The world of marketing has been massively impacted by branding merchandise and promotional products in recent years. Although this isn’t a brand new development, it’s something more of us are becoming aware of than ever before. But in truth, there’s a long history behind the development and evolution of branded merchandise as a core aspect of marketing strategy.
Marketing is a huge industry nowadays and it can still all seem a little mysterious when you’re looking at it from the outside. However, it’s not too difficult to break down and understand. We’re all impacted by marketing campaigns and we’re targeted in increasingly complicated ways. It’s all very interesting and branded merchandise and promotional products certainly play their part in all that. We’re now going to delve into the evolution of branded merchandise and look at where it’s heading next.
The Beginning of Promotional Merchandise
Branding and marketing have been around a lot longer than promotional merchandise, but that merchandise has actually been around a lot longer than most people actually think. We have to go back more than a couple of hundred years to first see how promotional items were used to shape opinion. This is when they first became an option and the industry began in some small form.
We’re going way back to things like commemorative items that were manufactured in the US towards the end of the 18th century. These were made to celebrate of the first independent president of the US, George Washington in 1789. Although this isn’t an example of a company using promotional items to sell more products, it is the first real example of promotional merchandise, which makes it very significant.
It was about 100 years after that when promotional products took a big step towards the position we’re at today. A newsagent in the state of Ohio worked with a shoe store and together they created free shoe bags with the name of the shoe store printed on them. It was around this time also that calendars started being used as branded promotional products.
The Growth of Promotional Merchandise
Now that we have an understanding of where promotional products came from and how they started out, we should look at how they grew because that growth was massive. We’ve gone from shoebags and calendars to the massive industry worth many millions that’s in place today and used by companies of all kinds across the planet. So how did this all come to be?
It started to grow when companies started to see that it worked and that they could get something out it too. Printed slogans and company names started appearing on all sorts of items. In the early days, this included just about everything from cloth caps and card cases to aprons and other household items like that. By the beginning of the 20th century, the whole industry was becoming much more organised.
Because of the growth in popularity of branded merchandise, 12 of the promotional product companies that had led the charge and helped the industry grow banded together in 1904. They did this in order to form the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI). This was essential a trade body that actually still exists today and many companies work with it. It can be found at many industry events and trade shows.
Most of the growth we’ve talked about so far was concentrated in the USA. It wasn’t until a little later in the 20th century that corporate marketing and the use of promotional products really took off in the UK. After the war companies really started to use them, and by the 1970s, companies were catching up with the USA that had been using them for a long time already at this point.
In 1965, the British Promotional Merchandise Association (BPMA) was founded. This organisation was created with a view to providing services to manufacturers. It was quickly becoming the case that promotional merchandise was accepted as a very real and legitimate type of marketing in the UK, and that process of acceptance was fully complete by the 1980s.
By this point, promotional products were being used by businesses of all sorts around the world. They’re now everywhere and we see them as being completely normal, but it’s taken hundreds of years of evolution for us to reach this point. Their use is continuing to develop as companies consistently look for new ways to gain attention and market their brands effectively. But where is this niche heading next?
One of the things that we have to discuss if you want to know about where the world of promotional products is heading next is technology. We all use various forms of technology every day, and we rely on these items to get things done. Companies are now understanding that fact and they’re using branded tech products to forge ahead and beat the competition,
There are so many examples of promotional tech gifts that are now being used. For example, things like branded charging cables and power banks are regularly given out by companies. Then there are things like personalised USB drives. These things are not expensive to produce but they have a real function that professionals and individuals find useful.
Even small bluetooth speakers and things of that kind have been used as promotional products. There’s no limit to what can be used to promote a business and its brand. Sometimes these products are very functional, and other times they can be a little more playful. But it’s certainly the case that the world of promotional products is now moving towards promotional tech gifts.
Branding strategies use promotional products of all kinds these days as part of there marketing mix, and those products are a big part of what companies do to reach out to people and push their brands. There are lots of companies out there that are specialists in branding that help them with things like that, and promotional products certainly aren’t going away anytime soon.