Promotional products are intended to carry a brand message to a wide audience through word of mouth. By providing an everyday, practical use, they function as a possible conversation piece that can increase people’s awareness of a particular business. |
Promotional products are everyday objects that feature a brand or logo and the contact information of some business or organization. They are typically given away for free, with the intent of spreading a brand message by word of mouth and increasing people’s awareness of a particular business. Promotional products are often used in guerrilla marketing campaigns.
Guerrilla marketing is a sub-branch of marketing that attempts to capture people’s attention and spread positive information about a brand or business through word of mouth. The concept was first described in 1984 by Jay Conrad Levinson. It has since spread, much like the concept it describes, in a viral fashion. Promotional products come into play as objects that deliver a message. It is important that the objects have some practical value as well as the sign content of a logo or brand image. It is the combination of image and a practical, everyday object that allows the message to spread.
That spread is known as “buzz,” which can be considered a metaphor for the communication inside of a swarm of bees. The key is horizontal or “grass roots” distribution of the brand message. Forming an emotional bond with the message is usually a goal of brand marketing. Guerrilla marketing may involve presenting promotional products to people in an unusual place or situation. Images, commodities, and the creation of situations comes together in a way that builds a social relationship between objects and an product-oriented relationship among people.
Products for the purpose of promotion were originally intended to be used by small businesses and entrepreneurs; however, as guerrilla marketing grew in popularity, fulfilling the strategy it ultimately describes, it has come to be used by businesses of all sizes. Corporate marketing strategy, which has made some brand images recognizable the world over, has latched on to the concept of creating localized grass roots buzz about their brands.
The internet has played a role in this spread, which is congruent with the idea that guerrilla marketing should take advantage of the current technological innovations, especially those in the communication industries. We are now at a time in which viral marketing and product placement are the norm online, and it has become difficult to tell the difference between word of mouth that actually originates from the ground up, and those that are planned, corporate marketing campaigns.
Promotional products were originally centered around the Christmas season, but as urban centers grew more multicultural and multi-religious in the twentieth century, corporate brands had to appeal to a wider audience. At the same time, a product-based culture is bound to continually cross boundaries of time, always maximizing the amount of available attention time of the consumer population.
These trends, combined with the ever-increasing range of commodities in production, has resulted in an explosion of promotional products in the everyday life of twenty-first century civilization. Now, people can go online to their favorite social networking site and proclaim their identification with an ever-growing array of brands and products.
Branded objects have a wide variety of uses centered around spreading a specific piece of information combined with a sense of identification with the brand on the part of the consumer. They can be used in political campaigns or to sell the basic commodities that occupy our time, both as objects of use, and as the objects of our attention and conversations.
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