blue and purple promo box

Promotional items are a fantastic way to get your brand name out into the world. Whether it be company waterpromo material icons bottles, jackets, or sweatshirts, everybody loves freebies. What companies don’t know is that promotional materials like these can be so much more than a giveaway at a trade conference or a company picnic. These common examples represent just a fraction of what could be a larger marketing effort or employee recognition program.

The enterprising company can implement swag into performance or safety incentives, breathing new potential into promo items that less resourceful companies might consider mere trinkets or trash. Below are seven ways that you can implement promotional items to enhance your company’s potential:

Everybody Loves Swag

I love freebies, you love freebies – everybody loves free stuff. The term “swag” came into popularity in the 1990s, and while the definition evolved with popular slang used at the time, it is less known that the word is also an acronym for Stuff We All Get.1 Many companies implement swag by giving new employees company-branded items such as t-shirts for new hires. These can be quite popular, but often don’t incorporate high-level strategy. Swag can serve many purposes to meet a variety of goals within industries such as manufacturing, sales, and retail.

Incentive Gifts

Incentivizing behavior has been proven to be a successful tactic for many types of businesses. In sales, incentive programs have been shown to improve individual performance by 22%.2 Promotional products offer a better return on your investment than cash. Many companies offer monetary incentives as prizes for reaching goals or deadlines, but these sorts of rewards have a short lifespan. Between gift taxes and general expenses like gas, groceries, and the like, cash prizes evaporate quickly.

Consider this alternative: manufacturing companies have safety incentive programs in place to help create awareness in the workplace. Rather than dishing out money for the correct behavior, reward those that demonstrate the best adherence to safety protocol with a jacket or a cap that draws attention to their achievements in the workplace.

Material goods last longer than cash incentives, while also holding a symbolic purpose. It not only demonstrates their achievements in the workplace, but holds them to standards of achievement that they will want to continue to replicate. When new people on the job ask where Bill got the cool hat, they’ll feel compelled to demonstrate adherence to safety policies so they can get one too.

Community Brand Exposure

How many times have you gone to a restaurant to sign a check only to find that pen in your pocket when you get home? The value of a single pen is rather negligible – the critical benefit is that the company name on that pen has now entered the neutral space of your home. You might not look at that pen every day, but when you do, you’re going to think of the restaurant it came from. When you find yourself at that restaurant later that week, you may not have even realized the subconscious ticks that brought you back.

From t-shirts that you can wear on the weekends to stickers on the back of your laptop, community brand exposure can take many different forms to hit every demographic. Having promotional materials with your logo on it means that you are being represented in the world around you – and people notice. When people are familiar with the name of your company and need a service that you provide, you’ll be the first person they call.


Company branded merchandise is an excellent way to identify your employees inside and outside the workplace. While some merchandise such as casual attire can be an excellent target for branding your logo, think outside of the box. For a manufacturer trying to incentivize safety in the workplace, focus on targeting apparel that is related to that goal. Safety blaze orange and yellow jackets and hard hats with your logo will not only help your team identify each other in the field, but promote safe work practices. Specialized attire for those that most conform to safety practices can be an excellent award and promote leadership standards from within your company.

Long Shelf Life

Earlier we mentioned that switching out monetary rewards with promotional item incentives provides more substantial rewards in the long term. People are going to remember winning a jacket much more than they will remember a $100 bonus stripped away by gift taxes and personal expenses. It has also been shown that the ROI is substantially higher for promotional gifts as opposed to monetary gifts.

What strategies are most effective when trying to incentivize work behavior? Short-term strategies, like giving a reward when ten products have been sold within a month, can help promote good sales behavior, but this type of gamification can lead to employees holding back on reporting to cheat the system. Long-term strategies aimed at continuous improvement create performance drivers that are ongoing, rather than being limited to a shorter period.

Popularity Among Millennials

Millennials may live in an increasingly digital, immaterial world – but promotional items have never been more popular than among this generation. When attending an event, millennials say that 47% of their motivation for going is simply “getting free stuff”.3 With their clear inclination for free goods, you can use this to target swag towards those demographics. Follow their interests – power banks, USB chargers, and water bottles are all things that they will take with them in their increasingly mobile lives. They’re not going to be at home all day – make sure that your promotional items follow them around.

This can also be applied to millennial’s proclivity for stickers. It only takes a cursory glance around a college coffee shop to see laptops plastered with them. Not only are stickers a cheap and productive alternative, but they can easily be slipped into a package as a gift with purchase.

Rounding Out a Promotional Campaign

What’s better than buying a new car that you’ve fallen in love with? A free hat! Promotional goods are a great way to stick the landing with any campaign, and are a great way to increase customer loyalty and spur repeat business. Three out of four millennial buyers who get something unexpected shipped with their purchase have said that they would buy something again from that retailer.4 Providing millennials with freebies not only means repeat customers – you’re making loyal brand advocates, openly representing your company.

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