Water Bottles

Mythbusters: Tchotchkes and the Promotional Product Industry


What The Heck is a Tchotchke, Anyway?

We’ve been tracking a friendly debate between two camps at Forbes.com over the current welfare of tchotchkes as an advertising tool. Each camp makes interesting arguments from opposing sides, but we’d like to add a different point of view to the discussion. Don’t worry—we’ll keep it friendly.

What the heck is a tchotchke, anyway?

Let’s begin by casting a light on two descriptions of the funny little word in question; one is an objective definition and the other a crowd-sourced contribution:

  • Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “a small object that is decorative rather than strictly functional”
  • Wikipedia says it “has a connotation of worthlessness or disposability as well as tackiness”

“Tchotchke” may not always carry the same meaning as it once did, but let’s see how a couple of contemporaries use the word.

The “debate,” abridged

  • Camp One: The author of the blog post that started the debate proclaims that the tchotchke, which he calls “gimmicky… cheap bling,” is dead—obsolete in our modern digital age. He also states, however, that so-called Branded Experiences, or “promotional items that are more thoughtful, expensive, and demonstrative of the brand,” have replaced the centuries-old marketing widget.
  • Camp Two: The responder says the tchotchke is “arguably the best-loved advertising media in the world,” and effectively showcases brands better than ever. He points to studies that illustrate the effectiveness of the medium (91% of consumers surveyed have tchotchkes in their kitchen). He even calls out his Camp One rival for selling branded merchandise that look a lot like—you guessed it—tchotchkes.

Interestingly, each person openly uses the term “promotional products” when describing modern marketing practices. Perhaps they each draw moderately different lines where they categorize one branded item from another, but the divide between the two arguments, we think, is much smaller than the two camps realize.

Not all tchotchkes are created equal

We agree that the ‘t-word’ has earned an unfavorable reputation in the marketing industry, but mostly in terms of its perceived value as a marketing tool. Any cheap (or otherwise) promotional item without a useful purpose or meaning to its recipient, one that quickly ends up in the trash, is worthless to marketers. This may well include “cheap bling.”

So, what items comprise the “best-loved advertising media?” We think of promotional products that are well made, serve a useful function, resonate with consumers, and deliver a Branded Experience. This includes anything from distributing whistles on customized key chains to self-defense students, to giving away futuristic automotive designs to car enthusiasts.

In this day and age, perhaps “promotional products” is the term that best suits our industry. Nevertheless, we can all agree that the purpose of a modern-day promotional item, no matter what we call it, is to provide an experience your brand wants its customer to have.

So, the next time you present a brand-imprinted custom bottle opener to a consumer who says, “Now this is a tchotchke I can use,” you may reply, “Well then, by definition, it’s no longer a tchotchke.”

Related Categories

Promotional Products


We value your opinion. Let us know how we can improve our site and help us build a better InkHead.com.
Subscribe to our newsletter and receive 10% off your next order.    
InkHead Promotional Products
We make quality custom promotional products designed by you.
138 Park Ave STE 300
Winder, GA 30680 United States
P: (800) 554-0127 | F: (800) 734-2179
©2003-2014 InkHead, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Merchant Logos BBB Reliability Report for InkHead, Inc.