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In-depth interviews with senior marketers gives fascinating insight into the role of promotional merchandise

by on June 19, 2012 in Nuggets, Research, Retail, Retail News, Small Business, Startups

New research on the use of promotional merchandise

–      First ever in-depth interviews with senior marketers gives fascinating insight into the role of promotional merchandise in the marketing mix –

Key findings:

  • 49 per cent of senior marketers have increased spend on promotional merchandise since the last financial year
  • 83 per cent of senior marketers plan to increase or maintain spend on promotional merchandise from this year to next
  • 66 per cent of senior marketers purchase promotional products at least every three months
  • 73 per cent of buyers use merchandise at promotional events, and over three-fifths (63 per cent) of buyers use it for brand awareness and re-branding
  • Merchandise is used because it targets customers effectively, ensures brand messages last longer and creates loyalty

For the first time ever, senior marketers from across the UK have been questioned about their purchasing and usage of promotional merchandise.

Interviews were carried out by an independent research company with marketers from a range of sectors including finance, IT, retail, professional services, insurance, charity and education, with 92 per cent of respondents being between 25 and 44 years of age.  This latest research follows the 2011 research findings, which showed that promotional merchandise can deliver a higher or equal ROI than most forms of advertising.

Changes in spend on promotional merchandise

One of the most significant findings of the survey is that spend on promotional merchandise in 2012 is increasing or remaining stable in comparison to 2011 with 49 per cent of respondents stating that their spend on promotional products has increased since the last financial year while, in addition 30 per cent have maintained their budget. This positive intent is set to continue next year with 33 per cent planning to increase spend from this year to next while a further 50 per cent expect it to stay the same next year.  The percentage spent on promotional items within the marketing budget is also increasing overall or remaining stable, with 43 per cent of respondents stating that it has increased and 36 per cent that it has stayed the same.

The survey also showed that promotional merchandise is a frequent and regular purchase. with 33 per cent stating that they made a purchase every month plus 33 per cent buying every three months and 13 per cent purchase it twice a year.

Stephen Barker, BPMA Board Director, said: “To hear directly from senior marketers themselves that spend on promotional products is rising shows unequivocally the importance that is placed on merchandise in the marketing mix.”

Why promotional merchandise is used

When asked about the main reasons why merchandise is used in sales and marketing campaigns as opposed to other incentives, 69 per cent stated that it is because it ‘targets customers effectively’, 52 per cent because the ‘brand message lasts longer’ and

46 per cent said because of its ‘ability to create loyalty’. Among the comments from respondents were “It’s an excellent way of getting the clients attention.  We can demonstrate the brand attributes we want to get across,” and “For a cascade promotion, if we send items to X they pass them out to their customers who might also sign up. It builds relationships and goodwill.”

The survey also asked about the purpose for which promotional merchandise is bought.  Nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) stated that it is for use at conferences and events, and 63 per cent for ‘brand awareness and rebranding’.  Merchandise is also used for ‘cause awareness’ and ‘product launches and roll-outs’ because ‘promotional merchandise is often highly effective for getting attention and driving sales.”

The ways in which promotional merchandise is used is also highlighted by the fact that 69 per cent of respondents stated that items are usually used in product giveaways, while 13 per cent use it as a call to action with nearly one-fifth (19 per cent) always using a strapline on the product.

When asked about the top three items which they purchased, over a third (35 per cent) said a pen, 13 per cent pads, notebooks and Post-Its and 10 per cent listed canvas shopping bags or eco bags.

Stephen Barker commented: “What these results confirm is that practicality and relevance to the recipient are key factors in the decision-making process on promotional merchandise.  Giving a product that serves a purpose ensures that it will be retained by the recipient, providing ongoing exposure for the brand that gave it.”

Half of buyers preferred to use tried and tested products and 33 per cent use a combination of new products and tried and tested with the reasons for the dominance of tried and tested including proven effectiveness (16 per cent), and reliability (13 per cent).  The comments from respondents are reflective of the caution of marketers in the current challenging economic conditions with remarks including “We know they work. We don’t have the budget to experiment” and “Items need to be reliable.”

Sourcing promotional merchandise

When discussing the sourcing of items of merchandise, nearly 70 per cent said that their top source of information was their current supplier and over half using catalogues, with others turning to the Internet (33 per cent), their creative department or agency (26 per cent), co-workers (23 per cent) and exhibitions (20 per cent) for inspiration.

Influences on product choice

Asked about influences when deciding what type of item to buy, over four-fifths (79 per cent) said price and 59 per cent said usefulness of product to the target audience, with other factors mentioned including relevance to brand (23 per cent), attractiveness to target audience (23 per cent) and ability to meet deadlines (16 per cent).  One buyer stated that “Campaign concept is central,” and another that “We listen to what our supporters want.”

Stephen Barker commented: “It is no surprise that cost is a key factor in decision making as the economy remains less than buoyant but it is encouraging to note that factors such as relevance and usefulness remain important.”

Looking ahead to Christmas, just under half of the respondents said they sent promotional items at Christmas with most products being food or drink related such as chocolates, hampers and port and Stilton.  When asked specifically about promotional clothing, approximately half of buyers (53 per cent) said that they used it, with t-shirts and polo shirts often being bought for staff to wear at events.  And among some of the more unusual products purchased throughout the year were rubber ducks, spinning tops and inflatable ice cubes!

Stephen Barker concludes: “The results of the survey demonstrate first-hand the value that senior marketers place on promotional merchandise and how it plays a key role in marketing activity.  The frequency with which products are purchased shows this very clearly.  In addition, the fact that useful products top the list of those items most purchased highlights that there is widespread recognition among marketers of the ways in which merchandise can bring longevity to promotional campaigns and is therefore an effective brand awareness tool.”

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