A Complete Guide to Promotional Marketing in the Digital Age


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The digital revolution has brought about fundamental shifts in the marketing landscape. What it has not done, however, is fundamentally transform consumer habits and behaviours. We are still driven by many of the same innate desires, hopes and dreams that consumers have always been driven by.

Although on a per household basis, online shoppers in the UK spend more than any other country, online growth rates have slowed since 2008 and many consumers still prefer to inspect a product in-store before making a purchase. This notion also applies to the B2B landscape, as many purchasing decisions are made as a direct result of in-person relationships forged through ‘real world’ meetings and events.

Of course, ‘real world’ encounters and marketing touchpoints can encapsulate everything from the aisles of department stores to a slick product launch event as they seek to to influence the consumer journey from awareness to purchase and beyond to brand loyalty and advocacy.

The Power of Promotional Marketing

It can be all too easy to conclude that promotional marketing is somewhat outdated in an age dominated by social media and digital marketing when it is in fact arguably more pertinent than ever before. Online brand awareness can efficiently supplement ‘real world’ brand experiences but it can never truly replace them and the potential influence they can command.

Although not scalable like digital marketing and lacking the huge potential reach digital media bestows, promotional marketing is inherently more adept at addressing important consumer touchpoints and leaving a lasting impression on consumers that influences their behaviour both offline and online.

With the ability to deliver impressive results, I want to explore some of the reasons why the physical nature of promotional marketing is still thriving in our increasingly digital world.

Generate Long-Term Brand Recognition and Exposure

The long-term brand awareness promotional marketing can deliver is extraordinarily powerful because the tangibility of a physical product means there is far less risk of your efforts disappearing into the ether, as social media posts, online ads, web pages and YouTube videos inevitably will. Physicality creates a lasting impression, that can last for months or even years.

With more than 80 percent of consumers keeping promotional products for more than a year, whether you’re offering a pen, a USB stick or an article of clothing, it quickly becomes clear that the brand exposure potential here will often easily outweigh that of email and social media campaigns, which are inherently transitory in nature.

While most marketing is only heard or seen (or, in the case of video, both), the tangibility of a physical promotional object that can be touched, held, and actually used within daily life is intrinsically more compelling to our sensory nature.

Establish Quality

Promotional products can be an excellent way to deftly communicate to consumers the quality they can expect from your brand. Even service-based businesses can benefit, as good quality promotional products will begin to build consumer trust.

If promotional marketing strategies are on your radar, it is imperative to invest in quality products that will appeal to your target audience. Just because something is free that doesn’t mean consumers will tolerate something poorly made. It is imperative not to risk your reputation by dishing out cheap looking products that you aren’t proud to have associated with your brand. In this case, the longevity of promotional marketing’s influence can actually do you damage.

The Utility Factor

Consumers are presented with an array of relatively affordable and accessible items every day and the only way for your brand to stand out is to provide something practical and useful.

Consumers will keep something for longer if it’s genuinely useful, with mugs, pens and USB drives regularly named amongst the most popular promotional products. If you can provide something practical that delivers a positive user experience, you’re instantly putting yourself in an excellent position to elevate your reputation in the eyes of the people you most want to impress. In the process, this will also boost your brand recognition and begin to build a loyal network of highly engaged customers who will consistently advocate for your brand over your competition.

Utilise Deft Promotional Strategies to Cross-Pollinate Marketing Channels

There is no reason for physical and digital marketing to be thought of as entirely separate channels that can never work together to reach a shared goal. In fact, promotional marketing can be used to direct consumers towards specific destinations including social media channels and websites.

Product selection is crucial here, with items such as USB sticks able to hold pre-loaded promotional material including video and product information. Social media can also be used in similar ways, presenting consumers with marketing messages detailing how they can obtain promotional products themselves. Let’s not forget that social platforms can also be used to create enthusiasm for promotional items, driving further engagement, encouraging shares, and boosting reach.

Promotional and Digital Marketing Are Not Competitors

A significant percentage of promotional marketing is done through consumer and corporate events, such as product launches. Although it was once feared that the rise of social networks would reduce the efficacy of such events, social growth has only contributed to the continuing success of ‘real world’ marketing.

Event experiences can be enhanced by technology in myriad ways, with dedicated hashtags, digital seminars and live streaming all enriching attendee experiences in positive ways. Additionally, RFT technology, QR codes, and conversion tracking helps event organisers, marketers, and brands to track leads and ROI during and post-event.

As promotional marketing fills the space between exhibiting brands and attending consumers, mastering this powerful channel can make all the difference to brand success.


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