The Science Behind Promotional Products

Promotional products

As surprising as you may find it, promotional products truly are all around us

That coffee mug you prefer to drink out of in the morning? Check the design because it might be a branded mug given to you by a business eager to impress you. The beach towel you have been reusing for a few years now? It might have been a part of a clever marketing campaign by another business that wanted to turn you into their brand ambassador!

The staying power of promotional items is incredible indeed, with more than half of the recipients somehow integrating them into their lives and continuing to use them for months or even years. The impact they have on our daily routines has been studied extensively too. More often than not, it shows that utility is the #1 factor that consumers take into account. 

But what does science say about the appeal of branded merchandise? Could their popularity be somehow explained by assessing the impact on our psyche?

Unsurprisingly, promotional products can affect all five of our senses, with smell having the greatest impact on our brains. So, that same branded coffee or tea mug you use every day doesn’t only remind you of the business’ name. It also links the smell of your beverage to it, thus doubling the effect the product has on you as a consumer and making the business itself harder to forget! 

How Senses Help Advertising Reach Its Goals

We link advertising to changing the consumer’s psyche, as its goal is to somehow influence our senses — sight, touch, taste, smell and sound. Branded products are the medium that could reach all those senses. As a result, they can ensure a company’s name and its marketing message get ingrained in the consumer’s mind.

Not convinced? Examine any branded product you have at home right now. Chances are, you’ll realise that the messages these items try to convey don’t only influence one but multiple senses. 

For example, a branded pen can make a particular clicking sound, have a visually appealing design, and even come scented. Similarly, a notepad can also have a scent to it, and its crisp pages may feel amazing to touch! A comprehensive guide to creating promotional items for your business should also give you an idea.

Sight, touch, and sound can also be influenced by some popular gadgets like headphones. Such products make users interact with them through those senses, which helps them leave a lasting impression.

Even edible products, which mainly engage our sense of taste and smell, can have a powerful effect. Yes, they may not stay in direct use for months or even years. However, the impression they make right before and after they’re eaten is much stronger than what a mere online or TV ad could provide.

That said, your freebies don’t stand a chance with consumers if you only focus on quantity. They shouldn’t be cheesy or cheap, but rather highly beneficial to their lifestyles. Whether they’re practical to use on a daily basis or useful in terms of entertainment, expect positive impressions and associations galore when you match the right items with the right audience.

Major Benefits of Branded Merchandise


Senses aside, branded merchandise should be suitable for frequent use to influence consumers over a longer period of time. Useful products, such as USB drives, pens, calendars, and other similar accessories, tend to be kept for longer either at home or in the office due to their ability to “solve problems” we encounter each day.

Slowly but surely, consumers begin to rely on these items to perform their tasks, thus becoming more familiar with the brand whose logo is on the merchandise. And the recall potential with practical products is astounding for sure. According to PPAI’s research, those that truly resonate with the audience ensure the users are able to recall what the product is, the advertiser, and the message!

Easy Brand Exposure Boost

And it gets better when you consider how often practical products like bags are used in public. If they carry a business’ logo, they may generate dozens of impressions with each use due to increased logo exposure. With bags staying with the recipients for 11 months on average and generating about 3,300 impressions throughout their lifetime, it’s easy to see why so many companies choose them over other items.

The Principle of Reciprocity

What all freebies have in common, though, is that they tend to inspire gratitude and happiness in the recipients. More importantly, they could make them feel as if they ought to give something back, thus putting the principle of reciprocity to good use. The items themselves make the audience more likely to do business with the companies that gave them the items. In the end, this can translate into a huge surge in sales and profit.

Benefits > Costs

As there are so many products to choose from, you don’t need to have a huge marketing budget to reap the benefits. Even low-cost items like pens could bring you a greater ROI than what you spent on them. Better yet, they can keep generating impressions for far longer than an online ad. 

Simply put, an ad may drive brand awareness for a few weeks, after which you need to keep investing in new ones to maintain or boost the results. Promotional products, especially useful ones like travel mugs, backpacks, and similar, stay in use for months or even years. Hence, they keep your initial investment alive well into the future.

Should You Invest in Branded Merchandise? 

Given all the benefits they come with, promotional products are on almost every business’ radar. They are an excellent addition to any event, whether it’s a fundraiser, a trade show or a product launch. As the choice of products is so vast, it’s also easy to pick the right ones for the right audience and thus ensure they stay in use for a while. 

No wonder, then, that organisations and businesses allocate up to 20% of their marketing budget for branded merchandise. As they both create positive associations with your brand logo and enhance awareness, carefully planned out promotional products could give you a major advantage over your competition. They could help you win over consumers by letting them connect to your company on a deeper level. 

The result is astonishing but expected. Your business could be at the top of their minds whenever they use your products, and their frequency of use could directly lead to generating new, powerful impressions until the end of a product’s lifespan. The ROI you’ve been looking to make through billboards and TV and online ads would finally be within reach. Those are clearly some marvellous benefits you don’t want to keep missing out on!


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