Promotional Products as Ways to Say Thank You

Promotional products are frequently used as ways to say thank you to very important people.  They are used to recognize an employee achievement, participation in an event, or simply thank staff, volunteers, or even customers for their loyalty and support. We’ve created many promotional items over the years to serve as an appreciated “thank you” that has more staying power than a simple note. If you’re looking for unique ideas for your own organization, check out these case studies to learn how these companies thanked tennis tournament participants, employees, alumni and donors.

Higher Ed: A Useful Gift that Says Thank You


UWM Smartphone StandThanking important donors and alumni by providing a small gift is commonplace for alumni and development offices. The Alumni Relations Director and Development Officer from the School of Dentistry at the University of Minnesota was on the search for a unique and useful donor recognition gift. Her requirements were:

 – Convenient to use at Events

 – Easy to mail as a thank you

 – Useful, and unique item

  The Smartspot SmartPhone stand was the ideal promotional item for their needs.  Learn more about the product and its uses on the case study page.

Tennis Club: Unique Promotional Items for Athletic Events

Tritan Tervis Style Tumbler

Western Racquet Club wanted to find something unique and different that tournament participants would enjoy, while staying within their budget. This unique Tervis style tumbler fit the bill.

To read more about this project, including product details, click through to the case study page.


Hospital / Medical College: A Fun, New Employee Appreciation Gift

Pieladium Bluetooth Speaker

Each year the Medical College of Wisconsin Center for Patient Care and Outcomes Research hosts a year-end luncheon meeting for its faculty and staff. To demonstrate appreciation, each individual receives a gift. Our client was looking for something that was good quality, affordable, and something that would have a wide appeal to all of their faculty and staff.

Michael and the account manager discovered the Pieladium Bluetooth Speaker, a fun, technology related item, which is a very popular and fast growing category of promotional items.  Read more about product features, the easy buying process, and how recipients liked their gift in the case study.




Want MORE Ideas?

Each company needs to say thank you with a targeted, relevant promotional item, so contact us for additional recognition ideas.

You can also browse our Idea Gallery for a few other suggestions.

Clever Promotional Product Mailings Help Land Dream Client

Michael Wolaver shared an interesting excerpt related to promotional products from a book he was reading called The Ultimate Sales Machine: Turbocharge Your Business with Relentless Focus with 12 Key Strategies by Chet Holmes. In the chapter called “The Nitty Gritty of Getting the Best Buyers,” the author talks about specific tactics used to land dream clients.

Through a multi-pronged, targeted direct mail campaign to the biggest OEM manufacturers, the sales team was able to schedule appointments with half of their top 100 dream prospects. These appointments were extremely successful with 100% testing the product and ultimately making a purchase.

How did they achieve such a successful campaign? The answer is simple – great marketing helped them gain attention and stand out from competitors.

Details on the Direct Mail Campaign

First, they sent out an offer letter that promoted free education and research – something that was valued among their prospects.

Two weeks later, a similar offer letter was sent, but this letter included a promotional item. A Rubik’s Cube with the headline: “This Rubik’s Cube has more than four billion possible combinations. Fortunately, there are only five that you need to worry about when it comes to being a successful manufacturer in the new millennium. Don’t be puzzled by the dangers facing manufacturers! Get our free education today!”Promotional Products Work

Follow up phone calls and role play to fine tune their script further enhanced the effectiveness of the mailing with the Rubik’s Cube.

Over the next five months, mailings with promotional items were sent to their dream prospects. Catchy headlines tie in with the products, such as:

  • Flashlight: “Don’t be in the dark about the five biggest dangers facing manufacturers.”
  • Compass: “Most companies are losing direction when it comes to manufacturing in today’s environment. Don’t be one of them. Get our report on the five biggest dangers facing manufacturers today.”
  • Tape Measure: “If you want to measure up to the highest manufacturing standards, get our free report on the five most dangerous trends facing manufacturers.”

Each promotional item and message tied in with the company’s theme and overall strategy. With repetition and follow up phone calls, the company’s brand and offer resonated with their audience, leading to half of the recipients to schedule meetings.

Isn’t that Costly?

Yes, it DOES cost more when you invest in 3D mailings that include promotional items. However, such an investment to a TARGETED group of top prospects was a worthwhile expenditure because it helped open the door and ultimately make sales for the sales people who conducted follow up calls. A promotional item is much more memorable than receiving a letter alone. Who could forget receiving a Rubik’s cube after all?!

As with any marketing cost, the bottom lined must be considered. In this case, if the mailers helped secure just ONE new client, which were the biggest companies the company would target, it would pay for the mailers for twenty years.

Clever, Targeted Marketing Works

The targeted direct mail campaign, follow-up calls, and appointments helped turn this company around from losing money to making $2 million dollars the following year. Investing in promotional items and unique mailings truly helped gain top prospects’ attention, build a positive brand image, and generate sales.

One huge client even said in a follow-up call

“Oh, yes, I am so glad you called. I just HAVE to have you come here and meet with me… Because I’ve been getting all those little gifts of yours and I just think your marketing is super.”

Consistent, creative, and targeted marketing can help you gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. For some ideas on how to enhance your direct mail efforts, read our blog post or contact us for an Idea-Storm session.

How to Find the Right Promotional Item

One of first questions that comes to mind when selecting promotional items is:

What are we going to give our target audience?

With over 24,000+ items available, this can be a daunting question.

As promotional Idea Explorers, we love to investigate options to help you answer this question.  With a little background information on the your audience and desired distribution, we go to work discovering the best promotional products for you.

There are MANY Right Answers

We discover and present several options for you to review, selecting items that can effectively target the lifestyle, needs, values, and aspirations of your audience.  The better you know your audience, the more tailored the promotional item can be. While still being brand-related, promotional items should be relevant and useful.  In almost every case, promotional products are appreciated, as a tangible “gift” from your organization. Nevertheless, the right idea and quality does impact usage and effectiveness, so it’s important to select and invest wisely.

Consider these two statistics from PPAI industry research:

  • 53% of consumers use promotional items ONCE a WEEK or more!
  • 47% of consumers KEEP promotional items for ONE YEAR or longer!

Promotional items have a high potential frequency and longevity! The right item can be used again and again, exposing your brand to your prospects or customers on a regular basis.  Compared to other media, promotional products have a relatively low cost and provide repeated exposure to a message, since items are kept for so long – that’s effective advertising!

Case Study: Finding a Prized Tech Item

To illustrate how well-selected promotional ideas help promote your brand, we share a case study from the University of Minnesota’s Student Unions & Activities. They needed an item to increase awareness of their brand and encourage involvement from college students, faculty, and staff. Learn how Magellan Promotions account manager shared a top tech product idea that became the perfect prize for the Student Unions & Activities contest. Read Case Study.



Branding Lessons From Harley Guru Ken Schmidt

I had the opportunity to hear Ken Schmidt speak on branding at the PPAIbio-pic (Promotional Product Association International) show in January.  He worked in marketing when the company almost went bankrupt and was the director of Harley’s corporate and financial communications when they made their incredible comeback.  The Harley brand is legendary and he told an interesting story of how the company is successful.  With our company located in Milwaukee, we get to see firsthand the power of the Harley brand, especially this summer with the 110th anniversary celebration coming to town.

Below are five insights that I took from Ken Schmidt’s speech that I want to share.

1. What is your story? This is a theme that Ken Schmidt kept coming back to.  If no one shares with others that they worked with you, it might as well as never happened.  You might have had a transaction, but the long term value is the testimonials and experiences being told by others.  If you have no story to tell yourself, then you fail to differentiate and your clients/students/donors/prospects will see no difference between you and your competition.  Brands are built person by person through experiences, marketing and personal testimonials.   Have a story, tell it and create positive experiences where it will be retold.

2. Brain = Pain – Ken Schmidt described the sin Best Buy commits with how they sell flat screen TVs.   You see a row of twenty 56″ flat screen TV’s from different brands and all of them look good.  When the Sony is $1000 more expensive than the rest, you need to go to the specs in order to learn why.  This requires the consumer to engage their brain and when they do that, they have pain.  So when faced with pain, the consumer will often take the easy way out and go for a less expensive model.  He then transitioned to Harley vs. Honda. If you compare specs, looks and dependability, they are extremely similar (and admitted the Honda is better is some ways).  Then you look at the cost, and the Harley is significantly more expensive.  So why do people overwhelmingly purchase a bike that is so much more expensive than a comparable product?  Harley learned to stay away from the brain and not compare specs of their bikes, but engage the emotion of owning a Harley.

3. Personal Engagement is Key – One lesson Harley learned in the dark days was the value of asking potential/current customers what they thought of their motorcycles.  They allowed test drives (never been done before with bikes) and then openly engaged with their riders to get feedback.  Through this they received valuable information on how the riders would change the bikes and learned what custom features they would like to have. Most importantly, this gave them a chance to actively engage with their disciples (Ken calls their clients disciples, not customers).  Harley did not grow to be the number one motorcycle company because of great marketing.  You cannot charge that much more than your competition and expect to dominate the market through innovative marketing.  Ken Schmidt said they are successful because how the company engages with their riders.  He talked about their employees, going to events with Harley/non-Harley riders and how they interact with the crowd.  This interaction creates personal stories and valuable opportunities to engage with their riders.

4. Attraction – Humans are attracted to energy and then mimic that behavior energy.  When someone is excited, it is not hard to be excited with them.  When someone is energized, the people around them are often energized.  The lesson here is make sure your brand agents (your staff) send off the right signals.  Be excited about your company, products an services and others will mimic that excitement.  How your staff engages with potential and current disciples is the easiest to positively or negatively affect your brand.

5. Differentiation – When in a competitive marketplace, you have to be different in order to survive.  Ken Schmidt talked about how Harley would do the opposite of whatever their competition did with their marketing.  If the competition had a black theme, they would go with bright colors.  When their competition switched to bright, they would go black.  Do not get lumped in with your competition, follow them at your own peril.  Go your own way, be different and become memorable.

So here is a quick summation in two sentences: Have a unique story based on emotion, engage your prospects/clients/community with passion and individual attention.  Do that and you will separate your company/school/department/service and you will build a strong brand.