and future prospects alike.

According to the rules of the law of reciprocity, as first laid down by influential psychologist Robert Cialdini, people will not only respond to an act of giving by want to give back, but they will also shoot to give back equally. This can easily be summed up in the age-old idea of giving an eye for an eye or in Game of Thrones terminology, this helps explain why even a Lannister would feel so heavily inclined to always pay their debts.

In terms of promotional products, this means that the more than a company is willing to invest, the more that they are likely to get back, whether in terms of sales, brand loyalty or increased exposure and access to a broader market base. This also explains why, according to the most recent research published by the Advertising Specialty Institute, people who received promotional products explained that quality was the most important biggest factor in terms of their decision to keep that product. However, utility and attractiveness weren’t far behind.

This means that in order for a promotional product to hit the mark, it should also be high-quality, attractive, or usable (or, ideally, all three). 

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Why People Love Promotional Swag: Let Us Count The Ways

Here’s a breakdown of some of the concrete reasons that promotional swag has always been, and still continues to be a standout hit even in 2020. 

1. Spread the Word 

When people are in the market for a particular product or service, chances are they don’t want to do a bunch of research just to find out what types of companies are offering exactly what they need. Meanwhile, there are certain brands like Apple, Nike or Titleist that have achieved almost ubiquitous awareness. These are also some of the most successful names in the history of marketing. Thus, the value of brand awareness and recognition.

Even more traditional promotional products like T-shirts drum up, on average, a whopping 3,400 impressions per item. The coolest thing is that up to 89% of people who receive a promotional product will remember the name of the brand in the future. That’s an almost total recall!


85% of people remember the advertiser

Even better, purchasers of promotional products can choose to give the top breakthrough brands that people already associated with quality like Yeti, Camelbak, Anker, and Morphie to ensure that people associate those same feelings with their own brand as well. Talk about a win-win.

The big takeaway here? Promotional products are one of the most effective ways to get people thinking and talking about your brand. 

2. A Budget-Friendly Form of Advertising That Actually Works

Custom Drinkware has a low CPI

So, we already talked about the fact that a single promotional item can easily drum up over 3000 different impressions over the course of its lifetime, but what if we told you that for a piece of branded apparel like the classic T-shirt mentioned above, the average cost per impression is only a measly two cents per item? Talk about a steal of a deal!

One of the reasons that branded promotional swag has stood the test of time is because it is just as cost-effective as it is powerful. Even better, unlike other popular advertising methods that are typically fleeting, transient, or time-limited, promotional swag consists of tangible objects that people can choose to keep around, or even pass on to others.

This, in turn, plays into the brand recognition point noted above and helps explain why promotional swag is so easy to remember. When something is with you or on you, it is hard to forget about who gave it to you. 

3. One of the Best Ways to Build Brand Loyalty

If there is one thing that is the backbone of any successful business model, it is having a loyal customer base to fall back on through thick and thin. This will not only help any type of business, large or small, weather the inevitable ups and downs but is also a major predictor of lasting success. This means that in addition to recognizing your brand, people also need to know that your brand is a name they can rely on.

At this point, it is safe to say that this whole discussion has basically come full circle; as we’ve come right back to that good old principle of reciprocity. Remember the idea of giving back what you get? Well, when it comes to building brand loyalty, the unique way promotional products work comes into play to give promotional swag a big edge over all the other types of advertising out there. Namely, when somebody receives a gift or giveaway item that they love, they are going to turn to whoever gave it to return the favor, and this is a recipe for building brand loyalty that will stand the test of time.

Even better, the fact that your branded logo is literally written right there on that same thing that they received that made them feel so happy, warm and appreciated makes it super easy and obvious to know just where to turn when it comes time to return the favor. 

Creative Swag For the Office

Wrapping it all Up: Promotional Swag is Like a Business Card That Keeps on Giving

The fact that the promotional swag industry is only picking up steam even after all these years should come as no surprise given that this type of advertising relies on a time-tested evolutionarily-ingrained formula that is proven to work.

That said, it certainly doesn’t hurt that the industry has evolved with the times, and the wide range of cool top-of-the-line promotional swag out there means that promotional swag is just as trendy today as it is effective. Even better, as long as you stick to the big three factors of quality, utility, and attractiveness when picking out those promotional products, there is really no need to invest a ton of cash. That said, keep in mind that quality is still the number one thing that people are looking for in their promotional swag.

So essentially, shelling out for top-of-the-line branded products can also be one of the ways to ensure that you milk the greatest paybacks from your promotional swag marketing campaign, whether it be as a corporate gift or the type of giveaways that will lock down a top client for life. Regardless of what you choose to invest though, the big takeaway here is that promotional products work, and they will continue to do so in 2020 and beyond.

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