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Can Promotional Products Deliver An Insult?

by Susan Morgan on February 25, 2014

Apparently the answer is a big, fat YES, if the product that bears your name somehow reinforces a stereotype that is offensive to a particular group. And does it in a very public way, a way sure not to be overlooked.

In this case, the example of inappropriate promotional products comes from the gifts given by bank Goldman Sachs, major sponsor of a recent Harvard event (WECode) aimed at women who are interested in computer science. The gifts in question are mirrors and nail files that bear the company logo. Yes, you read that right.

Was this a calculated slap in the face to women, or is it all an overreaction to a simple gift?

A single attendee (and subsequently lots of media outlets) at the event found the gifts so offensive that she had to take to instagram about it. Still the idea of being approached like you’re dumb, a flighty female only interested in makeup and manicures is surely not what the sponsor was after. Playing into old-school thinking is hardly the way for a male-dominated profession to get more women to join its ranks. For that a USB drive of another handy gadget might have been better.

Google went with comfy looking socks, styled with the woman in mind, but not nearly so rooted in a insulting stereotype we’re all supposed to have moved past.

Of course, women aren’t the only users of hand mirrors and nail files, nor is makeup application and manicuring the only thing you can do with these items… MacGyver would have defused a bomb with them. Still, it would be interesting to see such products appear at a similar type event aimed at men.

In defense of the event organizers, besides the mirrors and nail files, there were T-shirts and keychains that hold headphone chords… items that are sure to appeal to an educated woman of college age. The event giveaways are donations from sponsors, and the group welcomes all free items, promising to put them to good use.

What we can learn from this story is to know the people who are getting your promotional products. Get inside their head, try to understand their struggles and needs, where they come from, what they want. If Goldman (or the organizers of WECode)) had done this, they might have realized the mirror/nail file could be seen as insulting and removed them.

Talking with one of our specially trained reps will help you avoid these kind of mis-steps with your own promotional product choices, so give us a call. We’re here to help. 

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Susan Morgan
Creative, passionate and detailed, Susan brings 25-plus years professional writing experience to a variety of projects — get-noticed direct mail pieces, full line print catalogs, eye-catching color brochures and totally original. search engine friendly company blogs, web pages and online articles.

A lifelong love of storytelling has also produced a full-length novel (Out of the Ordinary published by booklocker in 2007). Susan continues to indulge her passion for fiction with a growing number of short stories (one an award winner in 2004, another in 2008) and finalizing a second novel.

In her spare time Susan enjoys gardening, studying astrology and tarot, being with family and friends and keeping up with politics and current events.

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