Those Damn Promotional Pens 1/1

Mathilde PPIBLOG: I have one question to the professionals of our industry:

Why the hell are we still using pens as a promotional product?

The promotional pen is STILL one of the most common advertising tools in our industry! Along with other writing instruments, it represents more than 10% of the promotional products total sales

Its use as an advertising product is so widespread that its efficiency is nowadays questioned!
It’s not easy to stand out among hundreds of other promotional pens passing by the hands of a same person.

– Have you ever asked yourself: “Is my communication efficient when using promotional pen?”
– Do we have to bet on banality, already seen, to convey our brands?
Is the use of promotional pens a bad habit we are not able to break? As I smoke my cigarette after meal, a firm can’t help printing pens with its Logo?

Obviously, this product makes me baffled: Worshiped by some communication professionals and damned by others… I need your cooperation: thanks for shedding some light on this!

Come on, writers of the PPIBlog! Take up pens!

As always, my favourite PPIBlog’s collaborator, Michael Crooks, is opening the ball…
Michael Merrick Crooks (USA)- Crooks Advertising Alliance:
(As promised, attached is my take on “Those Damn Pens”. BY and large, most money spent on promotional pens is wasted because there is no effective, creative thought behind the purchase. Thank you again for any and all opportunities. Great topic. What’s next? Ha, ha. ha…)

Promotional Pens: Don’t Waste Your Money!
I cringe every time I hear a promotional marketing salesperson say, “A pen is perfect. People will use it every day and think of your company every time they use it.”

Yeah, right. That’s assuming they’ll fall in love with your pen over the other 47 pens they collected at the trade show. Unless your pen is really super special, say in the $5+ per unit kind of special … it’s not going to happen.

The following exercise will prove my point. Go around your house or office and collect every pen you can find with some company’s logo on it. As you pick through them, how many are your favorite pen? How many of the company’s represented by those pens, do you actually do business with? How many did you pull out of a drawer — where their logo is unseen every day? How many of those pens actually got you to do anything? What you’re looking at is a lot of wasted money. Is that what you want to do? Of course not.

Everyday people waste money on cheap, imprinted pens because they don’t want to spend money on a giveaway that doesn’t work. The reason they don’t work is because there isn’t an effective, creative idea behind the purchase in the first place. If you want to use a pen to effectively promote your company, you must marry it to an effective idea. Here’s some ideas.

Lumpy Mail.A pen is lightweight yet causes a regular envelope enough distortion that it will usually get opened. If you’re sending a letter to prospects and you want to increase the chance your letter will get opened, a pen will do it. Combine this idea with Prize Derby or Design Contest (explained later) and you could have a real promotion on your hands.

Targeted Placement. Where does your target audience hang out? Does your target audience frequent a local coffee shop? Maybe the hair salon is the best place to target your market. The owner of a women’s clothing store might have the hair salon owner hand your pen to her patrons. Now instead of simply putting your logo and phone number on the pen, what if the pen also said, “Private Shopping By Appointment Available.” ? To be most effective, the pen must make an offer of benefit to the recipient!

Quick-Draw McGraw. About four times a week I’m somewhere when someone asks, “Who’s got a pen?” I am usually the first to hand over my imprinted pen.

Key Point: A pen that is received in a time of need is more highly regarded than one that’s simply given when no need is present.

Pen Design Contest. Have your clients and prospects supply you with ideas on a unique design for the imprint of your pen. Post the top designs on your website letting your clients and prospects know through e-mail or regular mail that the designs are up. Let them cast their vote for their favorite. Make sure you get their e-mail and other appropriate contact information as you are now building your database.
The winning design wins 50 of the pens. You can bet the winner will show them to everyone they know. This whole tactic is designed to drive people to your website and building interest by making them active participants. Of course everyone who votes gets a pen.
Key Point: A pen that is received as a prize (earned) is more highly regarded than a pen that is simply received (unearned).

Prize Derby. Pay extra, if possible, and have the pens sequentially numbered. Imprint the pens with “Go to www. If the number on this pen matches a number on the prize page you win!” Prizes can range from other promotional items or your product or service such as free samples or special package deals.

Of course, the number of every pen you hand out is on the website. To claim their prize they can send in the pen, bring the pen to your retail location or you can make an appointment to see them and give them their prize.
If the pen is still in great shape — reuse it. If not, throw it away. For the right business and application, this is a great way to drive traffic to your website or a retail location or to get inside people’s offices.
Summary: By and large, simply handing out your pen with your logo, phone number and/or website is a waste of time, money and effort. Effective promotional marketing is not about giving someone something that they will put in a drawer. (Remember our exercise?)

Effective promotional marketing requires careful thought as to who you are targeting and what you want them to do. Once you determine that, you can address your distribution method and message development. THEN, you determine which product will best serve your purpose. Follow those guidelines. And when it comes to promotional pens, you’ll stop wasting money— and start making money!!!

Michael Merrick Crooks is a 23-year veteran advertising copywriter and founder of Crooks Advertising Alliance a creative strike-force specializing in creative problem-solving through advertising and promotional marketing.
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