When you type in the URL of a promotional product store in your web browsers, you're greeted by a virtual ocean of trinkets, corporate gifts and swag that could potentially advertise your brand. Before you spend your promo merchandise budget on items that may end up in the trash a day after you give them away, take some time to consider the promotional items that have proven to be the most effective for raising awareness of your brand and converting onlookers to customers.
Shirts Arguably the most effective way to raise brand or product awareness with promotional items is to turn the humans who receive them into walking billboards. This is subject to two conditions. The shirt must be of the highest quality possible; nobody wants to wear something that feels a saltine cracker on their skin. Nice thick cotton that will survive multiple washings is a must. Additionally, both the graphic and printing quality of the shirt must be top notch if you want people to wear it.
Bags These are the first-cousin of shirts. The same basic principal applies. If someone gets a functional bag with a handsome graphic on it, they'll use it. They'll carry their laptop around in it. This is especially true of college students. They are always looking for free stuff to tote their school supplies around campus in. If you have a few dozen bags with your logo on them on as many campuses as possible, the effect will be increased awareness of your brand in the sweet spot the 18-24 demographic.
Pens There is a reason that pens are the most common promotional item you see. And that is because they are effective. Pens, despite being small, have a good deal of prime branding real estate for communicating crucial information. If people use pens with your logo, website and phone number on them, that information sticks in their heads. Also, pens have a way of finding multiple owners over the course of their useable lifetime. It creates an effect that's almost like word-of-mouth, only the word is a physical item and the mouth is people swapping pens.
USB Drives Just a decade ago, this item would not have been on this list. However, USB drives are the one thing that everyone needs often at the moment when they don't have one. How many times have you been in a situation in which someone asked, "Do you have a thumb drive?" The answer is almost always no. If you give out thumb drives attached to a keychain, people will use them because they know they're useful. The next time someone asks that question, out comes a USB drive with your logo on it.
Drinkware There's something about a free coffee mug that makes people want to keep it around forever. It's possibly because they're thick and heavy and feel good in your hand. But more likely, it's because they're a functional thing that people use every day. When people use something every day, they keep it around for a long time. This longevity makes mugs and glasses ideal promotional gifts.
There is one thing that all of these types of promo merchandise have in common, and that is that they are frequently used products that have a practical function in most people's lives. Putting your logo or brand on any product that people need and use every day is the best way to spread the word about your brand.