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Promotional Products: Buttons, Book Bags, and Safety Tools, Oh My!

Dec 6, 2007
Some people call them "tchotchkes." Others, "swag" (or "schweg"). However you say it, promotional products are an important - and surprisingly underused - part of contemporary marketing.

Promotional products - those little giveaway key chains, buttons, caps, and other items embossed with product names or company logos - may look small, but they're a big business. In 2006 the industry pulled in $18.6 billion - more than Internet, cable, or Yellow Pages advertising. It's growing faster than both radio and TV advertising - and no wonder.

Promo products, because of their usefulness, have a potential staying power greater than that of any TV commercial or billboard. Savvy businesses know that promotional products represent a great way to increase name recognition, foster customer and employee goodwill, and conduct marketing research. Whether you're an office manager looking for a way to say "Thanks" to your team, or a small business owner who needs an inexpensive and fun way to get the word out, promotional products offer many creative options.

The promo product industry is nearly as old as modern advertising itself. Experts trace its beginnings to 1789 - that momentous year of Constitution and revolution - when George Washington's supporters put together the first-ever political campaign buttons to celebrate the first President's inauguration. Ever since, promo products and presidential politics have been intertwined.

Andrew Jackson's 1824 presidential campaign was the first to consciously use giveaway items as a form of advertising. Since then we've seen everything from the Eisenhower potholder to the McKinley lunchpail (his campaign slogan was "A Full Dinner Bucket"), from the FDR shot glass to the (unofficial!) Mitt Romney thong, from the Jimmy Carter peanut-shaped radio to Nixon sunglasses.

It was left to a nineteenth-century Ohio newspaperman, Jasper Freemont Meek, to discover the ways this technique could help small businesses as well as presidential hopefuls. One day, the story goes, Meek witnessed a tired little girl accidentally spill her schoolbooks in the dirt.

The lightbulb went on. Meek approached a local shoemaker, Mr. Cantwell, with his big idea - why not give away bookbags (imprinted with "Buy Cantwell Shoes") to every child who visited Cantwell's store? The bookbags would increase community goodwill toward Cantwell's business, while ensure that Cantwell's name went everywhere the town's schoolchildren went.

The bags were a success - for Cantwell, for the schoolchildren who now had free bookbags, and most importantly, for Meek, who printed them. The idea caught on, and soon Meek was making promotional marbles, buggy whips, card cases, fans, calendars, cloth caps, and aprons.

Since then, nearly every imaginable product has been used to advertise new businesses. Some of the most durable industry standbys include commemorative plates, magnets, calendars, keychains, pens, radios, office equipment, umbrellas, and, recently, Bobbleheads. The Internet and print-on-demand technologies have only increased the options available to small businesses. Some of the odder possibilities for today's business: wetwipes, underwear, sleep masks, fishing knives, and church collection baskets.

Businesses love promotional products because, unlike those expensive TV and radio ads, these little items have the potential to become part of consumers' lives. A successful promo product goes home with somebody. It gets used. And every time that promo pen comes out of the desk drawer, another potential customer is reached.
But for all their popularity, promotional products represent, in some ways, an untapped resource. Too many businesses settle for the same old products - those pads of paper nobody uses, those key chains nobody needs. Others, trying too hard for novelty, end up with bizarre, white-elephant giveaways that sit on the shelf. Wouldn't it be nice to have a creative and practical alternative to the same old thing?

Safecutters offers your business a full line of useful promotional products that will set you apart. This fast-growing, innovative company has made big strides in the office-supplies industry with its unique line of safety box cutters, utility knives, and safety knives. Every office needs a good box cutter, and no home should be without a package opener.

And with the rising cost of health care, no office manager, mail room, or shipping and receiving supervisor can afford to ignore the issue of knife safety. Whether you're looking for a way to useful, unusual promo item for potential customers, or a way to promote employee safety and loyalty, Safecutters has just what you need.
About the Author
SafeCutters distributes the Klever Kutter and Klever Koncept, two of the safest utility knives available. Klever Kutter virtually eliminates the risk of workplace injuries, while the permanently shielded blade protects packaged products. It has been approved by the Department of Homeland Security for safe air transport.
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