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The Top 5 critical promotional mistakes companies make

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Like any marketing tools, promotional products need to be used effectively to have an impact. For the most part, promotional giveaways, trade show swag and custom office gear speak for themselves.

But there are still some common pitfalls that even the most marketing-savvy company can accidentally fall into. Consider these top five mistakes that plenty of companies make with promotional products – then find out how to avoid them.

1. Nobody proofed the slogan

You know how to spell and use a comma correctly, but even grammar teachers slip up sometimes. In the heat of creativity, no one’s thinking about whether the possessive apostrophe belongs before or after the “s” – which is why it’s essential that someone proof every bit of text produced before your product goes to print.

This is too easily neglected, and for plenty of companies its led to a brand new order and wasted money or, worse, an embarrassing situation. Even if your slogan is five words long, make sure multiple sets of eyes look it over for errors.

2. The demographic is off

This is a surprisingly common error, and not always the company’s fault. Sometimes demographics can’t be gauged accurately – but 90 percent of the time, you should know going in what your audience is. Tablet padfolios probably aren’t the ideal giveaway for every occasion, specifically not a music festival, for example. But if you’re hosting a corporate dinner or luncheon, promotional tablet accessories could be a great giveaway.

Furthermore, your promotional product choices should always reflect your base consumer demographic. For instance, if your products cater toward kids and you’re handing out giveaways at a football game, custom tailgating gear is probably not the best option. Instead, look to promotional sports balls, ball caps or other things that kids would get a kick out of.

3. Humor’s too broad

The temptation to mix humor and promotional gear is definitely one you should entertain. After all, if marketing history has shown us anything, it’s that funny sells.

But you also need to be careful with marketing and humor, especially when your audience is large. There’s always two ways your joke misses the mark: Either it’s too obscure and the audience doesn’t get it or, worse, it offends.

But here’s the advantage of promo giveaways. You can zero in on such a niche population – a single corner of your own consumer demographic – and really appeal to that group’s sense of humor.

Say you’re a software company attending a video game trade show. You don’t need to worry about the majority of your consumer base, since this is an event focused solely on video gamers and developers, a pretty insular industry. As a result, you can come up with some clever in-jokes and referential humor when designing a promotional giveaway for the event. Promotional flash drives might be a good product for this crowd.

Curious about some wild, weird and fairly funny swag examples? The Onion’s slightly more serious sister site, A.V. Club, has a roundup of 2012’s most interesting promotional goodies – mostly in the entertainment industry. You don’t necessarily have to emulate these – some fail spectacularly – but you should get an idea for what works and what doesn’t.

General rule of thumb: When the humor is in line with your company image, you’re on the right track.

4. The campaign was designed backwards

This is an all-too-common issue, as Gonzo Marketing pointed out. Sometimes companies stumble across an item they really want to use, and begin designing their marketing campaign to match. Even worse, a company has already purchased too many of a promotional product and builds a campaign around it.

This works every so often, but quite rarely. Ideally, promotions should be carefully purchased to aid a pre-designed marketing plan. Of course, there are some items that are great to have on hand at all times: Tote bags, T-shirts and coffee mugs are great giveaways any time of year, and keeping some stocked in your offices is a good idea. Especially as handouts to new hires and interns.

But if you’ve got an excess number of promotional golf tees, just hold on to them for the time being. When a marketing strategy involving sports or golf comes up organically, that’s the time to pull them out of storage.

5. Misjudging quality

Gonzo Marketing also had another excellent example of a mistake companies make: jumping over dollars to pick up pennies.

As the news source put it, sometimes cheaper options are actually going to cost you more in the long run. While no one will argue that plastic keychains or dime-a-dozen sunglasses have their purpose and place, placing higher quality standards on specific promotional investments pays off in the long run.

Often, this is a matter of knowing your demographic. But keep in mind that the extra investment in trusted brand name custom polo or T-shirts could pay off in style and quality.

Only fools rush in when it comes to marketing. Whether you’re considering some quality tailgating accessories or leaning more toward custom tote bags and sunglasses, take a moment to consider your demographic, gauge your message and – of course – proofread your slogan. Don’t let common promotional mistakes trip you up. InkHead can help.

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