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Promotional Products Link Emotionally

Updated: Oct 25, 2022

Reciprocity, empathy drive promotional-product strategy success

Why are promotional products so successful? Elements of empathy and reciprocity help connect givers to receivers emotionally. That’s why selecting just the right promotional products builds relationship and trust that leads to sales results.

Man with promotional hat
Promotional Products help connect emotionally to prospects and customers and increase your brand awareness.

A recent Advertising Specialties Impressions Study found that promotional products are the most highly viewed form of consumer advertising and is why the industry reports $20 billion in annual promotional-product sales.

Simply stated, they work.


The principle of reciprocity explains some of the power of product giveaways. When someone gives us something, we are naturally wired to give something back. That reciprocity could be in the form of information, trust that leads to a sale, or re-gifting the product – all valuable benefits for a company or agency.

The American Marketing Association says that these psychological factors have great impact.

Reciprocity translates into a prospect feeling comfortable enough to provide information, purchase from you, or not throwing away a product but giving it to someone. Each result helps move you toward a sale or expanded consumer impressions and brand development for future sales.

The principle here is to give products that positively reflect who you and your company are and that are useful and appreciated by the receiver. How a product feels, its visual design, smell, and quality all contribute unconsciously to how prospects and consumers perceive the product’s value and how it reflects on the giver.


In today’s social and economic uncertainty, the ability to comprehend others’ emotions has become foundational for effective marketing, advertising, and promotion. Your empathy encourages customers to imagine themselves using your products and services and seeing the benefits of how such products relate to their own lives and circumstances.

That’s why salespeople and marketers today must think through their own personal branding and how they strategically position themselves to meet the needs of their specific prospects and customers. This is more than niche marketing and price discounts. It’s connecting emotionally and relationally to build trust and mutual benefit over time.

Promotional products reflect that process. The more you understand your customers, the more your giveaways reflect them, their lifestyles, and their unconscious desires and motivations that lead to considering you and your products.

It’s the Golden Rule: treat others as you would want to be treated.

Why Not Just a Discount?

Everybody loves a discount and customers especially love getting more value than the stated price. However, purchasing studies have shown that a free product carries more weight than a discount. In one experiment, for example, researchers found that 73% more hand lotion was sold when the package promoted a free bonus item compared to a package that reflected a discounted price.

Customers consider free items as a better deal than low price. When selling big-ticket items or services, promotional products aren’t part of the purchase, though. They are about the relationship and the interaction between buyers and sellers.

Free product that’s relevant to your buyer, useful, and reflects their lifestyle, values, and perceptions carry value beyond the transaction.

Promotional product water bottle
People love promotional products and will keep good quality, functional products for years.


Brand impressions are the cornerstone of marketing and promotion that gets sales results. Continued brand reinforcement adds familiarity, trust, and the willingness of a prospect to do business with you.

The 2020 Advertising Specialty Institute’s 2020 edition of its annual Global Ad Impressions Study reports that promotional products deliver commanding advertiser recall among 85% of consumers surveyed, with the highest recall for apparel items.

The study reported cost per impressions as low as 1/10 of 1 cent, making items like outerwear, t-shirts, caps, and mugs attractive choices for smaller advertising and marketing budgets.

ASI President and CEO Timothy Andrews said, “Businesses confronting the toughest economic market in decades need and demand the best possible ROI and bang for their buck, along with the smartest use of advertising dollars.”

The ASI study also found that half of consumers report keeping promotional products for at least five years, and 40% said they kept a promotional item for more than a decade.

Study respondents said they keep top promotional items like bags, drinkware, and umbrellas because of quality, utility, and attractiveness.

The ASI calculated average number of impressions each promotional product receives by multiplying how long a recipient keeps the product by how many people they contact and by frequency of use. Apparel generates the most impressions at an average 6,100 during its life cycle.

Combined Impact

When you develop your marketing strategy and plan, it’s a best practice to consider how your different marketing elements work together and what result you want from your efforts. Prospects or customers at different stages of purchasing have different needs to decide to buy.

Prospects may never have heard of you or your company and service. Your strategy should be to get in front of as many people as possible with your name, logo, and service offerings so they come to know you, what you stand for, and what you do. These messages can be focused by key demographics and lifestyle factors with direct mail and social media marketing. Affordable giveaways at this stage can increase recall and favorable impressions.

Prospects and customers in the products and services consideration stage need more information and more trust or confidence in the people and companies they’re considering. More purposeful direct mail, websites, and information resources help build that confidence and position you as a key provider. These customers also respond well to promotional products that connect with personal lifestyle and values.

Customers in the final decision-making and purchasing process also respond well to promotional products along with key information for their research, product and service packaging, and added value to finalize a decision. Promotional products in this phase are usually higher quality and reflect the relational aspects of transactions.

Put your strategy and plan together to select just the right components to generate the leads and sales you need in today’s tight markets.



Regional Promotional Product Impact

Olde School Marketing Promo Products

2020 ASI Global Ad Impressions Study Proves Promo’s Value, Effectiveness And Affordability (

Why Do Promotional Products Work? (

2020 ASI Global Ad Impressions Study Highlights (

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