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How to Use Advertising Specialties and Premiums in Direct Marketing

Incentives work. They work to get results to your direct mail, your space ad, your exhibit stand at a trade show, off a television commercial - in the hands of your sales reps.

Because human beings are "people", advertising specialties and premiums get our attention. They are "things" we see, touch, taste, smell, hear. They are colorful or interesting or attractive or fascinating. Someone else has this "thing" - we want one too.

Specialties and premiums should be considered as you build your direct marketing program. They can work for you. Let's talk about what these tools are - and how to use them.

Every day we are bombarded with dozens, scores, literally hundreds of advertising, marketing, sales promotion, merchandising and sales messages. Something like 560 a day. We may see 80, remember 12, and have strong opinions about only 3.

Although this was not the case in 1845 when the earliest recorded use of an advertising specialty occurred, the reason then was the same as now: offering recognition and being remembered.

An insurance agent in upstate New York asked a number of his business friends to display his announcement in their offices. They all refused. WII-FM went into play: What's In It For Me.

So this ingenious gentleman purchased a handful of blank calendar pads, attached his business message and presented them as gifts to those same friends. They promptly placed them on their wall, thus pleasing everyone. There was something in it for me. I had gained a useful item. This simple start was the beginning of advertising specialties as a business and marketing tool.

Let's define the terms. What IS an "advertising specialty"? What IS a "premium?

Advertising specialties have these characteristics:

They are useful ideas for the office or home, car or boat, for traveling, for fun and games - and they are usually of nominal value,
They bring with them some message - usually very specific as part of a total marketing program,
They include the name and logo of the distributing company or association,
They are rarely personalized to the receiver,
They are offered with absolutely no strings attached - you get them because you are who you are or where you are - you don't have to do a thing, just be present.

You use a specialty prior to getting a piece of business ... or in conjunction with contact with your prospect or customer. For example, I've given away non-personalized post-it note pads or pens at many of my seminars. Each a simple tool the receivers can use. All with absolutely no strings. They attend the seminar - they receive the small "gift". Period.

Advertising specialties are used to open a door, to increase interest or awareness or your company, its' products and services. Maybe when you launch something new, move into new territory - introduce a new person - you give away a specialty to get attention.

Premiums are a little different:

They are useful, usually of higher quality and value than specialties,
Sometimes they come with a message and as part of a total marketing program - not necessarily as a part of the premium itself. Instead they are offered by virtue of close association with the product or service being promoted,
Frequently, not always, these items are personalized by name, company or some other way to the receiver,
They most definitely come with strings attached - strings that say: "when you take this hardware demonstration we'll give you this software package", or "buy this product by this date and we'll give you this bonus gift absolutely FREE".

Most often you use a premium following contact, or a sale, a presentation, a meeting. The premium is used to cement the relationship you started, to build on your position. You offer the premium to look good in the eyes of your customer and to encourage repeat business.

My use of premiums is as a small gift I give sponsors of my seminars. There are always 2 or 3 people who are key to the success of each presentation. Those that coordinate everything, reach out with extra service - do something to make my visit pleasant, the experience enjoyable.

To these people I present a "small piece of Arizona" - a gift from where I live. This has varied over the years. A truly unique design paper weight or tile, useful on their desk or in their office, has been well received by my hosts.

What makes both advertising specialties and premiums different from other forms of advertising and marketing is they are useful. You can do something with them, and usually gain a benefit by doing so. They are not only a message - they are an item with a message.

Specialty advertising and premiums offer 4 key strengths:

They target a very specific marketplace, the audience you want to talk to, and no one else,
They are of lasting value, because they are useful,
They can serve a motivational tool, as well as reminder, and "thank-you", and
They communicate the specific message you wish to communicate.

Because they offer long life (they hang around a while), and because they get multiple exposures (hanging around gets them seen and used), they rightly fit one of the key ingredients of a successful marketing and advertising campaign; they reach the right audience with a message, and they do it over and over again and again.

Advertising specialties and premiums offer more than dimensions. Length, height and width are a part of each item - you can hold it in your hand or set it on a table or hang it on the wall - it is physical.

These length, height and width factors also give a very direct and personal touch ... that extra dimension ... FEELING. Which translates to "emotion". An extremely important and active part of just about every sales activity. Feeling is rarely available in any other marketing or advertising tool. It is with specialties and premiums.

There are just 5 specialty/premium product categories. Every one of the more than 25,000 items that have been used as a specialty or premium falls into one of these 5 categories:

Calendars - wall or desk, watch, wallet or purse, large, small, pop-up, by the month, quarter year or longer, multi-page with beautiful pictures or art, or on a single page with a simple message, printed on paper, plastic, cloth, wood, film and just about everything in between. Businesses use calendars in countless ways ... the average home has 4.

Writing Tools - pencils and pens of all types, shapes, sizes, styles, colors and descriptions, singles and in sets, by the dozen or gross, available in a wide variety of quality and value, from a few pennies to hundreds of dollars or pounds. There isn't a business or person alive, at home or in the office, that cannot make use of another pen or pencil.

Business Gifts & Awards - usually upscale ideas worth a little more, things of "keep" value. Includes functional desk sets and award/wall plaques. It may or may not carry the advertisers name/logo, design or sales message. Used as a reward, for good will, as a "thank-you, as a gift. Available as a serious business tool, and as recognition for volunteers.

Wearables - clothing covers everything from head to toe. Hats and caps to shoes and socks ... and literally everything in between. T-shirts and dress shirts, neckties and scarves, boxer shorts and dress shorts, sports coats and team jackets, belts and buckles, sweaters, sweat suits and sweat bands ... plus dozens more. Used by businesses for team building - used by teams to build rapport.

Catch All - All other ideas - a wide variety of products - fall into this "catch-all" category. Such as beer and coffee mugs, rulers and tape measures, luggage, brief cases and baggage tags, key-chains, notebooks, watches, calculators, radios, televisions, telephones, sports equipment of every dimension, beach and swimming pool toys - literally thousands of ideas. All used to meet the objectives of recognition for the individual - and of being remembered.

Advertising specialties and premiums, to be successful, must be IDEA oriented. Versus "thing".

Yes, you may use the item, the "thing", to get the idea. And to get your message across to your audience. To make that favorable impression. To get attention. To say "thank-you". To create a good image. To increase your awareness. To position your product/service in the eye of your marketplace. To be remembered. To help you achieve an objective.

Specialties and premiums can be passive ... or active. Sometimes they may be both - such as a pen and pencil desk set. You can "look" at it - you can also "use" it.

They build an impression of you, your company, your product and service. They have high retention value, and thus high recall value. They help you be remembered when you're not around. And most often at a reasonable cost per contact.

You may find them useful to generate a lead - and then close that lead into a sale. An advertising specialty may be offered as an incentive to gain a response. Allowing your sales rep to make a presentation. A premium may be used as a closer.

And to create "people" traffic at your store, shop, restaurant or exhibit both at a trade show.

Or to gather more donations for a cause - "when you give "X" you'll earn a FREE "Y" thank-you gift".

Plus, as a bonus "extra" when you make a mail-order purchase from a catalog, off a television commercial or web site promotion.

Advertising specialties and premiums - the medium that "remains to be seen". Think how you can use this marketing concept in your next DM campaign.

About Ray Jutkins, October 3rd, 1936 — January 6th, 2005. Ray was one of the NMOA’s most generous contributors. Over the years Ray supplied the NMOA with hundreds of tips and articles for members. This is just one of many. Ray worked with B-2-B and Consumer clients throughout the world ... including USA, Canada, Mexico, Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, the Middle-East, Central & South America, Africa. Keep an eye out for more of Ray’s marketing tips and how-to articles in the pages of Direct Marketing Digest and the article archive on the NMOA website.


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