I often wonder if, as long-time professionals in this industry, we sometimes forget just how magical promotional products are to the world at large. We walk trade show floors and get lost in a sea of row after row of imprintable “things” - pens, USB drives, Koozies, pill containers, and lip balm. Our offices and vehicles are no doubt laden with random samples of this and that. Sure we love promotional products. We claim to understand that they are a powerful medium and one of, if not the, most effective advertising tools in any company's marketing tool box. I am beginning to think, however, that maybe our constant exposure desensitizes us in a way, and though we claim to understand the effectiveness of our medium, we sometimes forget that the recipe for a successful promotion starts at an emotional level, not on a “what we saw on sale in a catalog” level. In our world, branded products are commonplace, but to outsiders, these products breathe life into their brands and serve as tangible proof that was once just a thought in their mind... a vision....a dream...is now a reality. There is a psychological reason the business card will never die, and why a product as simple as a ballpoint pen is in many cases trophy case worthy.
Mike Robertson is a speaker and author. Up until September 9th, I'd never heard of him. In a non-industry related group I'm in on Facebook, he recently posted a photo of a promotional product he ordered that had just been delivered. Within just a few hours there were 50 comments on the photo and nearly 150 likes. The comments range from “Brilliant!” and “Tell me where you got them!” to “That is possibly the coolest thing I have ever seen!!!!”. Four days later, the post has topped out at a whopping 235 likes and 95 comments. Incredible. And what was the catalyst to all of this commotion? A very cleverly designed, yet simple, microphone shaped USB drive with the url to his website – Is This Mike On?.
To continue being effective in this industry, I would argue that we (distributors AND suppliers) may more than occasionally need to refocus and remind ourselves to stop and take a minute to view things through the lens of the end-user. There is allure and wonderment with what we produce that exists on the other side of industry walls. Stop selling just what you find on sales flyers or web specials, and seek out self-promo that sets you apart and gives you an opportunity to tell your story. If that product is a pen, be prepared to explain the reasons why you chose it. We wouldn’t want our clients to buy what is “cheap and on sale” from us if it doesn’t do a great job helping them tell their story. Likewise, we aren't selling the effectiveness of cold calling, so if you claim that promotional products are as powerful you say they are, then use your own brand as a case study to prove it. Use this same mindset when helping clients build their brands. Get back to that place that may or may not have brought you into the industry, but has kept you here – That place where promotional products are more than just something we sell to pay the rent, but are instead simple objects that when used correctly have seemingly “phenomenal cosmic powers” all wrapped up in an “itty bitty living space.”
So, to Mike Robertson, and all the end-users out there that truly get it, thank you for being you and reminding us why we show up and do what we do every day. I don't know about all of you, but seeing things like Mike’s post remind me just how proud I am to be a part of this family. The promotional products industry – helping brands bring the awesome since 1789. :-)