A Complete Guide to Promotional Marketing in the Digital Age

With the proliferation of digital channels, there has never been more ways to reach your ideal customers. With digital marketing so ubiquitous, it’s easy to dismiss promotional marketing and event marketing as relics of a bygone era.

That couldn’t be further from the case though. In fact, event-based marketing strategies have flourished in the digital age. Although they lack the scalability and reach of online channels, promotional marketing continues to deliver considerable return on investment due to the power of persuasion it commands.

In fact, PPAI Media found that 87% of the agencies it surveyed credited promotional products as a vital campaign in reaching their marketing goals in 2017. Promotional products also outdid other advertising avenues when it comes to brand recall, with 9 in 10 consumers remembering the brand that gave them the item.


Let’s take a closer look at what it takes to run a promotional marketing campaign.

Running An Effective Promotional Marketing Campaign

Using promotional products is a great way to capture your market’s attention and hold it. With majority of consumers keeping promotional products for more than a year, these items have so much potential to encourage sales. Here’s how to do it effectively:

1. Keep your target audience in mind

As with any marketing campaign, your target audience needs to be at the centre of your strategies.

Spend ample time in defining your market’s demographics (age, gender, location, career, etc) and psychographics (interests, hobbies, passions, dislikes, etc). You can conduct surveys, interviews, or focus groups to be more precise. You can also look at your competitors and analyse how their audience is responding to them (e.g. which products are selling, their positioning strategies, etc).

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Moreover, you can take advantage of millennial’s increasing purchasing power by adding more millennial voices in your decision-making group.

Afterwards, you can align your promotional products according to your market’s needs and wants. It’s a win-win strategy—they receive a useful item and you get your ROI.

2. Think of your distribution process

Knowing the right distribution process is vital, as this could mean the difference between a product that stays with your consumers and one that ends up forgotten at the bottom of their bags.

For instance, a bulky apparel like hooded sweatshirt may not work in trade shows, as recipients would not want to keep lugging it around the entire time. Whoopee cushions will not sit well with upscale fundraiser dinners, while a beer koozie will not fit a hospital event.

You need to be asking yourself questions like:

  • How am I going to distribute the items and how will I ensure they reach my target audience?
  • Will this be on a trade show or will reps hand them out in the field?
  • If I am planning a product launch event, is it possible to give my product out for free to select attendees?
  • Am I going to send it via mail to attract new customers or distribute bundles to multiple locations?

Lastly, don’t make the process overly complex. If you’re giving away a promotional product in exchange of email addresses, simply ask for a business card or have them fill a short form on a tablet.

3. Add a call to action

What do you want your audience to do after receiving your product? Knowing your objective will make it easy for you to include a call to action on your items.


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If you want to direct them to your social media or website, you can add a QR code on your items. If you want to increase brand awareness, you can run a hashtag campaign which the recipients can then use when taking photos of/with your products.

4. Use the right product

Giving out products that will be used frequently generates long-term free advertising for your brand. This will, however, not work if you choose generic items.

Remember that first impression is especially important in this kind of campaign, so make sure your products pass these key areas:

  • Quality – Recipients will not be grateful for products that will break down after a few uses. This might even backfire and give them the impression that your brand is subpar.
  • Utility – Products with long shelf lives is a huge driver of brand association. Consider tech gadgets as these are extremely useful these days (power banks are especially effective in generating business). You can also use those that can be used in public like tote bags to increase brand exposure.
  • Relevance – This goes back to knowing your audience. If your recipient feels that you thought about their needs and wants in coming up with a product, you’ll give a good first impression and higher chances of brand recall and/or sales.

5. Measure your ROI

To find out if your products worked, go back to your objectives and set KPIs that will effectively measure if your goals are being met.

For instance, if your product includes a hashtag, track the number times it was used on various social media platforms. The same goes for QR code use or the number of email addresses you got in exchange for your products. You can also look at the increase in sales, website traffic, or number of inquiries following the distribution of your products.

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Do keep in mind that promotional marketing takes longer to see an ROI, especially if you use a product with a long shelf life. Revisit your metrics after a few months of campaign kick-off to monitor its success.

The Best of Both Worlds

Going the promotional marketing route does not mean it would clash with your digital marketing efforts, and vice versa.

In fact, as you can see in our examples above, you can direct your customers to your online channels via promotional products. You can also use your digital platforms to promote your giveaway items. If you treat both online and offline campaigns as important cogs in your marketing machine, you’ll see a much improved ROI.


About the Author: Steve Hill is the Director of Bag Workshop, a leading UK supplier in promotional bags and custom branded bags. Having worked in marketing for over a decade, Steve stepped aside to found three separate companies supplying bespoke marketing products under the Wurlin Promo umbrella. You can connect with Bag Workshop on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Mercy - CBNation Team

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts, ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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