Promotional products once meant ingeniously simple items such as calendars, pens, coffee mugs or buttons. Not any more! In tandem with our techno-crazy society, electronic products such as calculators, pedometers, cameras, CD players, MP3s, PDAs and everything digital have steadily made their way into the mix, delivering current and futuristic promotional messages. All in all, this category represented some $343 million last year according to the PPAI Annual Estimate Of Distributor Sales.
The cause behind their breakthrough may be twofold. First, many of the industry’s purists believe a good promotional product is a useful one. Harry Gotlieb, vice president of sales and marketing for MAR-SAN deems these promotional electronics “lifestyle products,” meaning they have mainstream everyday uses.
“Everybody uses some electronic products,” he says. “There are not too many products that people don’t purchase on a continuous basis, either new or as a replacement for something else.”
Second, the prices became right. Citing the calculator again, Lederer says, “When electronic calculators first came out some 30 years ago, a typical handheld one—twice the thickness of what’s available now—probably cost as much as $300 each. There’s no way a company was going to spend that kind of money on a giveaway.
“As the prices started dropping precipitously and they got into a relatively popular price range—say, $2.50 to $20 each—calculators became items that would be exciting for businesses to use. Also, they are a universal type of product that can be used by anyone—male, female, old or young,” says Lederer.
On the other hand, a hi-tech product such as a memory stick, which Lederer believes has come into its own only in about the last year and a half, is in high demand in spite of a higher price point. “They are in the $15-$50 price range,” he says. “However, they’re in demand because they are so useful. They may look like nothing but a little piece of plastic, but there is a high intrinsic value because of what they can do.”
Electronic products are used for everything from service and recognition awards, room and business gifts to sales and trade incentive programs. “They’re particularly effective in the premium market because people will work for things they wouldn’t necessarily go out and buy but would still like to have,” says Gottlieb. Examples of these include high-end digital cameras, camcorders, big screen TVs, cameras, speaker phones, CD players, PDAs and MP3 players.
LOOK FOR QUALITY
“Price isn’t everything,” says Les Dorfman, CAS, executive vice president of American Intercontinental Trade Group, Inc.. “You have to look at the quality and service of the supplier.”
“The distributor who doesn’t insist on quality is putting himself or herself at risk with the customer,” he says. “Quality is especially important with hi-tech or electronic products because the manufacturer can use less expensive components to lower the price of the item, but this lowers the value.”
He explains how a company will knock-off a high-quality popular product but cheapen it by using lower quality materials and pieces while still appearing the same. “It’s kind of like putting a Volkswagon engine in a Ferrari. It might still look okay on the outside, and it might still work, but the customers don’t get what they thought they were buying,” he&