Add Your Heading Text Here

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

When To Use Promotional Products

Promotional products are items that companies distribute to increase brand awareness. In this piece, we’ll explain when to use promotional products.

Digital marketing has taken the 21st century by storm, with social media and search platforms like Facebook and Google becoming the most common spots for brand promotion. People spend a lot of time online, so companies follow suit. While this makes logical sense, marketers are likely to find it hard to stand out because of oversaturation.


If you want people to notice your brand, sometimes it’s best to get back to the basics. Promotional products have been around for centuries, and they’re still an effective marketing tool.


Not only do they display your brand, but they help people remember you in a positive light with each use. These individual, high-quality touchstones should be considered a vital part of any integrated marketing or communications campaign, no matter the occasion. 


In this piece, we’ll explain when to use popular promotional products and give you a free calendar of ideas to get you started.


What Are Promotional Products?

Promotional items are physical forms of advertising that companies distribute to employees, customers, clients, and prospects to increase brand awareness and brand standing. These products often display the company’s logo and can deliver messages or celebrate events. Promotional products can also be referred to as:


  • Promo products
  • Promo
  • Swag
  • Advertising specialties
  • Merch
  • Branded merchandise
  • Promotional materials
  • Promotional items
  • Promotional gifts
  • Branded items

Many companies give away promotional products during events, such as trade shows, to gain clients or customers, or internally to employees as incentives or gifts. Promotional products leave a lasting impression on anyone who receives them, which makes them a useful, cost-effective part of any marketing plan.

Types Of Promotional Items

The promotional products you choose should depend on your company and the audience you serve. Research shows that these are some of the most popular promo items:


  • Bags and totes
  • Apparel and clothing accessories (including polo shirts, sweatshirts, uniforms, aprons, etc.)
  • Drinkware (such as stainless steel tumblers, coffee mugs, sport bottles)
  • Writing instruments (pens, pencils or markers)
  • Magnets
  • Office supplies (think chargers, power banks, flash drives and more tech accessories)
  • Calendars and planners
  • Food and beverages
  • Desk accessories (from mouse pads to stress relievers, sticky notes and post-its)
  • Event and trade show accessories (such as notepads, table covers, badge holders, lanyards, business cards and more)
  • Awards and trophies
  • Everyday items (keychains, straws, umbrellas, lip balm, etc.)

You can choose promotional items that relate to your business or opt for a variety of products you think your audience will be most interested in. For example, if you work for a sports company and sell sports equipment for all ages, you might choose branded performance wear for adults and children. A pool service company might offer inflatable pool toys as a thank-you to loyal customers or to entice new ones. Healthcare companies could consider hand sanitizer or stickers that advertise urgent care locations or what to do in case of certain medical emergencies.

Promotional Product Ideas

Everyone loves to receive a gift, but strategy still matters. You may wonder when to offer promotional products if you’ve never used them before. Consider deploying promotional products in the following ways:


  • Corporate Culture: Promotional products are a great way to improve retention and get employees excited about working for you. While employees may not purchase from you, they can serve as excellent brand ambassadors. If they use the merch you give them, others in their circle will see it and learn about your brand.


  • Incentive Programs: If you have a customer loyalty program in place for customers and potential customers, you can offer promotional products as gifts. For example, when a customer makes a purchase or refers a friend, send them a branded item. (You’ll even find that brand evangelists will pay for promotional merchandise – consider offering it at checkout when they’re buying something else from you.)


  • Brand or Product Awareness: Consider using promo products to bring awareness to your brand. The goal of promotional products is to offer customers something they’ll use that displays your brand name. When they use the product, they’ll remember where they got it and associate the positive experience with your company. Consider it as good as a referral: By offering something they weren’t expecting, they’ll remember your brand when they need just what you offer.


  • Event Promotion: Special events are a great opportunity to distribute promotional products. Events are a perfect excuse to celebrate, and they also serve as a vehicle to get your name out there. They’ll associate your brand with a positive experience, which can even highlight your values or tell the story of what makes your brand unique.


Treat promo like any other marketing strategy: Consider your target audience and their needs. What’s unique about promo products is that you can use them with multiple audiences, so don’t forget to think about how you can use them with customers as well as employees.

Promotional Product Event Calendar

Events and holidays are one approach to using promotional products for all your audiences at once. Whether you’re distributing merch to your employees, loyal customers, or prospects, plan for events throughout the year and create branded items that serve a dual purpose. Not only will the item show your logo, but it will bring awareness to a cause central to your values or associate your brand with a feeling people want to carry with them.


This promotional product event calendar is just a starting point for the array of ideas to consider:



  • New Year’s Day (1/1)
  • National Chocolate Cake Day (1/27)
  • National Blood Donor Month
  • Cervical Cancer Awareness Month
  • National Eye Care Month



  • Employee Appreciation Day (3/3)
  • Patrick’s Day (3/17)
  • American Red Cross Month
  • National Women’s History Month
  • National Nutrition Month


  • Easter
  • 4/20 (4/20)
  • Earth Day (4/22)
  • National Oral Health Month
  • Alcohol Awareness Month
  • Stress Awareness Month
  • National Autism Awareness Month





  • Ice Cream Sandwich Day (8/2)
  • International Beer Day (8/5)
  • Tell a Joke Day (8/16)
  • National Dog Day (8/26)
  • National Immunization Awareness Month
  • Beach Month
  • Back to School




  • Veterans Day (11/11)
  • Thanksgiving (4th Thursday)
  • Youth Appreciation Week
  • Lung Cancer Awareness Month
  • American Diabetes Month
  • Epilepsy Awareness Month
  • National Alzheimer’s Disease Month


Best Practices When Using Promotional Items

There are thousands of useful items available to spread your advertising message, but it’s important to make a strategic choice. To determine what items your audience will use and enjoy most, take a deep dive into the buyer’s journey. Smart marketers will select products and occasions that align with their brand, tell a story about the business that is worth remembering, or focus on high retention products that will get long-term use and score countless impressions.


Some factors to consider when choosing promotional products include:


  • Seek to increase exposure: While you should prioritize what your audience will enjoy when choosing promo products, also think of what products will increase your exposure. For example, what products will your audience take out of the house and use most often? Portable items such as travel mugs, backpacks or coolers are as good as a billboard for getting eyes on your brand. The products user may interact with it over and over again each day, reinforcing the brand connection.


  • Make it personal: Making the item personal to your audience and their needs can go a long way. For example, if you’re giving promo gifts to new employees, consider distributing items they can use in their jobs. These may include a branded water bottles or other drinkware, T-shirts, and tote bags. When you’re selective, employees will know that you thought of their needs.


  • Change it up: Varying your promo giveaways is crucial. While you may keep full-color corporate gifts like branded water bottles and T-shirts handy for marketing campaigns, it’s exciting for employees and customers alike to get new things. Order unique items in smaller batches to incentivize people to come to your events.


  • Don’t limit products to prospects: Don’t forget to include all your audiences in your promotional item pool. While prospects are important for new customers, retaining business is also essential, as is employee appreciation for the talented people in your organization (and recruiting more star teammates just like them).


When searching for the right promotional merchandise, even veteran marketers need additional guidance to make an informed choice, and there’s a whole industry devoted to supporting you. Promotional product distributors work with suppliers to create and deliver products they know your audience will love, keep, use and show off to the people around them.


Get Ideas At The Promotional Products Work Expo

Building a relationship with a promotional products distributor is a key strategy for success. These industry pros can help you navigate the array of new products and trending choices, as well as provide marketing insights and advice.


If you already have a distributor partner, you can contact them for an invitation to the Promotional Products Work Expo (PPW Expo), hosted by the promotional products industry’s non-profit trade organization, Promotional Products Association International (PPAI). This event features hundreds of products and includes educational sessions where you can learn more about current trends, exceptional campaigns and unique products while answering FAQs on best practices.


Attending the PPW Expo can help you learn more about the industry, collaborate on creative ideas, and analyze product choices for upcoming campaigns. This is a unique opportunity for businesses and distributors to join forces and learn from one another. When you work with a an expert distributor – especially one who has earned a promotional products industry certification from PPAI – they can help you develop successful marketing strategies and choose the right promo products to surprise and delight your customers while growing the reputation of your brand.