Before I begin, let me just say that key chains, koozies, pens and t-shirts aren’t going anywhere. There has and always will be a need for these traditional promotional products. And while these products are classics, recently it has become apparent that there is a new wave in promotions moving away from the usual suspects. We’re seeing a trend of buyers putting an emphasis on quality and trendiness over price. Variety seekers have spurred competition between suppliers to push the envelope in providing new and innovative products. Some have accused our industry of pushing cheap trinkets and “chotskies”, and in response many of our vendors have looked to the retail sector for a bit of inspiration.
We are seeing retail brands influencing our industry in 2 key ways. First, the emergence of off-brand, look-a-like products, and secondly, an increase in retail brands entering the promotional product sphere.
1) The Emergence of Off-Brand, Look-a-Like Products
There will always be a portion of buyers who are willing to spend considerably more for brand-name products. But for a majority of us, retail copycats are a great option for our needs. For a fraction of the price you are getting a customized, sleek, retail-looking product. In addition, you are also able to decorate the product with your logo, which isn’t always possible with some of the high-end brands. A great example of a vendor copycat is with the trendy S’well look-a-likes that have emerged in the wake of the designs popularity. While S’well bottles can cost as much as $60, a buyer can get an almost identical product for $15-$30. And that includes their logo! These bottles are sleek and come in a variety of colors and patterns. Looks aside, they are also comparable in quality and can keep beverages cold for up to 24 hours!
Drinkware isn’t the only category taking cues from the retail sector. We are seeing this trend in almost every section of the business. EOS lip balm look-a-likes are available for half the price, and promo fitness bands have emerged to compete with FitBit at a much lower price point. These products look and feel like their retail counterparts, but are still budget-friendly for clients. When one vendor comes out with a copycat product, other promotional product suppliers end up following suit in order to compete. What you are left with is a variety of similar products at a spectrum of price points for the buyer to choose from. No matter what product you are looking for, there is bound to be an option for any budget.
2) An Increase in Retail Brands Entering the Promotional Product Sphere
Another trend we are seeing is the emergence of retail brands entering the promotional product space. Companies that have traditionally sold their products in retail stores are now partnering with promo product vendors in order to expand their reach and offer customized solutions. Often times, these brands have turned to our industry in order to compete financially with other larger retail brands.
A great example of this is the emergence of the Orca tumblers and coolers. Design and quality-wise they are almost identical to the YETI Rambler and Tundra. YETI is a notoriously difficult product to secure, so Orca saw an opportunity to enter our industry. Many off-brand, copycat versions have emerged to compete with YETI, but the Orca is a great alternative for the buyer who is still looking for a brand-name piece. Once again, the buyer has the choice to pay top dollar for the YETI, a discounted price for the Orca, or a very low price-point for an off-brand product. The influence of retail trends on our industry has resulted in more options for buyers, and everyone wins! If there is a trendy retail product on the market, you can bet there is also a similar and better priced version in the promotional product industry as well.
For marketers it truly is a struggle to make a connection between a brand and the consumer. Can you remember the logo from that car commercial you saw last week? What about that jingle you heard while you were sitting in rush hour traffic? While brand recall continues to be a challenge for advertisers, promotional products average an 88% recall rate with consumers. These recall rates apply to your average promo products, think t-shirts, totes, pens, etc. If a basic product is generating these results, think about how much more effective these rates are on a high quality, retail-looking product?
If a buyer is keeping their branded koozie for an average of 8 months, imagine how long they would keep a Brookstone speaker with your logo on it, or a look-a-like OGIO backpack. These types of items are not discarded, in fact these high-value products are often integrated into the customer’s everyday life. If you are able to associate your brand with a treasured gift that is used daily by your customer, well, that is what we call Brand Love. As more retail trends permeate our industry we will continue to see new and innovative products. We can say sayonara to “chotskies”, and hello to great promos!
Looking for some retail-inspired products for your next promo?