Promotional products are powerful. When you give customers, prospects, employees, or anyone free branded merchandise, something magical happens! Your customers, prospects, and employees become your brand advocates.

According to the Promotional Products Association International, approximately:

  • 99% of consumers are willing to take action to obtain a promotional product.
  • 96% of consumers want advance notice when an organization is planning to give away promotional items.
  • 80% of consumers react immediately to promotional and marketing products, even if they have never heard of the brand.
  • 72% of consumers connect a company’s reputation to the quality of its promotional products.
  • 70% of brands rank promotional items as a highly effective method for satisfying marketing goals.

Promotional Products Pack a Punch

It doesn’t matter which generation you’re targeting—these numbers are high across the board. In fact, promotional products are considered to be the marketing vehicle that most effectively moves customers to action, no matter what their age. They even beat out online, broadcast, print, and mobile. They also far outlast the media impressions from these vehicles. With their gift-like quality, people keep their promo items around, making it difficult for other forms of media to compete. Promotional products are powerful for a number of reasons. They help build brand and product awareness, boost sales and referrals, show customer and employee appreciation, increase customer and employee retention, grow customer loyalty, and enhance corporate culture.

It’s no surprise that the industry tallies over $23 billion in sales annually. 

If you’re in the market for some merchandise, you’re already ahead of the competition. There are a few steps to ensuring that you get the right products to the right people, and they look, well, RIGHT. This guide will help you gather the information and the materials that your promotional partner requires to make the job as seamless, painless, and successful as possible.

Let's get started.

  1. How Do You Make Promotional Products Work for Your Business?
  2. How Long Does Branded Merchandise Last?
  3. How to Order Promo Products
  4. What Information to Collect
  5. Which Promotional Products are Hot Right Now

How Do You Make Promotional Products Work for Your Business?

There are millions of promotional products out there, and there is a science to choosing the promotional item that will give you the biggest bang for your buck. It’s important to have a good understanding of your industry, business, and most importantly, your recipient. While your giveaway should stay true to your brand and mission, it needs to be useful and durable for your recipient, especially since branded products are designed to last well beyond the average media impression (more about that in a moment). When choosing your branded item or items, you’ll want to take into account:

  • Your Company Mission and Vision: Like all of your marketing endeavors, products need to align with your overall company mission and vision to help build the brand. If your company's goal is to eliminate waste, a reusable coffee mug reinforces that goal. 
  • Your Brand Strategy: Like with your mission, the product should reflect your brand guidelines, from colors, fonts, and logos to the intended use of the product. A technology brand that gives out phone stands or chargers designed like their brand is right on track. 
  • Current Products: Avoid cannibalizing your offerings, and extend them instead. If you sell paper, for instance, giving customers free pens is a logical and welcome brand extension.
  • Product Lifetime Impressions: The more impressions your brand achieves, the more effective it is, and the lower the cost per impression. Each product generates different average lifetime impressions.
  • Customer Feedback: The best way to ascertain what customers want is to ask them directly. Try a survey, social media poll, or spend some time with them.

How Long Does Branded Merchandise Last?

Surprisingly long! A PPAI consumer study notes that the majority of consumers (81%) keep promotional or marketing products for more than a year, many even longer.

PPAI also tells us that these are the most popular and effective branded promotional items outside of apparel, based on their impressions:


PPE is also becoming a very popular category due to the pandemic. This includes items like hand sanitizer, masks, face shields, and bandanas.

How to Order Promotional Products Ready to order?

Getting promotional products into the hands of people is easier than you’d think. When you work with a promotional partner, you are already set up for a smooth process and can avoid the top 8 mistakes made when ordering promotional products. Here’s how it works:

  1. Know What You Want: A promotional product team member will consult with you and ask you about your objectives. If you already know what product/s you want, great. If you need help, tap their deep expertise to find an item or items that will help you achieve your goal. There are countless items (and counting) to choose from. New items constantly enter the market, and there are items you’ve never even thought of that can do wonders for your business. Facing supply chain challenges? They can help with that too.
  2. Collect the Information: 
    1. Timing: When do you need the items?
    2. Quantity: How many do you need?
    3. Sizing: If there are size options, you’ll want to decide which ones work best for you.
    4. Colors: If there are color options, you’ll need to choose colors.
    5. Recipient Information: Your promo partner knows what works and can give you great ideas for specific audiences. The more you can tell them about your intended recipient, the more customized and effective the gift will be. 
    6. Design You Want to be Imprinted: Your promotional product team member will help you ensure that your logo, logo/tagline, or whatever you’d like to imprint will fit well with the promotional item/s you’re choosing.
    7. Budget: Knowing your budget. They can help you find the most cost-effective items that meet your needs.
    8. Packaging - How do you want your branded item to arrive in the hands of recipients? Will this be at an exhibit booth with no packaging needed? Or, will it arrive as a gift and needs boxing, wrapping, etc. Think about the presentation that matches the context of the gift or product.
    9. Delivery Mechanism - Similar to the above, how will this product be delivered: shipped in bulk, mailed individually, handed out. This information is crucial for preparing a realistic budget.
  3. Choose Your Product/s: Once you’ve collected this information, send it to your promotional product expert. They should provide you with several options from which to choose. Many times promotional partners can provide mockups (virtual proofs) so you can clearly envision the final product. Sometimes you can get samples to give you a good idea of what your product will look like.
  4. Order Your Product/s: When you’ve decided what you want to order, you’ll sign the contract and put the wheels in motion. Your promotional partner will send you a PDF proof so you can ensure that the printing is error-free.
  5. Receive Your Product/s: You can receive the items at your location so that you can distribute them, or your promotional partner can either fulfill them by shipping out to recipients, storing them for you, or helping you ship them out to another destination like a trade show.

What You’ll Provide to Your Promotional Partner

The best way to ensure a seamless, painless, successful printing job is proper preparation. Use this checklist to ensure that you’re getting everything you need to get to your promotional partner:

  • File Type: Which file do they need? Generally, they’ll ask for a vector file with fonts converted to outlines; they typically request an eps or vector PDF so they can size the image according to the product.
  • Color: You’ll provide a PMS color match for thread (for embroidery) or imprint color (for a printed product).
  • Timeframe: Tell them your time frame. With the current supply chain delays, jobs that once took one to two weeks can take up to four to five to complete; start the process as early as possible to get everything on time. 
  • Budget: Promotional partners work with a number of vendors and can use their buying power to secure you the best pricing. They can also help you find products when inventory is scarce, or pivot to similar items in stock.
  • Quantity: There are specific price breaks for each product, so your partner can help you determine the best way to leverage those.

Related: Your Survival Guide to Promotional Planning in 2022 

Which Promotional Products Are Hot Right Now

At Ironmark, we’ve been seeing some really interesting promotional items. From the fold-up kayak made of corrugated paper, to the digital business card that beams your information from one phone to another, to the phone soap that disinfects your phone (and your jewelry). We’re also tracking some important trends:

  • Dual Work Environment: People returning to the office and working hybrid need drinkware to carry back and forth, messenger bags, lunch totes, and more.
  • Sustainable Options: As consumers demand more eco-conscious products, companies are responding with environmentally friendly products like recycled pens, Earth-friendly travel mugs, and eco-friendly stationery sets.
  • Technology: These pieces are always popular, whether they’re a Bluetooth speaker set people can enjoy while gathering safely, or phone stands and chargers for their phones. Outdoor Lifestyle Products: Hiking, biking, and camping items are also popular. 
  • Return to Trade Shows: Pens, padfolios, and tablets are great for tradeshows. 
  • High-Quality Brands: People always tend to gravitate towards brand names they know and trust—which also connote higher quality. This is especially true now.

WARNING NOTE: When ordering from a promotional products online-only website, be careful and do not be afraid to call and ask to speak to someone. If you’re unable to speak to someone about your order, run for the hills. It’s likely something will go wrong and you won’t find out until it’s shipped. We’ve seen logos imprinted too small or stretched or cropped incorrectly. Your brand promise is at stake, so our advice is to speak to an expert.

We’ve seen it all in the exciting world of promotional products. We eat, breathe, and love this stuff! When you’re ready to roll out your promotion, give us a call. We take a consultative approach with no hidden charges. We stay on top of industry trends and new products, offer strong buying power, and have excellent relationships with vendors that can help with virtually any product. We look forward to putting the power of promotional items into your brands. 

Let's Go Promo!

Written by John Lamon

Starting at Ironmark in 2020 as the Director of Business Development, John Lamon brings 35 years of industry experience helping customers maximize their brand and helping Ironmark's sales team to build success. John holds a Bachelor of Arts in Business from the University of Maryland and is passionate in trying to be the best at work, at play, and at home.

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