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Branding for Local Businesses: How to Stand Out from the Competition

If you’re looking for strategies to grow your brand, promotional materials are one of the best methods for local businesses. Offering promotional materials to your customers builds trust and a positive image while simultaneously marketing your business to other potential customers. 

Unfortunately, it’s very easy to waste time and money on an unsuccessful promotional material campaign. So in this post, you’ll learn the importance of brand strategy and how you can grow your brand exponentially by using promotional products.  

grow your small-business with promotional materials

Why Is It Important To Grow Your Brand?

If you don’t invest time and money in growing your brand, your business will stall. Branding is the face of your business and how potential customers perceive you. A solid brand strategy will help you scale your business and massively increase your loyal customer base. 

Good branding also increases the value of your company, gives employees direction and a singular voice to speak with, and makes growing your fanbase much easier. 

Importance of branding

When you think of your favorite brands, visual imagery like their logo, brand colors, or even tagline come to mind. Without a solid brand, it’s difficult for customers to recognize you and remember you when it comes time to buy. 

This is why branding is so important. It’s how you establish your brand as an expert in your niche and encourages loyalty. 

It also means your company becomes a more appealing investment opportunity. Many start-ups like Uber and Bird secured investment through their crystal clear brand message that helped them stand out from the competition. 

How to communicate your brand message

grow your brand with promotional products

Your brand is communicated to customers in two different ways: visually and personally. 

Your visual branding includes your logo, colors, fonts, and message. This will be visible to customers on your website, marketing campaigns, emails, signage, and any other visual touchpoints. 

On the other hand, your personal branding is the way your staff interact with customers. It’s how people represent your brand and includes your brand voice, vocabulary, and customer service. 

If your visual branding is solid but your personal branding is sub-par, customers will form a negative impression of your business and loyalty will be difficult to maintain. 

If you’re struggling to create a consistent brand, both visually and personally, you might be lacking a solid brand strategy. 

Creating an effective branding strategy

Your brand strategy consists of four key elements that will help you give a consistent, high-quality image that customers come to recognize:

  • Purpose: Why do you exist?
  • Vision: Where will your business be in 5, 10, 15 years?
  • Mission: Who are you helping?
  • Values: What principles do you stand for? 

You need to be able to confidently answer these questions and ensure all staff can too. Having these elements pinned down will help your brand solidify and your brand message will trickle down consistently into all forms of communication with your customers.

Brand voice

people creating a branding strategy

Now you have the four elements of your brand strategy, you can use these to develop a consistent brand voice. This is unique to each brand and will be influenced significantly by your niche, customer base, and personality. 

A surf shop won’t speak to customers the same way a marketing firm will. Likewise, a car dealership aimed at first-time drivers will have a different brand voice than one aimed at high-earners. 

Visual Identity

When you think of a brand, you probably immediately think of their visual identity. This includes the logo, fonts, color story, and imagery. 

Many businesses skip the previous steps and dive straight into creating a visual brand. But without the foundations of your brand strategy in place, it will be difficult to create a meaningful visual identity. 

Brand Guidelines

Altogether, these elements of your brand will create the foundation of your business. They will ensure all marketing materials and communications you create are consistent and speaking to your ideal audience. 

Ensure there is enough detail in your branding guidelines so that anyone who works for your business can clearly understand your brand identity and work within your parameters to maintain a consistent brand voice. 

Now you have a solid brand strategy, it’s time to put it all into practice and create some outstanding promotional materials. 

Promotional Materials

girl reading a brochure

Promotional materials are some of the most effective marketing tools you can use. When used effectively, they are walking billboards for your business and help grow your brand exponentially. 

In this section, we’ll look at how to use promotional materials effectively and how to create an effective strategy for them. 

What are promotional materials?

Promotional materials are any products that have your branding on them. You’ve probably got promotional materials in your home – whether it’s a simple pen with a business name on it or something more meaningful like a customized tote bag from a convention you attended. 

Size of the promotional materials industry

The promotional materials market is huge. According to Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), it’s currently valued at over $23.3 billion. And IBIS World suggests it’s growing each year (although has slowed down due to the recent distribution issues of covid-19).  

In the US alone, 35,000 businesses offer promotional materials to customers, creating over 500,000 job opportunities each year. 

How can they help?

There is a reason why thousands of businesses offer promotional materials – they work. Promotional materials offer a high ROI (return on investment), making them a solid advertising tool. 

assortment of promotional materials

By simply printing your logo and brand message on a product, you can circulate your brand to a wider audience. For example, if you gift a promotional tote bag to a customer, they are going to carry your brand around with them for many more people to see. 

This is a simple but effective way of reinforcing your brand as a known, liked, and trusted entity.

7 Facts about Promotional Materials

  1. The very first promotional product was used way back in 1789 when George Washington handed out buttons during his presidential campaign. 
  2. Over 83% of consumers can recall the business of a promotional item, yet only 7% can recall a business from a TV advert. 
  3. Almost 60% of consumers will keep a promotional product for 1 to 4 years, the longest shelf life of any marketing material. 
  4. 73% of consumers use promotional bags they were given at least once per week. 
  5. Around 60% of calendars used at home are promotional products, meaning the brand is seen all year round. 
  6. A staggering 7 out of 10 consumers find online ads irritating, whereas 8 out of 10 enjoy receiving promotional products. 
  7. 20% of consumers say they will purchase from a brand after receiving a promotional product, showing a high ROI. 

How to stand out from the big box stores

Big stores advertisements

Although big box stores do extremely well in the promotional materials game, it’s easy to stand out from them with some creativity. 

Here are some examples of successful promotional material campaigns to give you some ideas. 

Tony Hawk’s Annual Twitter Hunt

Each year Tony Hawk hosts a scavenger hunt on his Twitter using the hashtag #THTH14 (the number changing depending on the year). 

80 boxes filled with branded swag are scattered across major cities around the globe and he gives clues on his Twitter to help people find them. 

This is a hugely successful campaign which trends each year. Once found, winners proudly post pictures of their winnings which is covered in Tony Hawk branding. 

Although you may not have the capital to host a world-wide scavenger hunt, even one in your local city will be enough to create a buzz. 

Starbucks Holiday Cups

Starbucks’ Christmas cups are wildly popular every year. This campaign began back in 1997 and each year the design changes. 

They have become somewhat of a collector’s item and each year, thousands of people walk around doing their Christmas shopping advertising the coffee chain with their coffee cups in hand. 

IAMS Dog Food Frisbee

This promotional product campaign was ingenious from IAMS. They created frisbees that looked like barbell weights and launched a campaign called “Strong Dogs – IAMS Dog Foods”. 

All pet owners rushed to get the adorable frisbees that made their dogs look like weightlifters and it unconsciously cemented their brand message that IAMS food makes dogs strong. 

They distributed the branded frisbees for free around dog parks and they soon started trending on social media. 

Colgate’s Don’t Forget Lollipop

Edible promotional products are some of the most successful – because who doesn’t love free food? 

But this campaign from Colgate was especially creative. They gave out free lollipops which when eaten, revealed the stick which was shaped like a toothbrush with the Colgate branding and the words “Don’t forget!”

This was a simple reminder for consumers to brush their teeth and gave the impression that Colgate was a fun brand. 

They gave the lollipops out during Oral Health Month which simultaneously caused a stir and then got the brand trending online. 

How To Properly Use Promotional Products

Tote bag promotional product

Many businesses make the mistake of bulk-buying promotional pens and handing them out to customers or at trade shows. 

However, this is a waste of time and won’t effectively drive customers to your business. 

To use promotional products properly, you need a strategy behind it and a creative idea that will spark interest. 

Here are some tips to ensure your promotional products are effective:

Avoid These Mistakes

1. Forgetting your target audience

Before rushing out to buy any promotional products, start by thinking about your target audience. Who do you want to attract?

If your audience is business owners, a frisbee is probably a bad idea. Likewise, if your target audience is teenagers, pens or mouse-pads probably aren’t going to hit the mark. 

Whichever promotional products you choose should be designed around your target audience’s likes and needs to make a connection. 

2. A confusing message

Promotional products don’t have a lot of space for complicated messages, so it’s important to have a simple, clear marketing message that will be easily understood. 

Perhaps you just want your company logo and brand colors? If you do go for a message, keep it short and sweet. Colgate’s examples of “don’t forget!” worked so well because it was a simple message reminding customers to brush their teeth. 

3. Playing it safe

Many businesses play it safe and opt for branded pens or notepads. If these products fit into your wider marketing strategy, that’s great. But don’t go for the simplest products in a bid to stay sage. 

A safe promotional material campaign never gleaned amazing results. You should choose products your customers are going to love, even if that means investing a little more money in something out of the box. 

4. Forgetting to do the math

How big is your marketing campaign going to be? The easiest way to lose money is to over-order promotional materials, only to be left with thousands after the campaign has ended. 

On the other hand, you don’t want to go to a convention and run out of materials. This is an easy way to leave a bad impression with potential customers. 

Before ordering, make sure you figure out how many promotional items you’ll need. 

Design Tips

Once you’ve chosen your products, you’ll need an eye-catching design that makes consumers want to use the products again and again. Here are some tips to make that happen:

1. Competitor analysis

Start by doing a competitor analysis. What are competitors offering? What designs have they used and are their campaigns working?

You should never copy designs from another business, but this can be a good source of inspiration. 

Also, this may give you ideas of how to improve and create promotional products that are better than competitors. 

2. Get customer feedback

When you have some designs prepared, head to your social channels and get customer feedback. A simple poll on Instagram or Facebook will give your customers a chance to tell you if they like the products or not. 

Do they like the design? Would they use the product? Which products would they genuinely like to have?

All this will give you honest feedback you can then use to improve your campaign. 

Once you have the feedback, go back and make necessary changes. Perhaps this means some small tweaks to the design or going back to the drawing board and starting again. Whatever the case, it will be worth it when you finally end up with a trending campaign. 

3. Give them to employees first

A great way to see if promotional products will be used is to give them to your employees as a test run. Are they using the products or are they being ignored on desks? Do they like the designs or are they unwilling to carry them in public?

It can be hard getting honest negative feedback from employees but encourage honesty. This is another great way to ensure your promotional products are the best they can be. It also helps to breed a positive environment where employee feedback is trusted and welcomed. 

How To Create Brand-growing Promotional Materials

mugs as promotional materials

Once you have feedback and you’re sure you have the best ideas to take forward for development, it’s important to create a brand-growing design. Here are some steps to ensure you’re successful:

1. Create a Scannable Layout

The layout of your design needs to be simple, bold and high-quality. No one has the time or patience to stop and read several paragraphs of text on a promotional item. So make sure any messages are extremely short and eye-catching. 

2. Eye-Catching Wording

Although beautiful graphics are important, the wording of your design is key. Come up with a short tagline or message that encapsulates your brand and the marketing message. 

A great example is the IAMS frisbees we talked about earlier. Their simple message of “strong dogs” tied together perfectly with the dumbbell-shaped frisbee and their brand message that their dog food keeps dogs strong. 

3. Consistency

Make sure the design of your promotional material is consistent with your branding and instantly recognizable as yours. If you create an outstanding design but it has no connection to your brand, no one will associate it with your business and the entire concept is lost. 

This doesn’t mean you need to have your logo front and center. In fact, an incredibly successful promotional campaign from KFC was a pool floatie shaped like Colonel Sanders with a holder big enough for a bucket of chicken. 

There was no message or logo on the floatie, but everyone knew straight away it was from KFC. 

Types Of Promotional Materials To Include

Coasters as promotional materials

If you’re still unsure what kind of promotional product to begin with, here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Promotional Drinkware – a massive 78% of consumers own some form of promotional drinkware. 
  2. T-Shirts – 63% of consumers keep a promotional t-shirt for 14 months if it has a good design. 
  3. Tote Bags – 50% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company if they are given a promotional tote bag. 
  4. Promotional Power Banks – These are kept for an average of 12 months. 
  5. Promotional USB Drives – 47% of consumers will pass these on to friends or family if they don’t need them – meaning the branding is passed on to more consumers. 
  6. Custom Desk Accessories – these include stationary, or useful gadgets such as phone holders and up to 67% of consumers have a positive opinion of businesses who give these out. 
  7. Headwear – such as caps or beanies generate 3,400 impressions in their lifetime of 10 months or more. 

Current Promotional Material Trends

Promotional product trends are always changing. Here are some of the current promotional product trends you should consider:

1. Travel mugs and cups

Environmental issues are coming more and more into focus and many consumers are looking for ways to be more eco-conscious with their buying decisions. As such, travel mugs and cups are extremely popular as promotional products. Eye-catching designs are the most popular, so try to incorporate unique designs to stand out from competitors. 

2. Eco-friendly products such as reusable totes

Following on from that trend, any eco-friendly products are currently popular with consumers. This includes reusable shopping bags, reusable straws, and other eco-friendly products. In fact, the British Promotional Merchandise Association (BPMA) has shown a spike in orders for eco-based promotional products in the last 12 months. 

3. Edible products

Everyone loves free food, so edible products are consistently on the list of most popular promotional items. If you are planning on giving out promotional products at trade shows or conventions, edible products will be popular. Just remember that these have a much shorter shelf-life than non-edible products. But they do help create a positive brand image with those who take them. 

4. Health & wellbeing products

Another growing trend is health and wellness. So any products relating to this are increasingly popular. This includes sports bottles, gym gear, yoga mats, and more. If your company has connections to the health and wellness space, this is a good route to take for your promotional product campaign. 

Even if your company isn’t directly related to health and wellness, promotional products in this arena can show your brand values the health and wellness of its employees and customers. 

You Made Your Promotional Materials, Now What?

Promoting-promotional-materials

Once you’ve got your promotional materials, you’ll need a distribution plan. In other words, how will you get them in the hands of customers? Here are some ideas:

1. Give them to employees

Begin by giving promotional products to your employees. This will not only show that you value your staff but will help spread the message of your brand. This will also ensure your staff speak positively about your brand when not at work. 

2. Give them directly to customers

If you have face-to-face contact with customers, such as a shopfront or house calls, give your promotional materials directly to your customers. 

Many businesses skip this step because they want to reach new customers. But the easiest way to build a solid base of loyal customers is appreciating the customers you already have. 

Remember, these are the ones who will recommend your brand to family and friends. Plus, it shows that you value your customers and encourages them to come back. 

3. Hand them out at local events

If there are local events in your area, become a sponsor. It doesn’t matter if the event is in the arena of your niche, it still shows you are a trusted pillar of the community and care about local people. 

Plus, it’s a quick and easy way to get your promotional materials circulating in the local community. Remember, IAMS sent representatives to local dog parks to hand out their promotional frisbees and it became a national success. 

4. Give them away at product launches

If you have a product launch coming up, make sure people know that you will be giving out free promotional items. This is a surefire way to make sure your launch is sold out because people love getting free swag. 

Even if your promotional items are unrelated to your new product, it will still boost your brand and get the word out about your new product. 

5. Give them out at tradeshows and exhibitions

This is one of the main ways many businesses give out promotional items. People expect freebies at tradeshows and exhibitions so always take yours along. 

6. Create a competition

It’s easy to create a buzz about your brand online by creating a competition for your promotional items. This is emulating Tony Hawk’s annual treasure hunt. Create a swag bag full of promotional items as the prize and host the contest on social media. 

Looking for the best promotional products for your brand?

We have a huge range of customizable promotional products that can help you grow your brand and stand out from the competition. 

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