Customers will sometimes hold onto branded items for years and years — generating a massive number of impressions for a brand and providing some serious utility to that customer. Not every branded item is a success, however.
While there are a few go-to options, these common promotional items aren’t always what customers want.
Right now, it’s easy to get on-demand branding for just about anything — pens, bottles, masks, journals and even things like soda can lids and branded snack packs. Of all the options that you have, though, how do you know which to pick?
These are some of the most popular branded items among consumers — ones that they’ll actually keep for daily use.
#1. Pens and Writing Implements
Around the world, branded writing implements rank first in branded product popularity, beating other popular choices like shirts, bags, calendars and accessories.
Pens are a classic branded item due to their low production cost, the variety of pen types available and the utility they offer.
Keeping a handful of branded pens around the office — or bringing some with you when you table at an event — is a great way to passively generate some brand impressions over time.
While not particularly unique or flashy, branded pens remain popular. Most businesses that invest in branded items will buy branded pens or similar writing implements at one point or another — making them a good place to start, especially if you recently rebranded or designed a new logo for your business.
Also, while the effectiveness of branded items will vary from location to location — with calendars, for example, being great at driving impressions at some cities and lousy in others — pens are pretty consistent in driving large numbers of impressions for a low cost.
If basic pens aren’t exciting enough, there are a wide range of more advanced pen models that branded item manufacturers offer. Pen-and-stylus combos, for example, are pens with a smartphone-ready stylus attachment on one end. These help ensure that even if someone prefers to take notes digitally, they can still get use out of your branded item.
#2. Tumblers and Water Bottles
Some of the best branded items are those that customers can use in many different situations and places.
Water bottles, pint cups and tumblers with lids can be convenient for hikes, great for the office or useful on a day trip.
Like pens, the combination of utility and branding space they offer makes them a great branded product for businesses who want to build a foundation for their branded item strategy.
There’s also a wide range of cups and water bottle types available — most manufacturers offer branded pint glasses, plastic tumblers with straws and lids, metal water bottles and more.
As with most other branded items, water bottles and cups can be made from a wide variety of materials — so if you want to use recycled materials or avoid plastic, you have options.
While water bottles are less visible than some other branded items — like t-shirts — they’re large enough that they can provide some serious opportunities for new brand impressions.
#3. Custom Face Masks
Masks have rapidly become part of normal fashion — and there’s reason to believe that they’re not going to disappear any time soon.
According to 2020 data from ASI, 57% of customers say they would be more likely to do business with a company that gave them a branded face mask.
While most early masks had to be custom-made or manufactured in-house with DIY techniques, there are now a wide range of new mask-printing services available. Many companies that offer branded items have also started to offer branded masks as well.
If your business had success with other branded fashion items — like t-shirts, hats or glasses — branded masks may be another great opportunity.
In a post-COVID world, face masks are likely to continue providing serious value to businesses. Because mask-wearing can prevent the spread of viruses — like those that cause the flu — they may be useful during future flu seasons.
Public health officials are already discussing how masks may be useful in the future, meaning that they’re likely to remain a seriously valuable investment for businesses.
#4. Outerwear (Jackets, Shirts, Hats)
There is a wide variety of branded outerwear items available, with some of the most popular being sunglasses, jackets, hats and shirts. Accessories like umbrellas and sunglasses are also a great complement to other branded items — especially at certain times of the year. Visitors at an outdoor event during the summer may be highly responsive to sunglasses, for example.
Not all branded clothing will attract the same attention. Hats tend to draw more impressions than jackets, which draw more impressions than shirts. Hats and shirts are also much cheaper than jackets, meaning they can provide more impressions per cent.
More complex and unique designs will draw attention, but they’ll be more expensive to manufacture.
All-over print t-shirts, for example, can be much more visually interesting and visible than something simpler —like a solid color t-shirt with your logo printed on the front. However, per-print shirt costs will be noticeably higher, driving up the cost of your impressions as well.
If you find that your customers respond well to flashier and more exciting outerwear options, shirts like these may be a great option. Some customers, however, may want more plain branded clothing.
#5. Food and Candy
Some branded items are a great fit for businesses that have physical locations, or those that regularly table at industry events.
There are a growing number of food and beverage manufacturers that offer branded food items, like chip bags, candy and even charcuterie board kits that come with your logo or business branding.
These gifts can be especially nice to receive at a long conference or event. Later in the day, when visitors are trying to keep their energy up, a pre-packaged snack and a water bottle can be a great gift.
Other branded food items may be nice to keep around the office. Branded and individually wrapped candies, like mints or chocolate squares, are a great addition to a waiting room candy bowl or event gift bag.
#6. Bag Clips and Lids
According to research from the PPAI, consumers are most likely to be interested in a promotional item if they can wear it on themselves or display it in their kitchen.
This makes kitchen items — like bag clips, can coolers and even reusable straws — surprisingly effective branded items.
Reusable items are the best way to offer some utility and ensure that customers will notice your brand again and again. Bag clips, which customers can use to keep food fresh and prevent spills, for example, offer enough space for a logo or brand name and can be extremely useful. Soda can lids offer similar utility by helping customers reseal and store opened cans.
Reusable straws — made out of materials like durable plastic or metal — also provide an opportunity to both offer a useful item and help customers reduce their use of disposable plastic straws.
Also an option are tools like bottle openers that attach to keychains. Like other good branded items, these provide customers with utility while also offering some space for your branding.
#7. Totes and Drawstring Bags
Tote bags are up there with pens and t-shirts in branded item popularity. Over the last few years, with the rise of demand for sustainable goods, these bags have become even more popular, because they provide a valuable alternative to plastic bags.
For brands, totes have two big advantages — they are both cheap to manufacture and generate a large number of impressions over their lifetime.
According to research from ASI, totes and bags are some of the best branded items when it comes to driving impressions. Consumers tend to hold onto promo bags for a long period of time, 11 months on average.
During this time, that bag will generate more than 3,300 impressions. Longer-lasting bags can, in theory, generate even more impressions.
Totes are also cheap to manufacture, meaning that branded totes will cost you fractions of a cents per impression — better than most ad campaigns.
Like most branded products on this list, there’s also a lot of variety when it comes to your bag options. Totes, reusable bags, drawstring bags — all can be great branded items depending on your budget and customer needs. Many totes can also be manufactured from recyclable materials, making them great for brands that want to offer sustainable goods to their customers.
Know Which Branded Items Are Right for Your Audience
Certain branded items are more likely to net your company impressions than others. Outerwear, custom face masks, bags and writing implements are especially effective at drawing impressions, and customers tend to hold onto them for a while, too.
Some branded items will also be much more cost-effective. Pens and tote bags are some of the most popular branded items among businesses due to their low cost of manufacture and the variety of styles they can be manufactured in.
If your business has offered branded items in the past, you can use data from previous branded item campaigns to know which goods to offer next. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to start with reliable branded items, like writing implements, shirts, and bags.
About the Author!
Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. Eleanor was the creative director and occasional blog writer at a prominent digital marketing agency before becoming her own boss in 2018. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and dog, Bear.