Special Report: Premiums and Incentives: Figures attest to success of promotional products

The enterprising marketing student who peddled his resume highlights around Toronto last year on a coffee mug knew he was onto a specialty gift item that worked.The student, Oliver Woodburn, graduated from Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., and like so...

The enterprising marketing student who peddled his resume highlights around Toronto last year on a coffee mug knew he was onto a specialty gift item that worked.

The student, Oliver Woodburn, graduated from Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., and like so many more of his collegiate pals, sought that edge that would land him the all-important first job.

Working with Mississauga, Ont.-based McLoughlin Promotions, Woodburn had printed 43 coffee mugs – at $3 to $4 each – and delivered them to the same number of marketing managers.

He got 38 written responses for his efforts – and a job.

Fitzsimmons won a 1994 Creme de la Creme Image Award from the Promotional Products Association of Canada (ppac) for the coffee mug venture.

For Woodburn, and for many others with a message to get out, promotional products represent an advertising medium that is increasingly attractive, as the figures attest.

In 1993, Ontario companies spent more than $381 million on specialty gifts such as T-shirts, jackets, games and toys, pens, buttons, housewares, sporting goods, calendars and the like, all bearing an advertising message.

Not surprisingly, the next largest amount was spent in Quebec, with spending at almost $167 million.

Next came Alberta and b.c., respectively, with spending at $95 million and $90.5 million.

Susan Heslop, account executive at Executayne Marketing in Oakville, Ont. and president of ppac, says the growth of the medium can be linked to at least a couple of its attributes.

Heslop, who has been in the industry for 17 years, says promotional products are unique in that they can stand on their own as an advertising medium, or they can be integrated into a more extensive marketing campaign.

And there is evidence the impression a promotional item creates lasts a long time, as does consumer retention of the gift.

Heslop says studies show a 90% recall of a name on a key ring, for example.

More anecdotally, she says when her father, who was also in the promotional products business, used to address a group or meeting he would ask everyone to empty their pockets.

Invariably, the impromptu display turned up a host of promotional items.

Heslop says it has been projected that sales of promotional products will continue to climb and make the industry worth $1 billion by the end of the decade.

She says the growth these days is in anything computer-related, such as mouse pads, adding when the car phone boom hit, items such as note pads were popular.

Heslop says there are about 2,000 companies in the promotional products business in Canada, with the bulk of them around Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe – the area surrounding Lake Ontario’s southwestern end.