Promotional Products and the Future of Advertising

I read a lot about the future of advertising and most of what I read focuses on the ways in which digital technologies are impacting the value and delivery of advertising. Rarely is there any specific mention of promotional products, perhaps because they aren’t part of the current technological revolution in advertising. I frequently think about promotional products and the effect emerging technologies are having on advertising, and I think they correlate in some interesting ways:

Techno: New technologies (search engines) and an increase in the media options available (like satellite television and radio, blogs) allow advertisers to reach very selective audiences.Promo: Advertisers have always had a great deal of control over who receives their promotional products.Techno: Digital content delivery (DVR) gives audiences increased ability to avoid seeing advertising or get the content elsewhere (internet video).Promo: Promotional products are physical items that get seen and used. People don’t fast forward through their coffee, and you can’t email someone a tote bag.Techno: Diversification of media (the Internet, greater numbers of television channels) makes advertising affordable for companies without the budget to advertise on network television or in large publications.Promo: Virtually any business can afford promotional products, and even a small investment in the right promos can generate a positive ROI.Techno: Wireless technology and a proliferation of digital devices (web-browsing phones, GPS) allow advertisers to reach their audience in more places than ever.Promo: Promotional products have always been used to reach an audience where it is most effective (B2B companies using desktop or office items, B2C focusing on items used at home or in the car).Techno: The proliferation of different forms of advertising and the increasing ubiquity of advertising messages has prompted an increase in advertising that goes to extreme measures to be noticed (guerilla marketing) or disguises itself and uses word of mouth rather than traditional media channels to convey a message (viral marketing).Promo: Because of their physical nature, promotional products are idea for event-based or guerilla marketing, and part of the value of promotional products comes from the fact that they may be reach multiple users during the normal course of their lifespan.One can think of promotional products as an advertising medium that is immune to the changes that digital technologies are forcing upon traditional media. One can also think about them as a unique medium that has, for decades, leveraged many of the advantages that digital technology and media diversification are beginning to offer us now. Either way, promotional products are an important part of any advertising, promotional or branding campaign. They have, and will continue to have, a unique value proposition for all types of companies and organizations.

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