Sunday, September 17, 2000


Magnets, mugs keep your name visible

By Rhonda Abrams
Gannett News Service

        Look around your desk. How many ads do you have sitting at your fingertips? None? Maybe one — a clipping from the newspaper about something you're thinking of buying this week?

        Look again. You probably have quite a few ads, you just don't think of them that way.

        I've got ads for three software companies, my dog's vet, a media company, a shipping service, the local Humane Society, the San Francisco Giants, an online bookstore, a small consulting company, two computer makers, an office supply manufacturer, and a few companies that I don't have any clue about.

        No, I'm not the world's biggest collector of advertisements. Instead, the ads I have around me are in the form of key chains, note pads, letter openers, calendars, mouse pads, tote bags, calculators, coasters, pens, pencils, magnets, mugs and a bunch of stuff just to play with: glow-in-the dark balls, magnetic sculptures. All imprinted with a company name.

        All these things represent one of the most powerful, most affordable, and most overlooked forms of marketing — “specialty advertising” or “promotional products.”

Stretch your dollar


        Through the years, I've learned a lot about specialty ads from my sister, Janice Hill, who's been a top salesperson of imprinted promotional products for more than 20 years.

        “Small businesses have a limited amount of money to spend on advertising,” she said. “They need to make their ad dollars work hard. When you give a customer a mug or a calendar, they don't think about it as advertising, they consider it a gift. Yet they have your name on their desk or the wall all year round.”

        One of the great advantages of this kind of marketing is your customers see your name repeatedly. Studies show it takes multiple exposures to an ad before a person notices it.

        How many radio ads can you afford? Compare that to the cost of calendars or pens.

        “If someone wants a pizza, and they have a magnet with the name of your pizza parlor on their refrigerator, they're going to call you,” Ms. Hill said. “It's easy for them to find your number without looking in the phone book — where they also see your competitors.”

        The largest percentage of promotional items sold are what the industry calls “wearables:” T-shirts, hats, windbreakers, etc. Many of these are given not to customers, but to employees, either as a reward for reaching certain goals (such as safety); to promote an internal company campaign or message; or, most importantly, to reinforce the company's image and logo.

Have a plan

        To get the most of your specialty ads, keep this in mind:

        1. Target your market: Is your audience male or female? Do they spend most of their time in the office, home or car? Choose items customers use and see repeatedly.

        2. Choose items that are useful, different or interesting.

        3. Choose a gift related to your business and appropriate for your customers. A key chain and calendar may work for a mechanic; an accountant might want to give calculators or big erasers.

        4. Simple messages are better — you don't have a lot of space.

        5. Don't just look for price. Customers often will keep higher quality, more thoughtful items longer.

        Rhonda Abrams is the author of Wear Clean Underwear: Business Wisdom from Mom. To register to receive free business tips from Rhonda, visit her at or write her at 555 Bryant St., number 180, Palo Alto, CA 94301.



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