Let the creative juices flow

By David Lynn, managing director, Dowlis Corporate Solutions.

We’ve all been to a trade show and wearily returned to our office with a bag full of stuff we’ve picked up, been handed, swiped or grabbed. Then the fun really begins. Sorting through the pile of freebies, it really does become a war of attrition as you try to work out how long it will take you to use 48 promotional pens! The most popular items are often the most useful, with an extended shelf-life of up to three years. This sort of exposure is so difficult to measure, as items are seen by many people, some on a daily basis. Compare this to a press advert or DM piece and it’s easy to build a compelling argument for promotional merchandise as an effective marketing tool.

Creative Approach
Promotional merchandise isn’t just about slapping a logo on an item, it’s about communicating a brand or sales message and using the item as a vehicle to get that message to the right target audience. We’ll start by understanding the brand, the culture, the tone, the usage and then build a proposal from there. Items range from low-cost giveaways to premium, high-end items aimed at CFOs and CEOs. Getting the product right is a tough challenge. We will often align the item with the industry the client operates in as useful, relevant items are usually the most well received.

Question the purpose
One trait we try to instil in our creative account managers is to always question the status quo. Often a client will say: “Oh, and we need some cheap pens…” Does a cheap plastic pen really represent your brand and what you are trying to achieve? Whenever we are working on a new project, we will always ask the client to outline exactly what they are trying to achieve, what is the budget, who is the item aimed at, male/female, age range and also is the item to be used in the workplace or at home. With all this information we can then research and supply the most appropriate solution.

Brand Values
The key element to any promotional item and campaign is ensuring the item is aligned with your brand values. Brands spend thousands on ensuring their brand is strong, relevant and memorable and then lessen this effectiveness by handing out items worth pennies that just don’t tie in with the brand aspirations. It is important that your promotional item is seen as an integral part of the marketing mix and reinforces the brand values. It should be relevant your brand, create a feeling and influence behaviour.

Creativity can be the key to a successful merchandise campaign. When coupled with a distribution channel that gets directly into the hands of the audience you are trying to influence, the client can affect the outcome and effectiveness of a campaign.

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