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The Psychology Behind Designing Promotional Items that Sell Your Brand

“Would you like a cup or a hat with my face on it?” Not all promotional items are created equal.

Promotional items are very underrated and frankly, have been kicked to the curb lately in favor of strictly online marketing.  Not that online marketing is a risky idea…it is a sure bet.  However, promotional items are another venue of marketing and advertising that are far too often completely ignored by a company that sees too big of a picture and not enough local opportunity.  

In fact, there is evidence suggesting that when it comes to psychology, promotional items are guaranteed to work—if nothing else, at least helping you improve brand awareness.  According to some promotional companies, 20 billion a year is spent on giving away promotional items.  Furthermore, consumers are admitting that they like promotional marketing efforts and do not consider it “hard” salesmanship, so as long as the product is useful.  According to Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), 83 percent of consumers enjoy receiving free promotional items, and 85 percent of consumers given these items will do business with the advertising company.  It’s almost alarming to report that over half of all consumers keep promotional items from one to four years.  Most importantly, 89 percent of people given these items remember the company name—and that’s brand awareness.

According to Professor Robert Cialdini who wrote “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”, during the promotional transaction, there is something beyond incentive and exciting at work here.  This is the spirit of reciprocity.  When a person gets something without obligation he or she is more likely to give something in return, as this is hard-wired into human instinct.  This probably comes from ancient times, when we built societies based on trade an scarcity of foods.  We simply believe in our minds that when someone gives us something, it’s not only the nice thing to do, but it’s the advantageous thing to do, to help someone else.  

When that person in front of you is the marketer, you as the consumer are more inclined to follow through, usually following the prompt given since that’s the path of least resistance.  People also tend to respond to each other in a similar manner and energy; if someone gives you a free pen, you are more likely to sign up for their subscription or newsletter—you’ve already given them the means and the motivation to do so with the gift.

Even on the Internet, you see many companies offering free expertise to promote their brand, free content or free entertainment.  Of course, this is all secondary to the fact that a promotional item doesn’t have to necessarily lead to a sale—just to associate your company and your logo with a positive memory.  These products are catalysts for your brand, and they will work—provided you have a product that has a simple prompt for them to latch onto.

Pin Pros Plus, a company that specializes in promotional items, offered these promotional design tips that will be positively remembered, even years after the fact.

  1. Make sure the item is useful in a daily routine—not cutesy and pointless.
  2. Make sure the quality is good and the product is visually attractive and made with the standard of most other manufacturers.
  3. Make sure the item is relevant to the brand and can remind the consumer of the mission statement, values and market of the product itself.
  4. Make sure it is easily shareable because ideally, the consumer will feel inclined to pass the item around and return the favor.

It’s not really about developing an innovative promotional product—it’s more about finding a context for it, that is memorable and enjoyable for the consumer.


Pin Pros Plus

New York Times


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