A Complete Guide to Promotional Marketing in the Digital Age

In today’s digital age, it is all too easy to believe that traditional offline methods of communication are on the way out. This isn’t surprising given the focus on huge potential reach of websites, social media, apps, email and other online marketing channels.

However, the fact is that traditional marketing – and particularly promotional marketing – still has an extremely important role to play in today’s digital landscape. If you want to gain, retain and build your brand and customer base then the right promotional marketing strategy can help get you there far quicker than a digital only approach.

Let’s look at this in a bit more detail.

The Value of Promotional Marketing

Nothing replaces the value of brand experiences in the real world, although online marketing represents a valuable and indeed essential channel. However, it is direct promotional marketing that has the real influence over buyer behaviour. It provides that lasting impression and addresses the touchpoints that potential buyers want to experience, thanks to its tangibility.

Compare the experience of trying out a product and holding it, to seeing a fleeting Instagram photo and the rationale becomes intuitive. The impression of physicality is more immediate, powerful, persuasive and long-lasting than a digital image. In fact, research suggests that over 80 percent of consumers will hold on to a promotional item for over a year, so your efforts and investment can really see a return. 89% of recipients say that they can still remember the company’s name for two years after receiving their promo.

Alongside this brand exposure comes the benefit of conversions, especially in B2B markets. In these industries in particular, the final decision to buy will usually come after a series of experiences – such as meetings and events which have occurred in the real world.

The Importance of Quality and Utility

There are two vital attributes of promotional marketing – perceived utility and quality – when it comes to creating positive and durable brand experiences over time. One good case study comes from BIC Graphic, who have discovered that a smooth flowing ink in their pens has a measurable increase in positive customer perceptions. In fact, the biggest driver of brand perception in the pen market is ink quality.

Considering Channels

Let’s take a look now at some of the most prominent channels in promotional marketing and how these can help you reach specific audiences and customers.

Promotional items

To be successful, a promotional giveaway item needs to satisfy the criteria above – perceived use and appropriate quality. Think about things that people really use, from pens and mugs through to USB sticks and tote bags. Brand them professionally, choose quality materials and don’t skimp for a cheaper finish. If you are selling a luxury product, then invest in luxury promos that reinforce that sense of high-end worth. To distribute your promos, you can use a direct mail campaign (with a great opportunity to send out branded presentations, marketing materials and personalized letters) or give them out at an event; either your own or at a trade fair. Another idea involves investing in good quality merchandise that can then be sold for profit. For example, this company specializes in custom embroidery for breweries, that can then be sold to customers who liked the beer. Not only does this give them a high-quality product that you are making a further profit on, but it also promotes your brand through word of mouth discussions about the product.

Product launches

A large proportion of promotional marketing activity comes through corporate and consumer events; primarily product launches. Done well, these launches create excitement, buzz, engagement and conversions through rich first-hand experiences that are delivered through a multitude of sensory experiences. They also help to create an air of exclusivity around your product, feeding perfectly into digital channels as a result. Think live streaming, Twitter hashtags, social media competitions for one lucky person to get their hands on your product before anyone else, etc.

Hybrid channels

It’s important to recognise, however, that promotional and digital marketing activities needn’t be viewed as separate entities. In fact, as I’ve alluded to above, digital and offline channels can neatly intersect to maximise the benefits. For example, at a physical product launch event, the face-to-face experience can be enhanced and extended to non-attendees via social media activity such as videos and twitter feeds from the event itself. This helps to share the excitement of the real event’s physicality and the experience with those potential customers who cannot attend in person; extending the brand experience and creating that all-important buzz.

In Conclusion

Yes, mass brand awareness and engagement can be delivered efficiently online, especially in dispersed B2C markets with digitally-savvy target audiences who want to buy with low and immediate online involvement. However, for higher margin, luxury, service and B2B markets, it is still more powerful to deliver brand experiences in the real world.

Evidence suggests that promotional marketing channels still drive better ROI than alternative advertising forms and that it remains the primary driver of key customer touchpoints which last and which lead to sales and loyalty. So don’t just think digital because everyone else is. Get out there and promote your brand and your products in the real world too.

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.

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